National Aeronautics and
Goddard Space Flight Center
Office of Public Affairs
Greenbelt, Maryland 20771
August 1, 1997
TIME AND COST SAVINGS RESULT FROM INTERNET
SOFTWARE TOOL DEVELOPED FOR ELECTRONIC PROCESS MANAGEMENT
Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Md. have developed a software tool that utilizes the
Internet to completely eliminate the paperwork required to document and
manage complex, widely distributed processes.
The team, led by Dr. Barry E. Jacobs
of Goddard’s National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC), developed the
tool, called Electronic Handbooks (EHBs), under NASA’s Small Business Innovation
Research (SBIR) program in partnership with REI Systems Inc. of Vienna,
Va. " Over the past two years, we have applied Electronic Handbooks to
the entire SBIR process at NASA. This effort, which manages roughly 50
percent of all of NASA's new contracts, is the largest, end-to-end, completely
electronic Internet use in the Federal Government to date," said Jacobs.
Time and cost savings resulting from
the use of EHBs has stimulated demand for a variety of applications. "With
EHBs, we can achieve roughly a one third reduction in the time required
to process 2,500 SBIR proposals, while simultaneously achieving roughly
a $300,000 operational cost reduction," said Paul Mexcur, NASA’s SBIR Program
Manager at Goddard.
"The time savings is especially important
for the small companies in our SBIR program. Approximately two - thirds
of all new technology in America is developed by small businesses like
the ones in our program. Many of these companies have trouble raising funds
through traditional sources like banks and stock offerings. Our SBIR contracts
provide seed money to develop their innovations. If the proposal approval
process gets lengthy, many of these companies can be forced to close,"
adds Robert Nelson, NASA’s Deputy SBIR Program Manager at Goddard.
"A major advantage of EHBs, besides
paperwork elimination, is that it requires relatively little programming
from developers," said Jacobs. "The tool uses standard word processors
capable of generating ASCII HTML code to set up electronic forms on the
Internet. This makes EHBs rapidly adaptable to any process. This is particularly
true of the SBIR process which annually manages roughly 120 solicitation
subtopics, 2,500 proposals, 5,000 reviews, and 600 contracts across the
United States. It also becomes extremely easy to modify, which is important
for process improvement and change."
"Users do not need any formal training
to use EHBs and are only required to have a microcomputer with Internet
access," said Shyam Salona, Vice President of REI Systems, Inc. "Users
can quickly learn how to use EHBs with little assistance provided by the
developers. In the SBIR process, which annually involves roughly 3,500
NASA personnel from over 10 NASA Field Centers plus thousands of firms
across the United States, this results in a significant savings of time
and money. This, in conjunction with the relative absence of programming
requirements, makes EHBs a very low cost method for implementing an electronic
"Compliance with Internet standards
makes EHBs inherently capable of linking widely distributed users with
diverse databases. When the EHBs is implemented, file server resources
are identified and allocated. Security is managed through a role-based
password and encryption system, meaning that access is granted based on
an individual’s role in a given process," said Salona.
"The process of writing the EHBs lends
itself to a common understanding of the activity the handbook is documenting.
This is a tremendous benefit because many conflicts start from different
understandings of the activity and its objectives. The EHBs yields a shared
vision," said Wayne Hudson, Chief of GSFC’s Technology Commercialization
"This ‘faster, better, and cheaper’
method has led to interest from many other functions in NASA, and we are
developing EHBs for them, including the Education Program, Partnership
Agreements Management, Patents Management, Grants Management, Large Procurement
Management, and Mission Management," said Nelson.
"Another application, in conjunction
with Old Dominion University, is Graduate Programs Management, including
admissions, coursework, and doctoral research. We expect interest from
commercial areas as well, as firms seek to exploit the advantages of the
Internet," said Jacobs.
"Considering insurance, medical, legal,
tax, and many other applications, this technology has the potential to
totally restructure the way all these processes are done," said Hudson.