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U.S. Army: Prototype Program for Professionals Mary McDavid r In early 1976 the U.S. Army's Automated Logistics Manage- ment Systems Activity (ALMSA) was assigned the task of designing and developing an interactive computer-based office support system using state-of-the-art technology. Computer re- sources were purchased on a time-sharing basis from a company located in Cupertino, California, and the project was well under way by early 1979. An increasing demand for these interactive systems resulted in system development efforts competing for the same computer re- sources as those organizations using the automated systems. The contractual arrangement provided for service availability for 20 hours per day. Only ~ to 10 hours of the available computer time were being used, however, because ALMSA operated on a one shift-per-day basis for all organizations except the Computer Op- erations Division. Employees assigned to this project were highly skilled, specially trained individuals and were unwilling to volun- teer for a second- or third-shift tour of duty. An agreement be- tween ALMSA and Local 1763 of the National-Federation of Fed- eral Employees (NFFE) allowed placement competition between internal organizations. It was likely that the affected employees Mary McDavid is chief of the Management Engineering Office, U.S. Army Aviation System Command. 24
US. ARTY 25 would apply and be accepted for reassignment to a prime-time shift position elsewhere. Work at home offered a solution: it was an alternative to purchasing additional equipment or computer access, and it assured the retention of fully trained, highly special- ized individuals. Planning for a prototype work-at-home alternative involved three steps: a feasibility study, approval of a request to begin the prototype, and implementation of the proposed prototype. DETAILS OF THE PROJECT Feasibility Study A task force was established to document the potential advan- tages and disadvantages of a homework program. This group re- searched the feasibility of government participation in the pro- gram, the potential impacts on the organization and the workers and their families, and the methods available to monitor and con- trol work load and measure productivity. The task force determined that an increasing number of non- governmental business organizations were experimenting with homework, using such programs to reduce energy consumption, expand office facilities, and make maximum use of computer re- sources. The group's research indicated that the pool of potential workers could be expanded by hiring the handicapped, retired personnel with extensive specialized knowledge and experience, and single parents who need to be at home with small children. The task force concluded that the manager and worker of the future would be faced with drastic changes in the work environ- ment as new technology linked computers with communications. This technology would eliminate the need for information work- ers to be located in the same office with coworkers or supervisors. Approval Process The study was staffed through the legal, personnel, data pro- cessing, and comptroller organizations, and a formal request was made for a homework prototype. The study was forwarded to the U.S. Army, Development and Readiness Command Material (DARCOM) headquarters, and the chief of staff requested a briefing prior to a final decision. The
26 CASE STUDIES briefing provided details on the ways supervisors would monitor and control the activities of employees working at home, an over- view of the anticipated benefits to management and employees, and a live demonstration of on-line control features. Approval of the prototype program was received in May 1980. The chief of staff directed that appropriate negotiations between the local union and ALMSA take place prior to implementing the prototype program. A project officer was assigned to resolve out- standing issues, develop the prototype guidelines, coordinate im- plementation with the local union, monitor prototype status, and document the results. Implementation The prototype began October 6, 1980 and was limited to four computer specialists and a supervisor from the Management Tn- formation Systems Division. Participation was voluntary, and the employees were allowed to select a second- and third-shift tour of duty between 3 p.m. and 6 a.m. The scheduled tour of duty did not have to be eight consecutive hours. These employees were required to work on-site every other Friday. The employees desig- nated an area as work space within their residences, and ALMSA provided office furniture, terminals, office supplies, and direct communication lines. The employee and supervisor signed a written work agreement addressing scheduled assignments, specific tour of duty, work lo- cation, protection of government equipment, security require- ments, and other miscellaneous directives required by the proto- type guidelines. Each employee also signed a "hold harmless" agreement releasing the government from liability due to per- sonal injury or property damage as a result of installation and use of government equipment in a personal residence. Problems Preimplementation problems included difficulties with the installation of communications equipment, government lia- bility, protection of government property, and workmen's compensation.
U.S. ARMY 27 Communications devices. Installation of communications de- vices was one of the most difficult problems encountered. Partici- pants were using computer resources in California via either di- rect lines or a telephone with an acoustically coupled modem when working on-site. The U.S. Army Communications Com- mand determined that providing telephone service to a private residence was in direct conflict with federal law (Federal Statute 31 U.S.C., Sec. 13481. An electronic link for computer access was required, and participants were willing to use their own tele- phones during the prototype. However, federal law (Rev. Statute 3679, 31 U.S.C., Sec. 1342) prohibits government acceptance of voluntary service from individuals. The ALMSA legal depart- ment defined employees' use of their own phones for eight hours each workday, without reimbursement from the government, as acceptance of voluntary service. To comply with the law and pro- vide a means for linking to the computer, direct communication lines without voice capability were installed in the participants' homes. A legal opinion regarding the occasional use of an em- ployee's telephone for official business allowed the participants to use their telephones to communicate periodically with peers or supervisors. Government liability. Tnstaliation of direct lines solved one problem but created another: how to protect the government in the event of damage to personal property as a result of installing the communication lines or through the use of the government- owned equipment. A hold harmless agreement was developed for each employee to sign as a condition of participation in the program. Protection of government property. Liability for loss or dam- age to government property involved the standard of care applied to such use. It was determined that standards for the protection of government property applied equally to on-site and govern- ment property in the employee's home, and pertinent standards were included in the work agreement signed by the participants. Workmen 's compensation. Federal regulation (Title 5, U.S.C., Sec. 81012) covers federal employees injured while on duty. To avoid possible problems in determining whether an injury was
28 CASE STUI)IES incurred while the employee worked at home, the work agreement stated the specific schedule of hours to be worked and the location for each workday. Program participants had to obtain a supervi- sor's approval if they wished to change their work schedules. On March 31, 1981, a request for expanding or extending the homework program was submitted to DARCOM headquarters. The supporting data for the first four months were positive from the standpoints of productivity, increased utilization of computer resources, increased employee morale, and successful supervi- sory control of employees working at home. The data and request were forwarded to the original reviewing organizations for com- ment and recommendations prior to the submission of a final re- port on the prototype results. Preparation of the final report began in March 1982. Statistics accumulated during the 12 months prior to the prototype were compared with those collected during the 18-month prototype pe- riod. Performance in terms of CPU efficiency rate computed by dividing the number of hours an employee is Togged onto the com- puter into the number of resource units used by the employee- and in terms of computer connect timepercent of available time versus percent of computer connect time and types of tasks per- formed were reviewed for both the on-site employees and those working at home. The history file of electronic messages was re- viewed to analyze problems encountered, supervisory, peer, and program participant interaction, and to assess employee morale. The effectiveness of supervisory control was measured by review- ing system-generated statistics, electronic communications, and the status of projects completed. RESULTS Supervisory Control Supervisors were able to monitor and control the output of homeworkers by evaluating statistics automatically provided by the computer operating system: actual number of hours each indi- vidual Togged onto the computer, actual number of resource units used by each on-site and work-at-home employee, and specific files and computer host used identified by individual names.
U.S. ARMY 29 This system also provided electronic commands that allowed the supervisor to observe what each individual was doing at any given time. A program was written that allowed the supervisor to see what program code was modified and added by each employee during randomly selected dates. All levels of management associ- ated with the prototype believed that supervisory control of homeworkers was not a problem. They felt that watching the em- ployee work on-site did not ensure that a supervisor really knew what an employee was doing at all times during the workday. Increased Computer Use There was a 64 percent increase in the average number of com- puter resource units used per month, providing increased com- puter use without additional cost. The assignment of three home- workers to second- and third-shift tours of duty meant that more of the time available under the contract was used. CPUEfficiency Rate Prior to the prototype period the combined CPU efficiency rate of the four homeworkers was 40 percent greater than that of the three on-site employees. During the prototype period the CPU rate of the homeworkers jumped to 102 percent of the on-site em- ployees, a 62 percent increase. The work location of three of the homeworkers remained unchanged throughout the prototype. The CPU efficiency rate for these individuals increased 25 per- cent, 69 percent, and 80 percent. When one of these three employ- ees was selected for promotion and returned to work on-site for a 6-month period, his overall prototype CPU efficiency rate de- cTined 1.6 percent. Computer Connect Time The percentage of time the on-site and homeworking employees spent connected to the computer is important since work assign- ments were accomplished primarily on-line using a computer. The percentage of available time the homeworkers spent on-line ranged from 71 to 108 percent. Overall, the combined average computer connect time of the homeworkers increased 93 percent
30 CASE STUDIES during the prototype period. These statistics, combined with an increase in CPU use, indicate that productive tasks were accom- plished while on-line. Cost Savings The homework program made available computer resources for an additional ~ to 12 hours per day without additional cost. The additional cost directly associated with homework resulted from the installation and monthly charges of direct communication lines, but communication lines would also have had to be provided for the on-site employees assigned to develop and field interactive systems. All other equipment, supplies, and furniture provided to the work-at-home employees would have been required regardless of work location. Employee Morale Employee morale increased, and the program was fully sup- ported by the local union. The homeworkers preferred homework to on-site work. They felt more productive during the prototype period and saw the program as a privilege rather than a right. Employees working on-site felt the program had little, if any, im- pact on their work environment. Personal Use of Government Resources Supervisory observation prevents on-site employees from us- ing government equipment for personal use, but an on-site em- ployee can create files, execute jobs, and delete files, leaving an audit trait that tells very little about how the computer resources were utilized. The homeworkers used a computer which enhanced the monitoring of computer resources use. Two key features were the supervisor's ability to randomly review file content and the ability to compare file size to allocated directory space, revealing any files an employee had attempted to make invisible. If an em- ployee had files of 230 pages versus directory space utilized of 270
US. ARMY 31 pages, the supervisor would know that something was using the other 40 pages of allocated directory space. THE EXTERNAL AUDIT The final report was reviewed by officials at DARCOM head- quarters. One official expressed concern that aBowing federal em- ployees to work at home without direct supervision would only increase the public's belief that federal employees receive exces- sive benefits that are unavailable to the general public and that they are not required to adhere to the same work standards as employees in the private sector. This prompted a recommencLa- tion for an external audit to evaluate the study results and the potential for fraud and abuse. The audit was initiated on March 21, 1983, almost a year after the study period ended. Prior to completion of the project, there were several major changes that affected the prototype. Supervi- sors changed, and one of the homeworking employees returned to on-site work. Contractor-owned and -operated computer re- sources, used on a time-sharing basis, were replaced for most sys- tem development work by a computer system located at ALMSA. Supervisory control procedures changed in accordance with the new hardware and software. Government-accepted standards for measuring computer ana- lyst or programmer productivity are nonexistent. The methods used in the ALMSA study to measure productivity- CPU effi- ciency, lines of program code created, percent of computer con- nect time, ant! category of work performed- were not accepted by the external Army auditors. They also concluded: · that the study report did not prove a productivity increase; · that the "hold harmless" agreements signed by the employ- ees to release the government from liability for personal injury or property damage satisfactorily resolved the liability issue; · that the system control features of the previous and current hardware configurations created the potential for the homework- ers to use government equipment for personal purposes; and · that the benefits from morale improvement were not quanti- fied and were difficult to measure precisely.
32 CASE STUDIES The final audit report concluded that the risks of fraud or abuse exceeded the potential benefits and recommended that the pro- gram be discontinued. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ALMSA management, after reviewing the prototype experi- ence and the external audit, remains confident that homework programs can provide benefits to management and employees. Homeworkers offer organizations an alternative to increasing of- fice facilities and computer resources through use of second- and third-shift assignments. Homework programs can aid the govern- ment by obtaining and retaining highly skilled, specialized em- ployees since the savings in work-related expenses help compen- sate for the lower salaries available in the public sector. ALMSA management also believes that homework programs should be used on a selective basis for those projects that would benefit from an environment free of distractions, require increased com- puter connect time, and expand opportunities for the hiring and placement of severely disabled individuals. ALMSA management also cautions that selection criteria and program guidelines for future homework programs should be documented in cletaiT and carefully coordinated prior to imple- menting a program. Supervisors and employees must be care- fully selected and have proven work records. Participation should be voluntary since homework is not suitable to all home environments. The ALMSA prototype provided useful information to man- agement on the organizational, psychological, and social impacts this type of program can have. The communication and liability issues encountered indicate a need to review and update relevant government laws and regulations. The belief that an employee must be seen to be adequately supervised and concern about the public perception of the federal employee wit] add to the difficulty of implementing future homework programs for government agencies.