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Posted 3/4/2015

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By Megan Holland, ERDC Public Affairs

VICKSBURG, Miss. - With more than 2,500 employees, seven laboratories, four locations and countless, ever-changing research efforts, it can be difficult at times for potential U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) collaborators and customers to find who and what they’re looking for – and they aren’t the only ones. Even people within ERDC can find themselves missing puzzle pieces due to the vast and extensive amount of knowledge contained by the organization. And that’s where Discover ERDC comes in.  

"There are two reasons we've launched Discover ERDC, and both are equally important,” said ERDC Director Dr. Jeff Holland. “First, ERDC is a highly diverse, virtual organization, and we need to understand what we are doing, what capabilities we collectively have.  Second, we need those whose missions we support to be able to easily find out what we're doing and how they can access our capabilities."

To address these needs, an innovative website utilizing ERDC’s own Google Search Appliance was created that allows USACE and ERDC employees to easily find and connect to hundreds of research and development projects and experts. Discover ERDC (http://DiscoverERDC.info) serves as a one-stop shop by providing a centralized location to find comprehensive and up-to-date information on ERDC’s products, services and capabilities. Points of contacts for science and technology areas are also available.  The site searches hundreds of wiki pages on ERDC products, services and capabilities, and also utilizes ERDC’s major technology transfer and library sites.

“Discover ERDC helps us understand who is doing what, which leads us to have the opportunity to team more effectively across the ERDC landscape,” said Holland. “Additionally, it will provide the ERDC team with opportunities to more effectively show the world what we know how to do.”

All projects over $50,000 were initially included in the ERDC wiki by creators, and responsibility for adding new content has now been transitioned to knowledge management representatives (KMRs) within each laboratory. Geared toward internal and external audiences equally, the site is part of a new Corps-wide focus on knowledge management (KM), a process that facilitates the transfer of information to the right people at the right time so they can efficiently and effectively find and use information.  ERDC began by identifying major KM challenges within the organization, according to Lead ERDC KMR Marty Kittrell, and the effort grew from there.

“We recognized six specific issues,” said Kittrell. “First, projects and capabilities are not widely known across ERDC. Second, critical documents are difficult to find and, third, the distributiveness of ERDC’s workforce challenges project execution. Fourth, we were providing unclear messages to divisions/districts concerning technical area POCs and, fifth, there wasn't just one way to manage ERDC’s interactions with current and future customers. Finally, sixth, we have difficulty collaborating with partners outside .mil.”

Discover ERDC meets the first five challenges, and has already begun to garner positive reviews. The site was adapted for USACE’s Southwestern and South Atlantic divisions, who each indicated they’d like a version of their own after successfully utilizing search capabilities and accessing data, and the Pacific Ocean Division is also set to launch an adaptation soon.  Currently, only USACE employees have access to the sites, but giving external stakeholders access is the number one goal moving forward in an effort to solve that sixth and final KM challenge.  

In addition to Discover ERDC, ERDC’s current and upcoming KM efforts include an updated intranet site; InsideERDC, a repository of authoritative policies and documents of information and business processes that aid in work development;  ERDC Chat, a program that will allow ERDC team members to instant message one another instead of having to email back-and-forth;  ERDC Text, a voluntary system that will allow critical and emergency information to be sent to work or personal cell phones; and ERDCLink, a web-based enterprise system designed to provide a common framework for archiving, tracking and querying of an employee’s professional content.

The organization is further investing in the area through the creation of both the Office of Research and Technology Transfer and the Corporate Communications Office. Ultimately, the goals are to promote one ERDC versus seven individual laboratories and to ensure knowledge is effectively shared and readily available.

“We are a ‘bath tub’ organization, with lots of folks over 50 and lots under 35,” said Holland. “We need to transition knowledge much more quickly and efficiently than ever before.  KM helps with this concern.  It isn't an end-all, but it sure is important as an expeditor of knowledge across the ERDC enterprise."

For more information on Discover ERDC and how it works, a video is available at: https://youtu.be/WEscsclExDE.