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Ada Flyer SIDPERS-3:
An Ada Success Story

Standard Installation/Division Personnel System-3
SIDPERS-3 is a standard management information system developed under the Department of the Army, Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. SIDPERS-3 consists of hardware, software, connectivity, and training that gathers, stores, and reports information about soldiers and units in an automated form.

Commanders and staff officers use the information to make accurate personnel decisions and to properly manage the active Army force. SIDPERS-3 supports both peacetime and wartime requirements for the personnel community. SIDPERS-3 will be fielded to the Active Component for peacetime and wartime operations and to the Reserve Component for peacetime training and wartime operations.

SIDPERS-3 was approved for DoD for full development in October 1991. Development was complete in January 1994. Following Software Qualification and Initial Operational Testing at Forts Bragg and Jackson, SIDPERS-3 will be fielded in FY 95 and 96.

Experience: A Successful Approach to Ada/MIS Applications
The Ada programming language provided the development team with three key advantages: portability, maintainability, and reusability. Rational Software Corporation's Ada development environment was used to achieve productivity similar to that obtained when using 4GLs. The development team used a layered-architecture approach to support the creation of SIDPERS-3. This layered architecture allowed for clean software interfaces, thus increasing reuse and portability and supported the incremental software development approach.

The project employed a man-machine interface (MMI) that was developed in house using Ada. The MMI was ported to the Rational development environment. Rational worked with Statistica, Inc. to create a Remote Procedure Call (RPC) capability that enabled the development team to perform unit testing. The Rational issues calls from the Ada applications code to the target, which executes the DBMS call and sense the results to the program. This allowed the development team to perform only one port to the target machine at system integration time, rather than during frequent unit tests.

Interactive Development
Ensuring that all Army and contractor personnel worked together in a seamless environment took three basic forms:
  • An on-site laboratory with current software was established for soldiers to continuously test SIDPERS-3 and functional experts were hired by the contractor to advise the technical teams.
  • All personnel from the contractor and three subcontractor companies worked together in the same facility. All teams had members from each company so that company affiliation was invisible and cooperation was maximized.
  • The software was developed in four increments so that soldiers could be testing some of the software while additional software was being developed. This provided valuable lessons for subsequent increments and significantly shortened the final test period and the soldier training period.
Layered Architecture
The software was designed to provide standard interfaces between various levels of application, support, and commercially available software to take advantage of the Ada features that maximize portability and reduce maintenance costs. SIDPERS-3 was developed using the Alsys compiler for the UNIX operating system and the XDB Database Management System. As a result of this architecture, SIDPERS-3 can be ported to any platform that uses an Alsys UNIX compiler with XDB library support, merely by recompiling the code.
Qualified Ada Personnel
Since SIDPERS-3 is an information system as opposed to a real-time or embedded system, it does not use some of the more sophisticated features of Ada such as tasks and rendezvous. This made it easy to find and mature Ada developers. With just a handful of senior experienced Ada people and the Rational context sensitive editor, relatively junior people who understood basic concepts like strong-typing and structured programming could be hired and quickly developed into productive Ada programmers.
The Percent Complete Metric tracks the percent complete of each phase of software development. The metric is very simple in concept. It measures what percent complete any unit of work is at any point in time.

Values are assigned to each component task of the development process in the form of a percentage. Percentages for all component tasks add to 100. As each task is complete, credit is given. At any point in time, the amount of credit given can be aggregated into an overall total and be compared to a planned or projected amount. To develop and implement the metric the following six steps were followed:

  • Step 1: Define Tasks -- Tasks outlined in the software standards and procedures manual were used.
  • Step 2: Assign Percentages to Tasks -- All percentages were based on effort (staff hours).
  • Step 3: Determine Reporting Breakdown -- Application software, data was reported by CSU.
  • Step 4: Prepare Projected Line -- Schedules for high level tasks were used to project percent completion over time.
  • Step 5: Prepare Forms and Spreadsheets -- The two principal data collection forms were the tasks completion form and the exception status form.
  • Step 6: Collect Actual Data Weekly -- Within 24 hours each week: 1) the task completion form was updated by the developers, 2) exception sheets and graphs were prepared, 3) weekly reviews within the contractor team were held to discuss issues and decide necessary actions, and 4) weekly status reporting package was prepared for the Army.

The use of the SIDPERS-3 Percent Completion Metric was an important tool for helping ensure success by providing Army insight, contractor management insight, generation of new reporting mechanisms, communication among groups, and motivation of developers.

JOPES, A Planned Reuse Success
The Primary goal of the Army Reuse Center (ARC) is to help customers realize cost savings or avoidance through the systematic reuse of certified software components. One recent "success story" of reuse was realized by the Joint Operations, Planning and Execution System (JOPES) Scheduling and Movement (S&M) subsystem that is currently under development. The ARC recently certified and installed selected parts of the SIDPERS-3 software into the reuse library. The SIDPERS-3 design emphasized a layered architecture that paved the way for future reuse.

JOPES S&M reused 2 parts of the SIDPERS-3 code: the Report Driver and the Ad Hoc Query (AHQ) subsystems. In total, JOPES S&M reused over 27,000 lines of Ada code from the SIDPERS-3 components. It is estimated that the JOPES S&M realized a cost avoidance of approximately $1.15 million in design and development costs.

"Fort Reston"
For about a year and almost every day, soldiers have been putting the Army's newest personnel management system to the test at "Fort Reston." Replicating a personnel operation at a real Army base, the office in Reston, VA is a test bed created to work out bugs in the SIDPERS-3 software.

At Fort Reston, Army personnel civilians and soldiers sat side-by-side with SIDPERS-3 programmers to ensure the system provided the information they needed in a format they could use easily. The Fort Reston facility used a test database containing information on 13,000 soldiers, 15,000 family members and 94 units.

Comments from Soldiers at "Fort Reston"
  • "SIDPERS-3 is long overdue! With all the cutbacks in jobs with the same workload, SIDPERS-3 will decrease the workload and put the information that is needed right at our fingertips."
  • "The system is "user-friendly." The hands-on material is step by step using the DA PAM 600-8 format. Get it out in the field as soon as possible!"
  • "...will be a great help for field and commanders!"
  • "...will have a big impact on the way we currently do business."
  • "...will eliminate volumes of paperwork and the current time consuming practices of checking the checker."
  • "...once implemented it will save many manhours and ensure a more accurate database is maintained. Good management tool."
  • "Soldiers will have no problem adapting to SIDPERS-3 because it is user friendly."
  • "It has got to be the best system we can give to our soldiers who serve our soldiers."

This flyer is based on articles appearing in several publications:

  • The RATIONAL Watch. Fall 1993, Vol.3, No. 3.
  • The Army Reuse Center News, Dec. 93, Vol.2, No. 4.
  • Government Computer News, February 21, 1994, Vol. 13, No. 4.
  • Thackrey, Kent and John Wright. "Experience Tracking Software Development Progress on a Large Ada Project (A Window into the Development Progress)." Presented at Tri-Ada '91.

Copyright 1998. IIT Research Institute
All rights assigned to the US Government (Ada Joint Program Office). Permission to reprint this flyer, in whole or in part, is granted, provided the AdaIC is acknowledged as the source.
Form U132 sidpers3.txt

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