How Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Are Helping The Air Force Be More Efficient

Posted by James Bailey
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Armedia improved USAF travel vouchers management

Last Updated 22.04.2019

Not long ago, the U.S. Air Force’s 55th Comptroller Squadron Financial Management Flight begun using a new travel vouchers management system.

This new software was designed to manage the service branch’s travel-related payment documentation.

“My hopes with this system is that it will provide reliable and timely transfer of travel vouchers for our customers,” said the 55th Comptroller Squadron Financial Operations flight chief, Master Sgt. Crystal Doepker.

Judging by Master Sgt. Doepker’s statement, the USAF has high hopes for the new software.

Let’s see what happened.

Small Businesses Making Big Efforts To Help The Air Force To Be More Efficient

Armedia using ArkCase and Ephesoft helps the US Air Force with a travel vouchers management solution

The last time the USAF did a software upgrade was almost a decade ago.

In the meantime, growing demand and a changing landscape left the USAF short-handed with their software solution.

To make things even worse, the company that made the previous USAF software stopped supporting it. So, parts from other scanning software were taken for the needs of the software to try and make it work. There were even times when Airmen had to travel to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, to use their software.

Needless to say, the USAF was more than excited to start testing Armedia’s new software solution.

Namey, using ArkCase and Ephesoft, Armedia helped the USAF to manage the service branch’s travel-related payment documentation and deliver vouchers to their staff easier, faster, and safer.

The first step of Armedia was assessing the workflow, technical requirements, and cost-effective solutions to all this.

After the first build, Armedia had a few demo meetings to get feedback from USAF. Soon after, we had a deployment-ready solution.

Airman 1st Class Julie Hubbell, 55th CPTS military pay technician, and Carl Hanson, 55th CPTS information technology technician, reviewed the documentation. Then they spent some time learning the program and validating how it worked. Lastly, they trained 12 other finance technicians in the USAF.

The new software came with a lot of needed features and the team didn’t take long to warm up to the idea. Armedia’s travel voucher management system based on ArkCase and Ephesoft was a huge step forward compared to the previous and outdated system.

But, that’s not all. The Air Force’s system contained a custom indexing application which generates a barcoded separator page applied to the top of the batch. This page contained all the metadata barcoded for each batch. Each barcode on the separator sheet represented a piece of metadata to be captured within the system.  

This barcode page created two interesting challenges, the first was the number of barcodes found on the page. The second challenge, some of the barcodes were optional.

By configuring Ephesoft’s Recostar plugin, the Air Force was able to process each barcode separately as a fixed form.

Also, to run within the Air Force’s secured network, CAC card authentication was required to secure the Ephesoft system.

Ephesoft is easily configurable to authenticate using authentication keys, and guidance was provided by Armedia to make the changes.  

Armedia was also able to provide a custom class to take the CAC card information and map the desired data from the Air Force CAC card to the Ephesoft system.

Ephesoft also allows for easy integration with corporate LDAP/Active Directory systems and provides guidance for how to setup Ephesoft configurations to connect to their LDAP/Active Directory security.

“With the efficiencies that this system brings, it will reduce any work stoppage or delays in getting travel vouchers to the AFFSC. Previously we had to scan the documentation, connect to a virtual private network, encrypt it all and then send it up to AFFSC,” said Master Sgt. Crystal Doepker.

Thanks to ArkCase and Ephesoft, Armedia’s solution works reliably and securely without employees having to use VPN. There is no longer the need for proprietary encryption or batch loading. The travel vouchers are now delivered within minutes to AFFSC, compared to hours by the previous system.

In a casual conversation with a USAF staff, the small but lean Armedia team has made huge efficiency improvements in the big USAF.

About Armedia & The Technology

Armedia, LLC is an industry leader in enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver Information Technology as a Service.

As a small veteran-owned business, Armedia used ArkCase and Ephesoft to deliver an agile solution and solved a big problem for the USAF.

Ephesoft offers advanced scanning software solutions that help organizations run more efficiently by increasing the accessibility and searchability of their digitized data. All of this by automatically classifying, separating, sorting, and extracting data from scanned documents.

ArkCase is an open-source case management software. It integrates leading solutions like Alfresco, Ephesoft, Snowbound, AWS etc. ArkCase is a proven solutions development platform for cost-effective software solutions.

How Armedia Built a Cost-Effective Solution

As the technical and security requirements by the USAF are strict, Armedia needed to find a solution to easily, quickly and securely scan, digitize and transfer sensitive data, that can be accessed from different locations, using different technologies. This is why we decided to use Ephesoft.

Unlike other scanning applications, Ephesoft scanning software is easy to integrate with other software and applications.

Ephesoft removes the need for most manual data entry which increases the time employees have on doing more important tasks.

Ephesoft scanning software

This scanning software generates better accuracy, compliance, and customer satisfaction by improving business processes and workflow.

In addition, you can access Ephesoft anytime, from anywhere whether the system is deployed locally or in the Cloud. Both Amazon Cloud and Microsoft Azure have certified Ephesoft.

After the documents are scanned they enter the Ephesoft software and are recorded and classified according to the information contained in the document.

From there they enter the ArkCase case management software where they are recorded as any other electronic document and further managed as such.

ArkCase case management software

The ArkCase software also allows editing and co-editing of documents and enables dynamic search and reporting.

With ArkCase, each voucher request is further processed as any other case. This means that each request has a start date, an end date, and a set of people who will create, review, approve and use each voucher. Each step along the way, the system creates Activity and Change Logs for each case.

Using off-the-shelf open source solutions, Armedia managed to build a travel vouchers management system that perfectly fits the needs of the USAF.

Although a small business, Armedia makes huge efforts to satisfy the needs of big organizations like USAF. And with the help of  ArkCase and Ephesoft, Armedia has been doing this successfully for years.

Ephesoft USAF Issue Details

Ephesoft USAF issues details

Advance Barcode Mapping at Index Field level

This feature allows the user to configure the barcode mapping at index field level if multiple barcodes of the same type exist in a document. For example, if there are two Barcodes of Type – Code39 in a document, the user can create two index fields and can specify the zone (by drawing overlay) for each barcode. For this, a new node “Barcode Extraction Rule” is added in the Batch Class Management tree under Index Field.

  1. Under the Document Type, go to the Index Fields and select the first Index Field.
  2. Under the Index Field, select the option – Barcode Extraction Rule.
  3. Draw overlay on the image to specify the zone for the selected index field.
  4. Click on Apply Barcode.
  5. Similarly, you can map the zone for the other Barcode in the second field.

Password Encryption in .bat files

Even after encrypting passwords within the application, batch files still contain passwords to databases in OpenText. After reviewing the \\Program Files\Ephesoft\Dependencies\MsSQLSetup\*.bat files, it was discovered the client password in OpenText.

This has been closed as a case because we can remove the passwords from the batch files without it breaking Ephesoft, but should be noted for future reference as upgrades will put the password back in like the install.

Technically the install should not default to OpenText passwords but should encrypt password by default on the server. (When performing PKI cert users can encrypt and set an encryption key. It should be the same for all passwords during the install).

Web Scanner not Running after SSL/TLS Config

This has been resolved. On the Armedia side, we received the download Ephesoft certificate and we began to work fine. On the user’s side, the users needed to have a proper scanner connected for the service to run. The results were the browser would not find the service running and would loop to the download script. The users also had to “back out” their staged environment and start over, which implied they did something wrong with the certificates they were attempting to apply. However, when testing FireFox, the non-expiring cert provided did was still delivering a warning.

Mapping of PrincipalName for CAC Authentication

We have been notified this could be a new feature in version 4.5.1.0.  We currently have a custom “UserCert” class to capture the Alternate Names and grab the PrincipalName. With the custom class, we simply modified user-connectivity.xml and server.xml to properly use PrincipalName and user lookup values. Everything worked fine, and we can discuss with Ephesoft on how we accomplished this.

Password Encryption option in Installation

This was a request feature that was closed. It is a reference the issue found in EPHE-23826, but simply needing to encrypt passwords during installation, instead of manually after install.  This would likely allow batch files to contain encrypted passwords as well. (Yes, there would be a need to decrypt passwords in the batch as well, so I understand the challenge.)

Conclusion

The big USAF decided to trust the small, veteran-owned Armedia to modernize and streamline their travel vouchers management. Their faith was not misplaced.

Thanks to Armedia’s extensive experience, the small, lean team provided a custom, cost-effective travel vouchers management system for USAF.

Using proven technologies like ArkCase and Ephesoft, Armedia’s solution helps the USAF improve efficiency in managing travel vouchers.

If you have any questions on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact Armedia.