Skip to Main Content
U.S. Air Force

Revamping an outdated cost accounting system

Summary

The U.S. Air Force's (USAF's) Job Order Cost Accounting System (JOCAS) II is roughly a 30-year-old cost accounting system that supports billions of dollars in annual financial transactions. As a subcontractor to Fearless, we're helping to revamp the user experience, technical architecture, and technology stack of this complex legacy financial system.

An accounting professional using a modern tablet to perform accounting functions, with an old desktop system in the background.

The challenge

JOCAS II is a large, complex, outdated system that the USAF currently relies on to capture and report on full project costs, generate bills for reimbursable efforts, facilitate informed financial decisions, and stay in compliance with federal financial regulations.

It was built in the early 1990s using a suite of proprietary technology solutions from Oracle. The system is comprised of 300+ database tables and 300+ software modules (Oracle Forms, Oracle Reports, C processes, PL/SQL packages) with an estimated 2.8 million lines of code. It also interacts with a number of different financial and human resource systems.

The system supports thousands of users across various USAF communities, including Major Range and Test Facility Bases and the Defense Security Service. These users experience multiple pain points because of how JOCAS II was originally implemented. For example:

  • Account lockout rules and long loading times often prevent access to the system
  • The user interface requires extensive training and reference documentation on how to use
  • Poor usability leads to data entry errors and long task completion times
  • Parts of the interface are so insufficiently designed that critical data can't be captured effectively to ensure accurate labor entry and cost accounting
  • Workflow gaps risk compliance with government regulations and security vulnerabilities
  • Each Air Force base has a separate database, which makes unified data management and reporting extremely difficult

Because of these issues, the USAF decided to launch a modernization initiative called JOCAS III. And sought an experienced digital team who could help execute the transformation in a low-risk, high-value way.

The solution

As a subcontractor to Fearless, we're working together with the JOCAS program team to incrementally build out a new system alongside the old one, until all its key functionalities are replaced — a proven architectural approach known as the strangler pattern.

After conducting extensive user research and technical discovery, we decided that the best place to start the modernization process is with the Labor Entry, Approvals, and Adjustments component of JOCAS II, which supports over 12,000 users. Employees use this component to track, obtain approval, and get paid for how much time they spend on projects, factoring in pay differentials such as overtime and night shifts. We're re-engineering this functionality as a separate application, an effort which has involved:

  • Redesigning the user experience to better meet the needs of users — employees, supervisors, and admins
  • Streamlining workflows, such as employee timecard approval, to better meet federal financial regulations
  • Rebuilding it using a modern technical architecture and technology stack
  • Consolidating data from nine Oracle database instances to a single cloud-hosted database
  • Interfacing with the legacy databases to keep data synchronized until they're no longer needed and can be decommissioned

Once deployed and made available to users, this new application will serve as a reusable infrastructure for accelerating the modernization of the other functional components in JOCAS II (such as Personnel Management and Cost Accounting), until it's completely replaced by JOCAS III.

The results

  • Designed a minimum viable product (MVP) for the Labor Entry, Approvals, and Adjustments functionality
  • Rapidly developed a prototype of the MVP
  • Began the process of migrating and consolidating legacy data to the cloud database
  • Preparing to beta test the MVP
  • Conducting exploratory research to further evolve the MVP and modernize other functionalities within JOCAS II