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dmi: 2018 Design Value Award Winner
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dmi:Design Value Award Winner

 

 

 

Improving the Military Enlistment Process

DevMynd + Defense Digital Services + Military Entrance Processing Command (Department of Defense)

 

So you’ve made the decision to join the US Armed Forces. Congratulations! This is an important life-changing moment. What can you expect as your introduction to life in the service? In the past, the typical applicant arrived at a MEPS – a Military Entrance Processing Station at 4:30 am to find a frustrating, time consuming, disorganized, impersonal process that included ten plus hours spent waiting, ping-ponging between medical, operational, liaison, and testing stations, interacting with the staff only briefly. The legacy software built to serve the process created a business-like experience for applicants and encouraged staff to log applicant’s facts as quickly as possible, verify other staff members accuracy, and ultimately spot applicants that were trying to ‘trick’ the system. Individual staff members at MEPS had found ways to provide a better experience, but it was inconsistent. Enter the DDS.

The Defense Digital Service branch of the United States Digital Service – a startup founded by President Obama in 2014 to bring together the best tech, design, and government talent in an effort to provide updated technology. DDS has been working with leaders from different branches within the military to improve their legacy systems. To study the military enrollment process they ran immersive user research at a Military Entrance Processing Station – or MEPS. There, DDS found an inefficient, frustrating, disorganized, impersonal process. In response, they hired the design and innovation firm DevMynd to create tech-driven solutions. DevMynd used human-centered design to immerse themselves in the complex application process of joining the military. Through ethnographic research, the team was able to identify problem areas, then find and introduce the people within siloed organizations that could fix them quickly. After analyzing, synthesizing, and theming observations from multiple stakeholders they created design directions. To design training on the new system, they worked in tandem with MEPS staff and employed service design principles to create the plan. In addition, DevMynd even transformed their own office to mirror a MEPS facility and then ‘improved’ their way through how each staff member would interact with a new applicant and the software.

Government policy and processes can be effective but when they are not adjusted to adapt to changing needs, they stagnate. From an organizational perspective staff loses sight of short-term and long-term goals, and thus begins the hierarchical structure battles, internal politics, and cynicism. The project broke the rules, re-engaged enthusiasm and helped staff recover from “we don’t do it like that here” syndrome. It excited many and angered just as many but it sparked curiosity and engagement in an organization that had stopped questioning and improving.

As a result of the initiative, MEPS staff has technology and a process that has been designed to support their priorities, and the Military Enlistment Processing Communications organization has working software that is modern and adaptable to ever-changing policy needs. The government is estimated to save $20 MM/year in infrastructure expenses and $4 MM on shipping fees. But perhaps most importantly military applicants will receive faster and more considerate service, a holistic experience that respects and affirms their choice to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

 
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