Human Systems Integration framework tool improves process for system acquisition professionals

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The Human Systems Integration directorate, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, has developed a human systems integration framework (HSIF) tool to guide practitioners through the acquisition process.

The concept for the tool originated several years ago with the Navy, who created a static guide. In 2012, they contacted the directorate with a vision of an interactive, modifiable, user-friendly tool. The directorate partnered with Pacific Science & Engineering and -- after extensive research, development and testing -- the HSIF tool is now ready to launch.

“Prior to the development of this tool, there was no practical ‘guide’ for practitioners,” said Dr. Bill Kosnik, an engineering psychologist in the directorate’s Human Systems Implementation division who worked on the framework tool. “There was training and policy, of course, but experience was the only way practitioners would know the step-by-step process.”

The tool covers any facet of human interaction with a system, represented by nine HSI domains: manpower, personnel, training, human factors, occupational health, environment, safety, survivability and habitability.

“The framework facilitates collaboration between these domains, which helps to optimize system performance for the user and reduce life-cycle costs,” Kosnik explained. “These outcomes are the key benefits of integrating human-centered processes into system acquisition.”

The HSIF tool looks a bit like a flowchart, a scrollable canvas that covers the entire acquisition cycle, from early development planning to operation and sustainment to disposal. The acquisition timeline is listed across the top of the canvas, and the HSI integrator roles and domains are listed down the left side. The rest of the canvas is filled with task boxes, many linked together to show collaboration, that detail specific HSI activities for each stage. When a task box is selected, it expands to show a description of the activity, hyperlinked references to consult for more information and products that might result from the activity. The expanded view also includes a place for comments about HSI risks and trade-offs, as well as a tab to document deliverables and more. The tool is completely searchable, and the reference section includes an acronym finder, a product library and a database of all the hyperlinked references in the tool, more than 200 documents in all. Aside from the basic features and information, users can flag certain task boxes, assign due dates, run reports, save customized versions of the canvas and export content to a spreadsheet, for example.

“Often the acquisition cycle lasts many years,” said Kosnik. “The HSIF tool allows practitioners to maintain continuity throughout that entire cycle, and can be preserved as an artifact once the process is complete. The goal is for it to serve as a record management tool in addition to a step-by-step guide.”

The tool is currently housed on the Pacific Science & Engineering site, but it will eventually be put on the Air Force network and be accessible by all HSI personnel in the Air Force.

“We’ll also extend access to acquisition program managers, systems engineers, HSI domain experts, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center personnel and others,” Kosnik explained. “The tool is most helpful to HSI practitioners, but other people involved in the process could benefit from it, as well.”

The current HSIF tool is geared specifically toward Air Force practitioners. Going forward, however, the Human Systems Integration directorate hopes to continue working with Pacific Science & Engineering -- as well as the other military services -- to create customizable modules.