DoD IT Modernization: No agency is too big or complex for radical improvements

DoD IT Modernization

Digital transformation is not solely achievable by small, nimble, private entities. Even mammoth public organizations will see results from streamlining baseline processes across operating environments and adopting commercial best practices…

 

Government change. A phrase that was once an oxymoron is becoming reality as governments around the world look to modernize and streamline operations in the digital age. In the U.S., for example, government institutions like the Census and the Department of Veterans Affairs are replacing once manual, paper-based processes with digital solutions, improving the accuracy and timeliness of service while retiring legacy systems, removing redundancies, and consolidating costs.

These modernization challenges are being undertaken by the largest and most complex government entities as the viability of both manual operations and hundreds of bespoke computer systems developed in the 1990s (or even earlier) come to an end. For example, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, has directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to “pursue urgent change at significant scale” and ”reform the Department’s business practices” to modernize. Secretary Mattis suggests using a rapid, iterative approach to capability development, prototyping and experimentation to define requirements, and calls out the need for systems to be designed for routine replacement instead of static configurations that last more than a decade. That is no small undertaking.

The DoD is unique by virtue of size – it’s the single largest employer in the U.S., with more than 1.3 million active duty military; 729,000 civilian personnel; and 803,000 National Guard and Reserve forces. Plus it is responsible for managing the benefits of more than 37 million Uniformed Service members and retirees, and their family members. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, it runs approximately 2,200 systems to support business functions and operations.

Regardless of the vastness or complexity of the organization, the DoD can benefit from the same enterprise systems architectural approach as other government agencies and private companies – common business processes, centralized management, reusability, and flexible development capabilities.

Digital transformation is not solely achievable by small, nimble, private entities. Even mammoth public organizations will see results from streamlining baseline processes across operating environments and adopting commercial best practices with an enterprise systems platform that:

  • Can integrate with multiple legacy systems through open architecture and web services.
  • Can support sunsetting of legacy systems in a phased manner.
  • Is scalable, and can expand as new missions are added, plus evolve with existing missions.
  • Provides operational visibility into concurrent work.
  • Uses low-code app development capabilities to help stand up new system enhancements and provide phased, modular upgrades quickly.

This type of enterprise system platform enables significant cost savings through reuse of common features, business rules, and user interface, and streamlines task optimization through digital process automation. By rethinking the traditional approach to development and deployment of new business systems, very large government entities like the DoD can radically improve upon the status quo.

As is often the case in government, this approach to thinking will require a cultural shift. IT and administrative leaders need to work cooperatively across functions to build out a foundation of common features. No more special one-off apps. And an overarching set of governance rules and guardrails needs to be established to institutionalize the approach to any update or extension of the enterprise system platform and its apps. And as updates and results are swiftly implemented and realized through no-code application development and automated DevOps capabilities, organizations will need to define the cadence for how and when updates are deployed.

This type of approach, however, can produce the radical improvements to the status quo that large government entities seek.

Stay tuned for more insights on this topic. If you would like to receive an email with the next DoD Modernization article, please email the author at cynthia.stuebner@pega.com.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cindi Stuebner, Pega’s Defense director and industry principal, helps Defense clients plan for and realize successful digital transformation.