The Department of Defense (DoD) is the single largest employer in the U.S. with more than 2.8 million active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve forces, and Civilian personnel around the world. The DoD is also responsible for managing the benefits of more than 37 million Uniformed Service members, retirees, and their family members. This is a great deal to manage and protect – and, perhaps, an opportunity for cultural change and modernization.
The DoD released its first ever software modernization strategy in February 2022. This strategy reiterates that modernization is a priority across the DoD by accelerating the development and delivery of software, while also improving the collaboration and methods necessary to achieve such widespread adoption.
Even though the DoD has been developing and delivering software for over half a century, similar initiatives and methods deployed by other large and small enterprises have evolved faster than the DoD’s own policies and procedures. And, security concerns have only increased exponentially, affecting every aspect of how the department operates. It’s great to see that modernization is a priority, but the lack of experience cripples these efforts.
Strategic modernization is key
The solution lies in utilizing business systems as testing grounds for implementing and adopting modern techniques including agile and low-code development. There are ways the department can evolve their culture to accelerate software development - especially across its business systems.
Instead of viewing business systems (payroll, benefits, financial management, personnel management, and overall operations support) as less of a ‘priority’ for budget preservation, – (especially when budgets are tight) business systems can be the proving ground for adopting new methods of development, delivery, and governance. The department can learn how new software development and capabilities work within the existing, older architecture, while understanding just how far to the edge the new approaches can work.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the DoD runs approximately 2,200 systems to support business functions and operations. These are prime for modernization, and the savings can be repurposed for mission critical technologies to leap forward – without all the risks that surround changes to mission critical software. This type of enterprise modernization 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.
There’s no time like the present
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. Success with software modernization can be achieved even faster by prioritizing systems ripe for improvement with limited risk to core mission. There’s no time to waste.
Lily Zeleke (the Acting Deputy DoD Chief Information Officer for information enterprise) and I recently participated in a discussion with Federal News Network reporter Jared Serbu to discuss how the DoD and Industry should interpret the efforts to build out the execution plans for this strategy. (Read the full discussion here.)
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