28 June 2011 defencemanagement.com
Leaner, more flexible procurement which avoids the mistakes of the past should be based on close collaboration between industry and the MoD, argues Stuart Olden, business lead for land & air systems at BMT Defence
The recently published Equipment Support and Technology for UK Defence and Security Green Paper reinforces the need for a strong partnership between government and industry in order to drive a culture of cooperation and sharing of common objectives whilst ensuring that our armed forces are properly equipped and taxpayers get value for money. Such collaboration, where private sector partners sit alongside MoD, assisting with the complex decisions, taking risks as appropriate and providing the expert guidance, will no doubt enable complex programmes to succeed at every stage of their life.
Furthermore, earlier engagement with industry in the concept phase of a project or programme provides the opportunity to inform and guide industry R&D programmes to research possible solutions and more accurately cost, resource and schedule capability provision.
Indeed there are already many examples of this working effectively where BMT has had first-hand experience, including Talisman, a UOR land programme completed in less than two years. The collaborative procurement approach worked well throughout the Talisman programme for the following reasons:
• A clearly defined, common goal was established across the enterprise with all critical partners clearly understanding their own roles and responsibilities as well as the MoD's;
• Robust communication throughout the programme provided individuals with sufficient detail and progress updates to help them achieve agreed milestones;
• Strong working behaviours and relationships that encouraged openness and honesty (even when things may not have gone quite as planned) created high levels of trust and an opportunity to reinforce the common goal amongst stakeholders;
• The right mix of skills and experience amongst the enterprise enabled not only the strategic planning to be realistic and focused, but also stimulated actions and real progress at a tactical level;
• Having the ability to make decisions and act on them even when there was perhaps not as much information available as desired.
In a fast-moving programme such as Talisman, it is imperative to maintain momentum and deliver against the deadlines agreed at the outset in order that the Capability is made available when required. This often meant working within the 80:20 principle, ensuring that the assumptions that decisions are made on are de-risked as far as is practically possible.
A systems thinking approach
With the focus now centred upon the delivery of rapid capability via UORs and the tight constraints being placed on resources across the organisation, now is the time to consider a leaner and more flexible framework for the realisation of operational capability. A framework that delivers not only what is required when it is required, but also attends to the longer term needs of our armed forces. Indeed, the recent announcement of a new Defence Materiel Strategy by the government demonstrates DE&S's commitment to having a robust foundation which helps to deliver its business most efficiently and effectively – a move that should be applauded.
In order to compliment this Strategy and help DE&S achieve an agile, robust and optimised acquisition process, a 'systems thinking' approach is needed which combines the best of both current acquisition systems. One of the biggest impacts on project time and cost budgets occur when requirements are changed or added to downstream. This often happens because not all stakeholders were consulted during the initial phases or the desired effect of a capability was not truly understood at the outset.
Streamlining capability delivery whilst maintaining the PCT (Performance, Cost, Time) trinity is certainly not an easy task, but it is achievable through the use of a Systems Engineering methodology which combines five supporting pillars of activity, namely the five C's: Concurrency; Consultation; Comprehensive Approach; Competency and Cataloguing. This combined approach enables the right solution to be obtained without compromising accelerated delivery, budgets or end performance. It also has the ability to map onto the current CADMID (Concept, Assessment, Demonstration, Manufacture, In-service, Disposal) cycle used by the UK MoD and deliver capability to the front line in a 'FAST' manner – Flexible, Agile, Streamlined and Through-life.
The new post-SDSR, slimmed down DE&S has the opportunity to engage cost-effective external partners that can provide specialist knowledge and expertise while also delivering added value. The defence industry believes that now is the time to work even more closely with the MoD to deliver joined up solutions and create a truly, integrated defence enterprise. Such collaboration is not only valuable for DE&S but echoes the coalition government's desire to mobilise SMEs as the engine room to drive Britain's economic recovery.