Navy brings IT, business, innovation under one roof

The Navy’s new approach to IT management borrows a page from the private sector The service is bringing a corporate model to how it integrates technology, business and innovation requirements all under one office.

Maura Sullivan, the Department of Navy’s chief of strategy and innovation, said this new management structure will give the service more flexibility and agility to respond to its ever changing mission needs around IT.

“In the past, things have been more stovepiped so what the CIO was working on might have been very much interrelated to what the deputy undersecretary for management was working, but the cross collaboration existed in pockets, but it wasn’t formalized,” she said. “So what we tried to do is create a structure that allows you to build matrix-type teams very easily, but also to break down some of the stovepipes that have actually resulted in some issues with regards to technology implementation. The idea now is you can go all the way from administrative process all the way to technology implementation using expertise found in the same office.”

In many ways, the reorganization is similar to the one called for in the 2015 Defense Authorization bill combining the DoD’s deputy chief management officer with the CIO positions into a new undersecretary of Defense for business management and information starting Feb. 1, 2017.

Sullivan said the Navy saw what Congress was calling for and the logic in bringing the expertise closer together.

This new structure will focus across three main functional areas.

The first one is a knowledge ecosystem that wants to create and share information about pockets of excellence throughout the Navy around IT.

Sullivan said too often Navy offices don’t do a good job in sharing data except when there is a data call.

“We end up replicating a lot of very expensive studies. We end up having to go to contractors to get back intellectual property that we’ve already paid for. We want to create a culture where sharing data becomes the norm, not something you have to do when asked in a data call. We are going to ask our big contractors who are doing studies to make those available, to register those when they are complete and to make sure we declassify things to the best extent we can,” she said. “That’s one component, but it’s really about how do you value and think about information in your organization? How do we make data a core asset? We stop thinking about access control and start thinking about data control.”

She said information is at the core of how the Navy makes decisions so ( analytics has to be a large part of that effort too.

The second functional area is around performance-based metrics.

Sullivan said too often organization measuring performance based on whether it’s on budget and/or on time — commonly known as acquisition metrics.

But the Navy is moving to a set of metrics that focus on the business goal they want to accomplish.

“It really is about understanding the core of what you are trying to achieve when you are doing something,” Sullivan said. “If you are creating a new business system to do pay and personnel. What is it that you trying to do with that? Are you trying to fix the fact people aren’t being paid right or are you trying to reduce the amount of time that it takes an individual to [do the work] or reduce the amount of workers who are working on the system?”

She added the new organization is will help the Navy have those necessary up-front discussions about the improved business outcomes before it spends money on technology.

The third functional area is around the workforce.

Sullivan said the Navy is facing a dramatic transformation where a lot of younger workers are entering the service and a lot of older ones are leaving.

“We have a workplace that is pretty much set up for a much different working time. It’s about workstations. It’s about telephone calls and sitting at desks. It’s not about being flexible, being mobile, begin agile and using technology. We don’t really promote a collaborative workforce and there isn’t really integration in our role,” she said. “If you think about the changes that have occurred in the workplaces in some government agencies and the private sector, they haven’t necessarily percolated as much as they should into the Department of the Navy. So that’s something that we as an organization need to champion going forward.”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus asked Sullivan to lead a study starting last July to review information processes across the department.

Sullivan said they did a 30-day study and the reorganization effort was one of the three recommendations. She said the other big one was the need to streamline the certification and accreditation process for IT systems, especially for the business systems.

She said the Navy has ongoing work in that area, looking at how to become a device agnostic and data control environment, and at information sharing within and outside of the Navy.

Most recently, Mabus established Task Force Innovation, which Sullivan leads and includes experts from across the Department of the Navy, to develop an innovation strategy for the Navy and Marine Corps.

The task force will focus on three main areas:

  • Innovative practices to create and maintain an adaptive workforce.
  • Ensuring the Department of the Navy is effectively viewing information as an asset.
  • Ensuring emerging operational capabilities have a clear and expedient path to the fleet.

Sullivan said the risk landscape has changed dramatically over the last two decades and the Navy hasn’t kept up with the ability to adopt new technologies to lower its risk profile.

“The ability to work cross-functionally hasn’t been rewarded to the extent it needs to be in government, and cross-functional problem solving is the way of the future,” she said. “We really need to retain a lot of integration expertise. In many ways, a lot of what we are doing from a technology perspective becomes about putting a lot of pieces together. In the past, sometimes we have farmed that out a bit more to the contractors. Now this is something we are owning much more, and we will have to take, train and develop the workforce to understand what that looks like. We also have to develop the workforce to work in a different environment about risk. To be innovative, to move quickly you can’t have a risk penalty for innovative technologies.”


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