The Department of Defense is taking a progressive step forward with its mindset around software procurement and management of software programs. In a recent study, the Defense Innovation Board (DIB), an independent think tank advising the Secretary of Defense, reinforced some fundamental truths about software:
- Speed and cycle time are the most important metrics for managing software.
- Software is different than hardware, and not all software is the same.
- Software is made by people, for people, so digital talent matters.
In the press conference that followed the release of the DIB study, Ellen Lord, DoD's acquisition chief, discussed the Pentagon's lobbying efforts aligned to the report's recommendations. The efforts are focused on piloting a streamlined procurement approach for software and collapsing the multiple, segregated pools of money for software procurement (R&D, production, sustainment) into a single line. This will empower programs to move seamlessly between the various phases of the software development life cycle and equip them with the controls to combat ever-rising operations and maintenance (O&M) costs.
Speed to Market
As Marc Andreesen predicted in a 2011 Wall Street Journal article, software is eating the world, and the DoD is no exception. The department has grown to rely fundamentally on software capabilities to empower warfighters and advance the nation's capabilities beyond those of adversaries. However, the value proposition of software is only fully realized when speed to market is maximized and lead/cycle time is minimized. Procurement and management schedules measured in months and years are incongruent with an asset like software, which is capable of providing asymmetric tactical advantages in a matter of hours or days.
The DIB study emphasizes speed to market as a critical key performance indicator for software programs to realize their full portfolio value. This aligns with years of thought leadership from SAIC and our Agile Center of Excellence, SAFe Lean Portfolio Management, DevOps, and DevSecOps culture and tools for achieving "velocity to value," or V2V. Cold War-era procurement models and management practices with 12- to 18-month delivery lead times ensure that warfighters get the tools they needed 11.5 to 17.5 months ago to succeed--if they're still needed at all.
Faster delivery models are necessary to empower our warfighters, expand our tactical advantage, and maintain a reliable and secure capability.