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CHIPS Articles: How Should the Navy Navigate the Electronic Landscape of Its Digital Investment?

How Should the Navy Navigate the Electronic Landscape of Its Digital Investment?
By U.S. Navy Capt. Steve Briganti - April-June 2001

Rear Adm. Richard J. Mauldin established Commander Task Force Navy Marine Corps Intranet (CTF NMCI) in October 2000 to act as the single command to oversee NMCI operations and security. CTF NMCI will be pivotal to managing the network that supports web-enabled warfighting operations and business processes in the Navy. Specifically, CTF NMCI will define NMCI tactics, techniques and procedures; implement NMCI policy decisions involving network service and restoration priorities; make key decisions on other NMCI-wide operational issues; and act as a catalyst for network innovation.

"Winners...must learn to relish change with the same enthusiasm and energy that we have resisted in the past. "-- Tom Peters

Why We Need Standards

As I was avoiding a game of bumper cars while exiting a single-lane off ramp in Naples, Italy, a "Cinquecento" [vehicle] about the size of a lawn mower barreled towards my car in the wrong direction. Of course, I was furious at his nonchalance, but my fellow Italian drivers seemed oblivious. The beehive of Italian drivers and swarms of mopeds on the "Tangenziale" and all of the highway's tributaries seemed to operate with chaos as the standard. Somehow, they had all quickly adapted to an unwritten norm-the Italian rules of the road-and traffic flowed steadily, albeit on any piece of ground, tarmac or cement that could accommodate a vehicle. Still, the potential for a dazzling array of accidents remained about as likely as the Italians enforcing rules of the road.

I would not presume to say that navigation of our NMCI "highway" is as chaotic as in Naples, but without our own rules of the road, there could be parallels indeed. Our own conglomeration of IT "streets and highways" will soon transform into a truly global information infrastructure, as the NMCI ashore architecture is progressively integrated into the Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) and Marine Corps Tactical Network (MCTN) architectures. We need to create rules to oversee the management of our network, in order to minimize the risk for our own highway "accidents".

First, we need a set of standards to operate our intranet highway. Secondly, like drivers, we need to understand the "rules of the road." For a widely diverse and multi-discipline organization, such as the Department of the Navy (DON), this could be like herding cats.

The Navy is anticipating powerful payoffs of reduced costs, shortened cycle times and enhanced IT service for our warfighting and business customers. The DON must be positioned to get the most value from these digital investments. The NMCI will bring enterprise-level issues that span the very essence of how we conduct business and support warfighting. Information sharing on these new "roads" will allow greater knowledge. As importantly, new information sharing patterns and processes emerge, so will organizational and cultural changes inherent in a "digital democracy."

How we establish the "traffic rules" -- the structured relationships and processes within this electronic landscape -- will directly bear upon the success we have in managing change and achieving enterprise objectives and goals. First, let's look at how another world-class organization in industry managed its transition, to make fast-paced decisions to acquire new IT services and define their value expectations.

In 1993, Steve Ward, Vice President of Business Transformation and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at IBM, was facing an $8 billion loss. He decided making decisions faster, writing software faster, and completing projects faster needed to be a high priority for senior management. Getting "Big Blue's" worldwide, 100,000 employees moving faster required a group of change agents that could push projects forward at blazing speed.

Mr. Ward understood that he needed an idea or decision and the actual change in the organization’s direction to getting it to where he needed it to be.

To solve this problem, he created “The Speed Team,” consisting of IBM employees who had led groundbreaking projects to successful and rapid results. After examining IBM’s fast-moving projects, including e-procurement, the Speed Team outlined a set of “success factors for speed.” Some of these highlighted the features of pursuing speed through teamwork, clear objectives, and work processes tailored to individual projects. This resulted in “faster meetings” and a change in the cultural mindset characterized by acceleration. A set of rules quickly evolved to govern the Speed Team’s gatherings:

• Every meeting required preparation work on the part of the attendees
• Meetings were structured to stay on topic; external collaboration was essential
• “Sidebar” matters that arose were handled outside by a subset of the full group
• Limit discussion of the speaker
• Encourage fast follow-up; meeting notes would be compiled immediately and posted to a database within an hour to determine what steps to take next

The Speed Team successes involved bringing together the right people, looking at why projects got bogged down, injecting speed into each — with mostly IT-based solutions, getting executive buy-in, and then making changes part of the business fabric. By 1994, the team’s actions had an impact at IBM, which turned its heavy losses into a $3 billion profit — an $11 billion turnaround in only a year.

Next let’s apply this lesson to our own technically-enabled workforce. Clearly, we need to complement the multimillion-dollar NMCI effort by identifying and developing requirements, policies, and long-term strategies. We will need to manage change through a structured process that allows collaboration among key organizations across our enterprise, balanced with new ways to inject speed into our own processes.

Fortunately, at the local area network level, we are starting with a more systematic approach that the “anything goes” streets of Naples. Governance is the technical term used to describe this approach.

Any governance structure, using sound and well-established rules, must encourage open dialogue, fast-paced decision-making, and shared accountability among an organization’s stakeholders. This structure must accommodate a variety of critical needs as an accepted means of resolving issues. Additionally, relationships and processes must be in place to provide checks and balances among all interested parties. To bring together competing interests, a means of resolving disputes of who does what, when, and how must first be constructed. How will this be accomplished?

Building a Structure for Success

We are implementing a well-structured governance process for the NMCI, as a critical step to help resolve issues. Effective overall IT governance is complex and requires realignment of organizational accountabilities and other organizational changes to plan, design, procure, manage and operate effectively within the entire enterprise. How does governance relate to NMCI?

The scope of NMCI governance, a subset of IT governance and our focus in this article, encompasses all contract management, network operations, enterprise strategic direction, resource requirement and policy matters related specifically to the NMCI. However, we have distinguished between several linked, yet clearly separate parts of the same process to govern the NMCI.

Now let’s take a look in more detail at how we intend to implement NMCI governance. We are institutionalizing an NMCI governance structure across the entire DON — a blueprint that resolves primarily non-contractual issues through a structured set of relationships and processes.

Since this article focuses largely on non-contractual issue resolution, we should mention here that NMCI contractual issues have a well-defined process overseen by the Program Executive Officer to Information Technology (PEO-IT) and managed by the NMCI Program Management Office (NMCI PMO). Specifically, the NMCI PMO provides contract management oversight of the NMCI transition and implementation. The new NMCI Governance structure emphasizes shared accountability for contractual and non- contractual issues, which helps to prioritize NMCI resources and encourages an effective issue resolution process from the perspective of the user. Here’s how it works.

First, we need an enterprise-wide, operational perspective of how we will manage electronic information on a secure NMCI network. Pivotal to keeping that perspective was the establishment of CTF NMCI. This totally integrated, technologically enabled, and fleet-focused organization has a primary mission to ensure operational requirements of Navy customers are being met by the NMCI.

The next key component of the Naval IT governance picture is the IT Leadership Council. This Leadership Council consists of the Under Secretary of the Navy, Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO), and the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps (ACMC), with the DON CIO acting as the Executive Secretary.

Although critical overall governance decisions affecting the NMCI will be made at this level, this body’s scope of authority is broader than NMCI, including DON information technology and information management (IT/IM) issues. Therefore, we are focusing solely the NMCI governance.

NMCI Governance Structural Components

The organization and membership of the NMCI Governance Structure consists of three NMCI governing bodies, each is chartered with separate authority and delegated power:
-- Information Executive Committee (IEC)
-- NMCI Stakeholders’ Council (SHC)
-- Enterprise Action Group

This structure, like corporate governance, requires a process that transcends the authority of individual interests. It ensures representatives from the entire DON community are involved in addressing policy, requirements and issues specific to the NMCI.

Also, this structure supports the strategic alignment between the NMCI technology and Naval IT enterprise objectives. Also critical to its success are the decision-makers — armed with superior knowledge of NMCI technology, our warfighting requirements and business processes. They must skillfully integrate them to influence the strategic direction of the NMCI.

Returning to the NMCI Governance Structure, let’s start at the top with the Information Executive Committee, comprised of the DON CIO, Navy CIO (CNO N6) and USMC CIO (HQMC C4). When necessary, membership will be widened to include the Deputy Assistant of the Navy (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence), Director, Office of Budget and Fiscal Management and the PEO-IT.

It is important to emphasize that oversight of the NMCI entperprise — making tradeoffs on such issues as schedule and funding — rests with the DON and Service CIOs. Through active collaboration, the IEC develops the vision for an IT-enabled DON workforce and fosters the achievement of strategic IT goals.

As co-chairs of the IEC, they report to the IT Leadership Council, yet can be delegated the decision authority to resolve NMCI issues within their charter, or they can delegate issues to the Stakeholder’s Council. This corporate-level committee has the overall authority to ensure other steering committees are sanctioned and chartered within the established rules of governance.

The linchpin of the NMCI Governance Structure is the NMCI is the SHC. This council consists of representatives from all key Naval organizations involved with planning, designing, procuring, managing and operating the NMCI enterprise. This council is the ONLY representative council that exists for addressing NMCI governance issues.

CTF NMCI, in coordination with the Marine Corps Headquarters’ C4 Staff and the Marine Corps Information Technology Network Operations Center (MITNOC), are ideally positioned to facilitate the governance process. Therefore, the SHC is co-chaired by the CTF NMCI and the USMC C4 organizations. This robust council actively collaborates on a wide-range of issues to balance separate and often competing goals with our organization.

NMCI Governance Issue Resolution Process

How are tradeoffs made and on what basis? A disciplined process has been implemented to bring speed to NMCI governance. One may note that, in a strict sense, the parliamentary business rules and collaborative tools we are about to describe do not necessarily define NMCI governance — they are merely tools to underpin the process.

We conduct weekly, 30-minute “virtual meetings” with all NMCI SHC members. This highly structured meeting is designed to acquire broad-based positions, opinions and ultimately to make decisions rapidly on NMCI issues that have enterprise-wide impact. It requires members to collaborate extensively outside of meetings, using Web-based collaboration tools and e-mail. We will discuss those tools later.

Interestingly, we created our own DON “Speed Team” by basing our process on business rules exercised for almost 200 years. Henry Robert was an engineering officer in the U.S. Army in the mid-1800s, and from time-to-time, he was transferred to different parts of the U.S. At these widely disparate locations, he conducted meetings involving the resolution of frontiersmen’s diverse perspectives, and not unexpectedly, found virtual parliamentary anarchy. Groups from different parts of the country had differing ideas on the correct procedures for conducting meetings and resolving issues.

To bring order out of chaos, he wrote “Robert’s Rules of Order.” These rules have stood the test of time and are still successfully used in both corporate and political environments. Unlike the defenseless and untrained driver, without any rules to navigate the roads of Naples, the conduct of SHC decision meetings follow a strict and orderly process. Robert’s Rules of Order has been tailored to the weekly 30-minute, virtual NMCI SHC meeting to accommodate the fast cycle and widely distributed issues that need timely resolution.

Listed below are a few examples of the rules of order used for the weekly NMCI SHC meetings to help us facilitate NMCI governance:.
-- Issues/recommendations come only from members or designated representatives.
-- Issues must be submitted be e-mailed to co-chairs using a designated template.
-- Issues must be distributed for review and comment to all members.
-- All members are equal; they all have equal rights and responsibilities.
-- The majority rules, but the rights of the minority and absent members are protected.
-- Everything is accomplished in the spirit of openness.
-- Limit discussion to two minutes per organization and topic.
-- Ensure all members have opportunity to view and vote on issues before a decision is made.

The third part of the tripartite governance structure involves Enterprise Action Groups. These working groups consist of subject matter experts from DON and vendor technical personnel. Each group is chartered by the IEC, has a lead organization to provide sponsorship and is provided the authority to submit issues or recommendations to the NMCI SHC for their consideration.

As we go through this process, keep in mind how important it is for you, as a shareholder of a public company, to assess NMCI performance against expectations. Existing conditions, decisions, and actions relative to you NMCI “investment portfolio” must be made accessible, visible and understandable to you as the investor and shareholder.

Finally, here’s how these pieces fit together into a powerful, 360-degree view of customer needs. Provided below are the top level steps, in the issue Resolution Process:

-- Any member of the Council to the SHC co-chairs may submit issues for consideration by the NMCI SHC.
-- SHC co-chairs will determine, in conjunction with the NMCI PMO/contractor, if the issue can be resolved within the NMCI contract. If not, the co-chairs assign it to the governance issue resolution process.
-- Agenda items will be sent to the SHC and discussed virtually, by video teleconference (VTC), or at a council meeting. If consensus is reached, the decision will be forwarded to the NMCI PMO or CTF NMCI/MITNOC for execution. If consensus is not reached, the issue will be forwarded to the IEC for review or decision.
-- Issues requiring study will be forwarded to a standing working group, or anew group will be formed to address the issue.
-- The IEC will approve any establishment of a new group and designate a lead organization.

As you may have already surmised, our NMCI governance structure delineates clear lines of authority to enforce compliance with corporate objectives. This process consists of dynamic interactions between key stakeholders directly involved in all aspects of the NMCI system acquisition life cycle. The velocity of these interactions requires the need to extent the enterprise by virtue of a Web-based digital workplace.

This workplace is powered by a collection of DoD approved collaboration software tools. We need to capture and manage information involved in the NMCI Governance Issue Resolution Process. Each member of the NMCI Governance structure will soon have the tools to employ virtual group dynamics, in support of this complex chain of information flow. For example, these tools will help us to implement version control of document/issues, polling of SHC agenda items and electronic discussion forums.

To attain the expected level of success with the NMCI Governance structure, participants will routinely use these active collaboration tools outside the weekly SHC VTC to help them manage the complex changes inherent in the NMCI.

What we have demonstrated is that NMCI governance provides a structure to link IT processes, IT resources, and information to DON enterprise strategies and objectives. It allows a great way to collaborate to ensure NMCI requirements are reflected in enterprise solutions.

Although we discussed just a small portion of the entire governance playing field available in corporate and government organizations, the need to regulate the flow of IT policy and harmonize its impact across the Navy is of significant impact to the future of Navy information operations.

The NMCI Governance structure is currently the only viable and credible mechanism for carrying out this essential need within our NMCI enterprise. It has the power to impact the Navy’s digital investments positively and influence the path driven by our leadership.

As in IBM’s Speed Team example, the value of this governance structure and process ultimately will be judged by our timely execution of corporate strategy and value added to our sizable investment. Anything less could serve to slow our transformation in bringing the power of the information age to the warfighter.

Capt. Steve Briganti is currently serving as Deputy, CTF NMCI. He most recently served as Executive Assistant to both the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (N8) and to the Director, Office of Program Appraisal, Office of the Secretary of the Navy.

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