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4 Ways to Fail When Managing Defence Capabilities

July 27, 2020

Capability management is key in the defence sector, with its various competing demands. But what mistakes can and should defence organisations avoid?

4 Ways To Fail When Managing Defence Capabilities

It is paramount that frameworks like NATO’s DOTMLPF-I are considered by decision-makers when implementing new technologies.

Capability management is key to modern defence practices. In light of the many competing demands of the industry, it is essential that there is a way to quantify and organise the different requirements that defence forces must follow. 


NATO’s DOTMLPF-I framework is one such way of arranging these requirements, standing for doctrine, organisation, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and interoperability. Similarly, the UK MoD uses the TEPID-OIL capability framework, covering training, equipment, personnel, information, (concepts and) doctrine, organisation, infrastructure, and logistics. Naturally, there is plenty of overlap between the two, highlighting just how universal these capability requirements are.


But acronyms are one thing; implementing these frameworks in practice is another. So what should defence organisations look to avoid when managing capabilities? 



Practising Disconnection


A primary concern for defence institutions is whether the equipment they use can easily be integrated with those of another. In an increasingly globalised world, interoperability is key to ensuring armed forces can work effectively alongside one another. 


Needless to say, having a mindset which doesn’t cater for interoperability is not ideal when implementing defence capabilities. Interoperability is key to a number of mission-critical activities, from mission training to actual battlefield operations. In fact, it is a core requirement for the armed forces of NATO member states. Through STANAGs, or Standardisation Agreements, member states’ armed forces can concur on the processes, terms, and conditions that they will adopt on and off the battlefield. 


Interoperability is in itself a capability which armed forces must incorporate into any new technologies they adopt. Our work with a European defence client involved equipping their vessels with tactical data links, enabling interoperability through the communication of information between units. The standard set by NATO on TDLs ensures that these units can communicate with one another effectively, regardless of whether the vessel itself belongs to another member state’s military.  



Thinking Too Narrowly


But looking only at interoperability as a means of integrating devices and units between forces is to miss the point of what it actually means and, indeed, the work that is required to achieve full interoperability. 


Interoperability is just one piece of the larger jigsaw of defence capability management. For example, in our work with the European defence client, we had to consider not only the capacity of interoperability brought about by the installation of TDLs on naval vessels, but also the user training involved, the personnel and (more importantly) skillsets required, as well as the methodology used to carry out and implement the project. That’s why, when developing the TDLs, we ensured that TDL consoles were equipped with features needed for training purposes, including complex simulations within which each of the consoles could transmit data to one another as in real-life situations.  



Not Paying Attention to Standards


Standards are another key aspect of a number of defence capability frameworks. Without clear technical standards to follow, it would be impossible to develop and enhance defence capabilities. 


Standards serve to increase technological efficiency as well as ensure strategic advantages over adversarial forces. Yet these do not simply cover the technical apparatus powering defence forces. Rather, they encompass a whole host of integral components of defence institutions, from procurement to personnel safety on the battlefield. 


Militaries are bound to follow a variety of standards, yet not following them can potentially expose forces to efficiency and deliverability issues. For instance, procurement processes may be delayed considerably if the appropriate standards are not adhered to, inevitably incurring greater costs and often meaning equipment fails to be delivered on time.


  

Not Considering Doctrine


Naturally, doctrine – the established procedures which govern the ways in which armed forces operate - plays a key role in informing the broader strategies implemented by armed forces. Without a clear grasp of the fundamental themes and concepts underpinning defence capabilities, forces cannot operate to their full potential. 


Defence projects without clearly defined doctrines run the risk of being poorly managed and unsustainable in the long term – unforgivable in an age when the agility and flexibility of defence projects is key to success, both financially and – crucially – militarily. 


In response to these concerns, organisations like NATO have identified a need to improve their defence capabilities as well as increase their coverage, yet at a reduced cost. This demands more creative ways of implementing projects in the defence sector. For instance, when working on our European defence client’s TDL capability, our keen focus on establishing properly planned yet dynamic processes meant that considerable cost savings could be achieved. This was done through using project management methodologies like Agile, which – through constant co-operation with the client ensured the project produced a successful and sustainable outcome.



Defence capability frameworks like NATO’s DOTMLPF-I provide a ‘scorecard’ by which the key tenets of a project can be evaluated and optimised, with the aim of producing more effective and efficient outcomes. The risks posed by not following such a framework include flawed processes and, in the worst case scenario, unprepared defence forces. It is paramount that these frameworks are properly considered by decision-makers in the defence sector when running projects and implementing new technologies. 


To find out more about how Critical assisted our client in establishing its TDL capability, check out our case study below.

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Defence
Mission-Critical Software Development