Creating and realizing a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) bridges the gap between the operational and strategic needs of defense organizations. By clearly articulating user requirements, the document gives end users, project staff and executives greater confidence in the ERP systems that support them on the battlefield.
Through open discussions with IT specialists, stakeholders such as users, managers and executives can express their disparate, complex and sometime conflicting needs, and better appreciate what is and is not possible.
The CONOPs also captures the country’s military posture and likely areas of operation, to ensure that technology solutions work in-country or internationally, and to determine whether the force needs a single ERP, or a combination of ERPs and other combat management systems. More frequently, today’s defense ERPs must be integrated with other systems, so cannot simply be imposed.
A CONOPS is the starting point for clarifying the minimum functions needed in a new ERP. Traditionally, defense forces have tended to put technology ahead of people, with an emphasis upon software, hardware, middleware and databases; they have been less successful in specifying the outcomes that technology aims to achieve, leading to frustration and disenchantment among users, and calling for costly customizations at later stages.
By linking desired outcomes, national defense goals and technological capabilities, CONOPS incorporate military performance, security, deploy ability and interoperability. This should minimize changes to the ERP system during implementation, making the process faster and less expensive. Customization can often be avoided, by changing the business process, or using the software’s workflow features. Smaller Five Eye Defense Forces like Australia, Canada and New Zealand have managed to limit customization and identify other systems that can address business requirements.
Once the CONOPS is complete, the next step is to ensure that the solution achieves the best outcomes for both the business owners and operational combat forces. Our discussions with Five Eyes Defense IT and business leaders reveal the importance of balancing the latest technology with security concerns and funding constraints, and avoiding obsolescence. Some organizations are cautious and gradually adapt existing systems, while others embrace more radical change by adopting innovative new solutions. The former approach may appear to be lower risk, but could leave a defense force vulnerable to competitors with newer, more efficient fighting tools. The latter, on the other hand, could be costly and unpredictable, with immature, unproven technologies that are hard to assimilate. Ultimately, those holding the purse strings must attempt to optimize battlefield capability while managing cost and minimizing the risks associated with change.
An effective integrated solution can support both back office and some operational activities. By connecting different ERP systems across the organization, forces can develop an integrated picture of the entire capability and offer a single, real-time view of enterprise information.
A ‘hybrid cloud architecture’ maximizes the return on current investments in ERP, by maintaining their strengths (such as system of record for transactions) while introducing new technologies – such as cloud – that enhance functionality of applications.
Whether choosing multiple systems on multiple platforms, or a single end-to-end solution, the defense professionals we spoke to agree that integration and interoperability of data is essential to support in-theatre fighting forces. This enables a full view of the supply chain, equipment status, asset visibility and operational readiness on and off the battlefield, to inform planning and execution of current and future combat operations.