Defense organizations are highly dependent upon enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for the back office and, increasingly, the battlefield. These systems have become a central part of the modern defense landscape, speeding up transactions and informing quick, decisive action.
Much of the billions invested in ERP investment has been directed at back office functions supporting procurement, financial reporting, asset maintenance and inventory management. Recent changes in warfighting capability, along with higher tempo modes of engagement, means that forces need real-time information that is integrated with battle management systems.
However, most deployed defense ERP systems are unable to support the unique challenges of a mobile battlefield, where latency is high, bandwidth is low, and tactical communications networks are often disrupted. They rarely have fully integrated demand/deployment planning capabilities and often require manual intervention.Consequently, many combat ERP systems must be augmented or replaced by bespoke versions, which leads to data and system duplication.
In seeking the right choice of ERP, any solution should satisfy the rising demands of users, and adapt to emerging technical innovations such as cloud, mobile access, object orientation at the middleware level, the internet of things, edge computing, sensor integration and autonomous processes. The latest combat platforms now frequently come equipped with their own onboard sensing and readiness status reporting capabilities.
ERP is not a complete solution, and, in most cases, will be part of a suite of complementary technologies that combine to give defense organizations the data they need, when they need it, via a common, shared data platform.
“I wouldn’t say one ERP system would solve every problem. We would expect a consolidated ERP system to cater for a significant proportion of processes, with alternative systems supporting other processes.”
Mohan Aiyaswami, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Australian Department of Defense1
Several of the defense Chief Information Officers (CIOs) we spoke to commented on the blistering pace of technological innovation. Failure to keep up could seriously jeopardize fighting capability vis-à-vis competitors, and undermine overalldefense efforts.
Disruptive digital technologies are also introducing new ways to deliver IT services, which could fundamentally change the structure of back-office functions. More and more defense organizations are looking to embrace best practices from the private sector.
1Defence begins major business process overhaul. (n.d.). Retrieved June
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