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Defense Board Outlines Path for Integrated Digital Ecosystem

Members of DOD’s board exploring digital business transformation said that standards and culture are some of the keys to technological change.

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A U.S. Air Force data operations technician working on code. Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Zachariah Lopez / U.S. Air Force

The independent board advising the Defense Department on business management issues recommended new data and management processes for creating an integrated digital ecosystem to speed up technology adoption.

“Simply put, a digital ecosystem involves the adoption and injection of digital technologies into every phase of a program’s lifecycle,” said Stan Soloway, chair of the Defense Business Board’s Business Transformation Advisory Subcommittee.

Soloway briefed the board at a Feb. 29 meeting about the results of a study that looked at how DOD could improve digital business transformation and leveraging data for decision-making and risk analysis.

The board’s recommendations focused on aspects about governance, IT infrastructure, culture, talent, intellectual property and funding.

In order to use data as a strategic asset and build an integrated digital ecosystem, the board noted in its recommendations the need for creating data standards driving interoperability, and for developing data exchange platforms enabling real-time interaction and access to data. It also called for establishing a common vision and taxonomy for creating an interoperable digital strategy.

“A digital ecosystem connects people, processes, products, data and devices into an interopable and real-time continual exchange that enables seamless collaboration, iteration analysis and innovation,” Soloway said.

On the culture and talent fronts, the board recommended establishing a change management process, incentivizing personnel to adopt digital skills, and recruiting specialized and in-demand technical disciplines.

Soloway noted that workforce strategies need to recognize the need for training the workforce more effectively to make them comfortable with change and to close the skills gap.

The board recommended establishing a centralized fund and removing budget restrictions could ease institutional roadblocks.

“Such a fund would empower an enterprise-wide modern secure solution akin to how large diverse private sector organization operate,” said subcommittee member Craig Albright at the meeting. He noted that a fund is “not just desirable — it’s essential.”

The study comes during a time when DOD is facing increased cybersecurity threats and the need to move quickly to field innovative technologies for defense applications.

This digital transformation movement is one seen across both public and private sectors.

“The rapid evolution in adoption of digital tools and strategies are transforming business operations globally from basic automation to complex integrated systems across almost every industrial sector,” Soloway said. “Nearly 90% of American companies are engaged in some form of digital transformation, and nearly the same percentage of CEOs see it as a top priority.”

The board’s recommendations are open for public comment. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for May 7.

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