Enhancing the delivery of major defence programmes

By Ian Ballentine, Head of Global Programme Advisory, and Ed Robinson, Defence and Global Key Account Lead

In the face of increasing strategic complexity, rapid change and new frontiers of conflict; delivering a relevant and agile evolving military capability is more challenging than ever before.

Enhancing the delivery of major defence programmes is critical – not just in terms of the capability, but at an organisational and cultural level. The defence sector, like others, is being driven not only by accelerating technological innovation and fast-moving security requirements, but also by a shortage of resource and a demand for greater commercial expertise.

Industry must respond to these strategic challenges and embrace the transformation required to support and keep pace with the current change. To do this it must shape defence programmes around four core pillars that can enhance performance at every stage.

Industry connectivity

The first step is to set up the defence industry to enable greater value from the supply chain and reduce the often adversarial and transactional nature of relationships in a sector that is often single source and extremely politicised.

Governments need to work more closely with tier one original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to shape their capability, provide as much visibility on future military requirements as possible, and stimulate the necessary innovation that often comes from tiers two, three and SMEs to keep pace with the changing strategic context.

There also needs to be greater diversification across the industry – and stronger government support for establishing a capable supply chain beyond the tier one model – to create a more standard product manufacturing structure, as we see across other sectors. This is no mean feat given the complexity, variety and cost of shifting Front Line Command requirements.

It needs a fundamental change as to how requirements are specified, how the supply chain is engaged, and how much more engaged the government needs to be in managing the supply chain.

Whole life strategy

In defence, objectives need to be set that go far beyond the immediate physical output of a fighter jet, frigate or aircraft carrier. Instead, success and asset performance in defence should be measured on whole life value and long-term strategic outcomes.

Here, defence can learn much from major programmes in other sectors – where a major new rail connection is not simply justified by the cost required to build it, but by the broader value that it will provide to the UK economy and local communities over the longer term.

With infotech and biotech advancements reducing requirements for large-scale human military engagement, and the rapid evolution of the nature of threats we face, the focus on end outcomes and portfolios rather than individual outputs will allow us to recognise that the longevity and relevance of defence capability relies on versatility.

A whole life strategy is straightforward to outline, but far harder to actually implement.

It requires a fundamental change as to how a business defines its requirements, plans, operates, maintains and ultimately disposes of its assets. This is becoming a greater imperative to change with a move to more standardised products and disruptive technology.

Organisational set up

Organisational structure and efficiency is the third pillar of improving programme performance. It comes down to instilling the right culture, behaviours and governance at the heart of defence programmes – and throughout the client organisation and supply chain as a whole – to allow decisions to be made decisively and in the context of long-term value and a shared end vision.

This commitment is evident in the transformation agenda from the UK Ministry of Defence, centred around evolving commercially to put the right people, responsibilities and skills in place. It is important that this change of trajectory is reflected within OEMs too – their organisational structures should reflect those of the procuring organisation.

In a world of powerful OEMs that hold sovereign capability on single source, it is essential for a government’s defence acquisition capability to more closely integrate with the supply chain at both a senior and technical level. This will provide better support and steer the direction of innovation, disruption and best practice in manufacturing.

Driving delivery

The right organisational set-up ultimately needs to embed clear structures into the industry to create a standard lifecycle for managing, governing and monitoring projects and controlling performance throughout the lifecycle of an asset.

Defence programmes must establish baselines that are framed on the agreed success criteria and shared outcomes established under the strategy – what do we want to achieve and when? Analysing big data then allows project performance to be measured against these benchmarks, and enables early intervention when course correction is required.

Building expertise in project controls is essential to creating this culture of high performance and needs to be based on clear metrics that can track improvement and impact in real time.

Structured data collection and analysis can help the defence sector to better understand systemic issues, manage risk, and estimate capability – all of which is critical for the successful delivery of an individual asset required to boost defence capability.

Fit for the future

Maintaining a safe and stable environment for people and societies to prosper is, in part, reliant on a radical change of approach towards delivering major programmes. The defence sector is facing unprecedented challenges of relevance, resource and rapid disruption. It needs to keep looking at the lessons learnt across other sectors to guide this period of transformation, and focus on reappraising supply chain relationships and ways of working within the industry, really embracing a whole life approach, embedding the right organisational behaviours and management of defence programmes.

Enhancing the performance of major defence programmes is critical to managing costs, not just for the sake of the budget but to build confidence publicly and politically in defence capability and investment as a whole. This will ultimately allow governments to meet future global security challenges.

Ian Ballentine, Global Head of Programme Advisory, will be speaking at DSEI 2019 on ‘Integrated Strategy: Enhancing the Performance of Major Programmes’ on 13 September at 1pm in the East Theatre, Land Zone.