WRT-1051: Program Managers Guide to Digital and Agile Systems Engineering Process Transformation
Enterprises and System of Systems
Report Number: SERC-2022-TR-009
Publication Date: 2022-08-26
Project: Enablers to Systems Engineering Modernization
Thomas McDermott Jr.
This report presents the results of the first phase of research on research task WRT-1051: Program Managers Guide to Digital and Agile Systems Engineering Process Transformation. This research task feeds into a companion research task, WRT-1058: Systems Engineering Modernization Policy, Practice, and Workforce Roadmaps. Together these support a larger set of activities being led by OUSD/RE under the term “Systems Engineering Modernization” (SEMOD). The motivation for SEMOD stems from the need to integrate across independent guidance provided down to the DoD SE and acquisition communities related to Digital Engineering, Modular Open Systems Approach, Mission Engineering, and Software Engineering/Agile/Devops across the multiple pathways of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework. The SERC/government research team found there is a lack of an integrated approach to implementation of SE Focus Areas that is creating a delay in full implementation of the Digital Transformation which is necessary to ensure the relevant guidance, skills, and training are available to deliver a robust, disciplined approach to weapon systems acquisition.
The SERC has been tasked with three research threads in this research:
- Policy and Guidance: review existing SE related policy and guidance, align and integrate to selected acquisition pathways, and develop recommended modifications.
- SEMOD Framework: create an integrating framework that incorporate the key activities in each domain and generate options for program implementation.
- SEMOD Roadmaps: Develop a set of related artifacts for an initial categorization and information framework and develop the meta data for a body of knowledge.
Research in each of these areas was partially completed in this effort and will be iterated upon in WRT-1058. Primary findings of this report include:
- SE Modernization responds to the ongoing digital transformation of DoD acquisition and sustainment activities which have traditionally followed rigorous systems engineering processes. The systems engineering processes remain valid, but the practices need to change to take advantage of the digital transformation. The transformation is guided by the DoD Digital Engineering strategy as an "an integrated digital approach that uses authoritative sources of system data and models as a continuum across disciplines to support lifecycle activities from concept through disposal." We derived a primary value statement from digital transformation as “seamless and efficient transformation of data and models into views in order to visualize, communicate, and deliver data, information, and knowledge to stakeholders.” To date DoD DE efforts have been more focused on the creation of authoritative sources of data and models than the value achieved by digitizing the underlying transformations. This is creating slow uptake of modernized systems engineering capabilities and processes in DoD program offices.
- DoD policy and guidance as related to the four focus areas, systems engineering and engineering of defense systems, and the six Adaptive Acquisition pathways is poorly integrated. Current policy and guidance suffer from independent terminology and jargon across each focus area and acquisition pathway. Current policy and guidance provide only limited communication of the intent of the digital transformation. In addition, current policy and guidance remain highly milestone driven, overly focused on new development, and lack focus on update and sustainment - despite DoD calls for more continuous and rapid deployment of capabilities. Finally, the vision in the DoD Data Strategy of “a data-centric organization that uses data at speed and scale for operational advantage and increased efficiency” is not sufficiently captured into engineering policy and guidance.
- As a result, the systems engineering and related acquisition guidance, as well as much of the systems engineering professional community guidance, continues to operate with a mental model of linear, milestone driven technical and management processes as determined by static, often document based artifacts. The culture is proving difficult to overcome in the DoD and defense industrial base. In this research we developed and have been promoting a new mental model of a systems lifecycle that is continuously iterated and layered from data to models to decision artifacts. This mental model helped to organize a much more focused set of SEMOD pain points which can be used to define change modernization roadmaps. The model also clearly defines the need for standardized reference implementations of these data transformation layers to generate the necessary lessons learned to accelerate uptake of the transformation.
- This report proposes the need for and actions that should be taken to establish such an exemplar reference architecture.
The organization of this report starts with the question “Why Modernize” and summarizes the intent of the four focus areas. Next, we describe the SEMOD integration framework and present the revised mental model and its derivation. This is followed by the recommended reference implementation.
Following this the report summarizes several analyses that centered on current policy and guidance to initiate an SEMOD body of knowledge. This was combined with several workshops targeted at collecting state of the practice and future needs from a broad cross-section of government and industry. These activities resulted in a detailed set of pain points that integrate across policy, guidance, and implementation.