Major General Andreas Kraak, commander of NATO’s Deployable Air Command and Control Centre takes a different view. Speaking in an interview for a NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency documentary he states “Information technology is … the primary weapon system for NATO”. The reason is simple: “… without it we can’t work” .
The same is true for just about any modern organisation, but sophisticated IT is particularly vital for NATO. The nature of a multinational coalition means that it faces a diverse set of challenges compared with a homogeneous force. Where differences in language, doctrine, training and technology can reduce effectiveness and organisational efficiency, IT enables communication and can help overcome obstacles to effective operation of coalition forces.
Just one of the collaboration problems that has faced coalition commanders in the past is that the forces provided by contributing nations each have their own individual communications networks. Messages move rapidly within those networks but more slowly across network boundaries between NATO allies. In extreme cases the only way to move data between networks has been to resort to “Sneakernet”, using removable media . That being the case, it’s not surprising that one of the key elements of NATO’s Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) is to improve the exploitation of technology to help deliver interoperability . That includes enhancing the network architectures that are used by forces engaged in coalition operations.
Experience in Afghanistan showed how different networks could be linked effectively to share operational data. The method that evolved there is now being rolled out more widely in the form of Federated Mission Networking . This approach enables information sharing not only among military networks but by networks used by other organisations such as civilian security forces, emergency services and NGOs.
Another exciting prospect being actively investigated by NATO is the potential for configuring networks using Software Defined Networking (SDN) . With SDN, one physical network can be dynamically managed by software so that it behaves differently at different times depending on the changing needs of its users.
It has been said that "to develop software is to build a machine, simply by describing it” . The underlying computing device simply acts as a platform for any computing machine that can be built on it using software. SDN offers the prospect of being able to do the same for an entire network: effectively, to build a network simply by describing it.
A description of a network must take into account more than just the details of the network itself. As Koen Gijsbers, General Manager of the NCI Agency says: “Networking is not a technology environment; it is a human activity” . The description of a network – the network architecture - must include the roles of the people and systems it supports, and the processes they are tasked with executing. It must show the services provided on the network, and how they can be accessed. It must also consider potential vulnerabilities and risks, which are high, considering that adversaries will be trying to disable or subvert it using a full range of kinetic and cyber effects. There is little margin for error. A communications breakdown in a combat situation can be catastrophic.
The architecture of your IT system and its associated networks - electronic and human - is a set of descriptions of your primary assets. And if you are going to maintain, protect and employ those assets effectively, those descriptions have to be very good indeed.
MEGA will be at the Complex System Design & Management (CSD&M) event on 12-13 December in Paris. Full details and a discounted registration code are on this link if you would like to take the opportunity to talk with our experts in NAF and MODAF architecture.>
“Air Command and Control System (ACCS) - A short documentary” (video), NCI Agency, 2017.
“Coalition network unites forces”, Amy Walker, Government Computer News, 2010
Connected Forces Initiative
"Federated Mission Networking".
"Software Defined Network Architectures for the Federated Mission Networks (IST-142)" (Study). RTO Task Group: Information Systems Technology Panel. NATO Science & Technology Organization. January 2016 – December 2018.
“Software Specifications and Requirements: a lexicon of practice, principles and prejudices”, Michael Jackson, Addison-Wesley, 1995.
“NATO Federated Mission Networking – effective information sharing during NATO operations” (video), NCI Agency, 2014.
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A study by Dassault  noted that around 40 different specialisms are involved in the development of a complex system such as a car or an aircraft. Specialists in different disciplines have different cultures, express themselves in different ways and have specialised vocabularies that are rarely understood by outsiders. Several distinct languages can be involved:
The natural language used for general documentation (e.g. English)
The specialist languages used by different disciplines (e.g SysML)
The communication language used between disciplines
All of this underlines just how complicated communication can potentially be.
There is no value in trying to force a stakeholder group to adopt an unfamiliar language. On the other hand, if communication is informal, misinterpretations will inevitably arise. Information must be appropriately presented, structured and recorded. That means using software tools; but which tools?
Different groups need to perform planning, project management, requirements management, logical & physical architectural work, computer-aided design, simulation … the list goes on. No single tool is ever likely to support the needs of all stakeholders. Teams therefore have to agree on a stack of tools that (a) meet their needs and (b) can share data - at least to the extent needed to support communication between them. The problem of data exchange between tools is widely recognised and was touched on by several papers presented at the CSD&M conference 2.
It’s crucial that planners are able to use the toolset to analyse the impact of changes in the model and react to those changes. The world doesn’t stand still. Many things can change between initial concept and realisation. Assumptions may be rendered obsolete by outside factors, such as technologies that haven’t been invented yet. It’s not enough to plan the journey; it’s sometimes necessary to adjust course during the trip.
Ideally, tools would share data using a repository that supports continuity all the way from design innovation to engineering. However, structuring data and storing it is only part of the solution. To be useful, the data needs to be rendered into forms that are understandable. Understandability – and hence communication – can be enhanced by effective use of visualisation. One problem is that although computers can now decipher content and render it in ways that enable good human interaction, the tools commonly used to support the engineering lifecycle often don’t fully exploit these capabilities 2.
These are hard problems but businesses affected by new technologies have no option but to overcome them. They need to ensure that teams can work together effectively to exploit the new opportunities, or watch a competitor do it first. Inventing the future is a team game. The successful teams - those that see their vision turn into reality - are going to be those that communicate well.
First part of the article: Inventing the Future is a Team Game
MEGA sponsored the 7th International Conference on Complex Systems Design & Management held in Paris on 13 & 14 December 2016. The conference was organised jointly by the Centre of Excellence on Systems Architecture, Management, Economy and Strategy (CESAMES) and the Ecole Polytechnique.
References 1.Durantin, A., Fanmuy, G., Miet, S., Pegon, V. : “Disruptive Innovation in Complex Systems” in Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Complex Systems Design & Management, Springer International Publishing AG, 2017. http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319491028
2 The tool stack used on the SCCOA Air Defence System and techniques used for managing data exchange across the stack is described in , while  describes a formal approach to information sharing between modeling and simulation tools.
3. Thuy, N., : “Modelling and Simulation of the Dynamics of Complex Socio-Cyber-Physical Systems and Large Scale Systems of Systems all Along Their Lifetime”, ibid.
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Inventing the future
However, there are people out there who aren’t just speculating about the future - they are actively creating it. Some of these people met up in Paris for the 7 th International Conference on Complex Systems Design & Management (CSD&M) in December. The difference is that they not only have ideas, they have the financial resources to set them on the road to reality. Those resources can be substantial. The automotive industry, which was well-represented at the conference, spent $109bn on R&D in 2015 .
Complex systems are about to become much more visible. The arrival on the mass market of autonomous devices and devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) will have transformative effects on society. The form that transformation takes will depend on cultural, economic and regulatory pressures as well as technology. Companies developing connected and autonomous products have to consider not only how humans will interact with them, but how they will interact with us. The result is that product development has become a more interdisciplinary activity than ever before.
Take, for example, autonomous vehicles. The basic technology to make a driverless car possible requires a lot of hard science and engineering, but that’s just the starting point. Cars in their current form are deeply embedded in modern society. Successful introduction of driverless cars will require consideration of a host of factors. Public attitudes, policy, regulation, infrastructure, politics and culture will influence, and be influenced by, the way in which the technology is adopted. The car makers themselves will also have to respond to those influences. For example, how can brands that focus on the “driving experience” survive the introduction of technology designed to make human drivers obsolete? What new business models will be needed?
Models to manage complexity
Designers address this complexity by building models. They construct “what if” scenarios to test their assumptions and explore the consequences. With the scale of investment involved and safety at stake, no one wants to roll out a product (or a business model) containing flaws that could reasonably have been anticipated. For a set of problems that haven’t been encountered before, those scenarios have to be detailed and comprehensive. Put all the scenarios together and they should be capable of being refined into a coherent narrative.
The futures described in science fiction are usually the work of a single author. The model-based narrative, in contrast, is the work of a team. It reflects the considered opinion of many different stakeholders who can speak with authority in their own domains. It may not win any literary prizes but it should give a pretty good integrated picture of the future; not a future the team has chosen to describe, but one they intend to create.
To do that, however, requires experts in a whole raft of different disciplines. In addition to product designers and engineers, manufacturers need input from a range of specialists that can include disciplines as disparate as computer science, psychology and the social sciences. In some cases, companies even hire science fiction writers as well .
In the second part of my blog I’ll look at the problems of team communication and effective sharing of information.
References 1. Jaruzelski, B.H. and Hirsch, E.R. : “The 2015 Global Innovation 1000 - Automotive industry findings” PwC, 2015 http://www.strategyand.pwc.com/media/file/Innnovation-1000-2015-Auto-industry-findings.pdf
2. Gunn, E. : “How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future”, Smithsonian Magazine, May 2014 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-americas-leading-science-fiction-authors-are-shaping-your-future-180951169/
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Now although the Act did not specifically mention “enterprise architecture”, the agencies' response was to adopt EA frameworks such as FEAF, TEAF and DoDAF. Other governments followed with DoDAF being adapted by the UK and NATO to create the defence architecture frameworks MODAF and NAF 2 .
In the twenty years since the CCA, Enterprise Architecture has flourished, but it has also attracted criticism as organisations have often failed to reap the anticipated benefits.
There are dangers in simply mandating the use of an architecture. If an architecture is required in order to demonstrate compliance then management will certainly ensure that one gets created. However, it may simply be viewed as just another non-functional requirement - an overhead rather than an asset. If the emphasis is on deploying the architecture, rather than employing it, then the architectural discourse will tend to focus on the inputs and activities needed to construct the architecture, rather than on outputs and results.
This seems to be at the root of a problem highlighted in a Forbes Tech article “Is Enterprise Architecture Completely Broken?”, namely that EA Frameworks are “self-referential” 3 . “Self-referentiality” suggests a negative kind of self-absorption: a preoccupation with form rather than content. There is often a perception that architecture teams are more concerned with architecture itself than with practical problems.
Assuming that everyone concerned agrees that architecture is simply a means to an end, why should this be?
The answer lies in communication. If we take professionals such as doctors and lawyers, they use one language amongst themselves and a different one when talking to clients. In contrast, the technical vocabulary of EA employs commonplace words but loads them with very precise meanings. Words that are effectively synonyms in everyday language have subtle distinctions and interrelationships assigned to them. It doesn’t help that different frameworks apply different meanings to the same words, and that many architecture practitioners (and stakeholders) have their own preferred definitions. It has been remarked that Britain and America are divided by a common language 4 . The architecture community has a similar problem.
Attempting to resolve meaning by reference to one or other architecture framework in the course of a conversation with stakeholders risks turning it into a dialogue about the framework itself. It also suggests a privileged status for the language of the architect over the language of the stakeholder. It shouldn’t be surprising if the stakeholder finds this irksome. Architecture is a collaborative activity but ultimately it’s the architect’s job to understand the stakeholder’s world, not the other way round. All of this simply reinforces the “self-referential” stereotype.
What can Enterprise Architects do to avoid this?
A good doctor will listen and talk to each patient in a way that is appropriate 5 . Although they master a formidable technical vocabulary they don’t let that get in the way of effective communication. The doctor matches the patient’s words to the medical terminology, but it’s mainly an unspoken process. If clarification is needed, it is sought using the language of the patient, not the medical textbook. Consulting room conversations are about patients’ concerns, symptoms, treatments and outcomes. Architects who take a similar approach with stakeholders are unlikely to be accused of self-referentiality.
So much for negative self-referentiality. Is there a good kind?
The current holder of the FEAC Institute’s Industry Award for “Leadership in Enterprise Transformation” is the European Air Traffic Management Architecture 6 . EATMA is used to coordinate the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project, a €2.1Bn R&D programme to completely overhaul the air traffic management of European airspace.
Terry Bromwich, Principal Enterprise Architect at National Air Traffic Services, explains some of the reasons for its success:
“It may sound obvious but organisations have limited success unless they take an Enterprise Architecture approach to their Enterprise Architecture. In the case of SESAR EATMA, a great deal of time was invested up front ensuring that the team were clear what was needed from the Architecture, who was going to use it and what data they needed.” 7
So, to succeed, an organisation should take an EA Approach to EA? That’s so self-referential it’s actually recursive! It’s clear, however, that the focus is on the organisation, not the architecture. If in another twenty years EA has ceased to be accused of self-referentiality (i.e. the bad kind) it will be because EA practitioners have succeeded in demonstrating that Enterprise Architecture isn’t about building better architectures, but better enterprises.
1. “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996”, Public Law 104–106, 104th Congress of the United States of America, 10 February 1996.
2. FEAF: Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework; TEAF: Treasury Enterprise Architecture Framework; DoDAF: Department of Defense Architecture Framework; MODAF: (UK) Ministry of Defence Architecture Framework; NAF: NATO Architecture Framework
3. “Is Enterprise Architecture Completely Broken?”, Bloomberg, J., Forbes/Tech, 11 July 2014.
4. The observation has been variously credited to Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.
5. "Physician-Patient Communication - The Relationship With Malpractice Claims Among Primary Care Physicians and Surgeons", Levinson, W., Roter, D.L., Mulooly, J.P., Dull, V.T., Frankel, R.M., Journal of the American Medical Association, 1997;277(7):553-559.
6. “2015 Leadership in Enterprise Transformation using EA – Industry”, Zachman International, 8 October 2015.
7. “The 3 Open Secrets of a Successful Enterprise Architecture”, Bromwich, T., 5 November 2015.
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1. Treat your Information as a “force multiplier” throughout the value chain
Mention “defence” and most people think of the world of combat operations: what military specialists call the “battle-space”. However, many of the day-to-day activities of the MOD are actually conducted in a “business-space” that is recognisable to any large organisation. Defence, as much as business, relies on a very well defined value chain.
Technology, and in particular information technology, has revolutionised military operations. Nowadays, thanks to the availability of powerful, portable computing devices and good communications networks, data can be collated, fused into a coherent set of information and presented in a way that enables rapid decision-making and action. Used in this way, information becomes a “force multiplier”: it enables people to do more, faster, and with fewer resources.
Businesses capture and store more information than ever before. However, this information can act as a force multiplier only if it is delivered to the right people at each step in the value chain. Like defence CIOs, business CIOs need to make sure that value chains are defined, understood and shared: It is then much easier to direct the right information to the right end user.
2. Understand your business infrastructure, then optimise it
The “force multiplier” effect is proven to work in the battle-space, and the business-space is quickly catching up.
The limiting factor is no longer (as it once was) the availability and the cost of technology but, instead, the organisation’s very own legacy systems and processes. For example, with cloud-based virtualisation, a complex IT architecture can be made available to a business simply by describing it. The challenge lies in being able to describe that architecture and transform it so it delivers business value.
However, streamlined systems mean nothing if they aren’t used in a streamlined way. Effectiveness in the battle-space is achieved by highly-collaborative, task-oriented behaviours, where initiative is encouraged and where participants are focussed on outcomes rather than mechanisms. Legacy organisational structures and cultures sometimes inhibit these behaviours in the business-space. Business CIOs willing to seize similar benefits may consider taking a lead in educating the organisation about collaborative, network-based behaviours, and being prepared to set out transformational programs accordingly.
3. Understand the nature of the threats you face
The internet has opened up enormous opportunities for business, but it also provides more opportunity for malicious activity. Security is now one of the most serious issues facing commercial CIOs.
Security awareness has always been at the core of any kind of defence work.
Defence agencies have always had to protect information that could, in the wrong hands, damage national security. Consequently they developed well-defined procedures for handling information and instilled security awareness in their personnel. Technology augments this but doesn’t replace it.
Businesses are now also on the front-line and need to raise employees’ risk awareness and culture. They are routinely subject to concerted cyber-attacks, either by organised crime or by groups with political and strategic aims. CIOs need to educate staff about security and the steps they can take to guard against cyber-threats 1 . Security technology needs to be backed-up by a fostering a security-conscious culture. That way, routine security procedures naturally become a vital part of everyone’s job.
4. Exploit the cyber-domain
The internet and related digital technologies provide much more than just a communications network. For the military it provides a new "cyber" frontier for military operations.
For commercial organisations, the "cyber domain" is an environment that allows them to interact dynamically with suppliers and customers. It is fundamentally interactive: it enables companies to listen to their customers as well as talk to them. A successful cyber-strategy has to exploit the whole range of social media platforms to establish that dialogue. To execute the strategy effectively requires an understanding of the technical architecture that underpins the entire customer experience. That no longer means simply the corporate infrastructure - it includes the increasingly powerful technology in the hands of consumers. That technical know-how must be combined with creative skills, requiring tight coordination between the CIO organisation and marketing team 2 .
Leveraging the available digital technology and platforms to build relationships with customers more effectively that the competition is an example of "information superiority". CIOs are usually in the best position, in terms of technical awareness of trends and in influence, to shape the way their organisations exploit innovative ways to exploit the cyber-domain 3 .
5. Aim to achieve “information superiority”
Companies increasingly self-identify as “information businesses”: organisations that “live or die by the extent to which information flows freely to those that need it, when and where needed” 4 . In a military context, that’s not a figurative statement – lives really do depend on information. That’s why the military places such importance on the quality and speed of information flow.
Information businesses require CIOs to focus on the valuable end of the IT system – the part where the information gets to where it can make a difference. CxOs need information to make strategic decisions, management needs it to make tactical decisions and customer-facing staff need it to provide good service every time they speak to a customer.
Having an infrastructure that can provide the right information, in the right place, at the right time, confers an advantage because it potentially enables information consumers to make decisions, and therefore take action, faster than the opposition. That’s true whether it’s in the cockpit of a combat aircraft or at a trading terminal. The MOD calls this “Information Superiority”:
“The competitive advantage gained through the continuous, directed and adaptive employment of relevant information principles, capabilities and behaviours.” 5
And what commercial CIO wouldn’t be happy to deliver that?
1 - “Re-launch of '10 Steps to Cyber security ' “, GCHQ, 15 January 2015
2 - “Adidas CIO Plays to Win at Digital Marketing” CIO, 16 February 2015
3 - “e-Leadership: Skills for Competitiveness and Innovation” a report prepared by INSEAD on behalf of the European - Commission Enterprise and Industry Directorate General, 2013
4 - “The information business", Ade McCormack, Financial Times, 15 January 2013
5- "Joint Doctrine Note 2/13: Information Superiority", Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), MOD, August 2013.
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This event was one of a series being run across Europe during 2014 by the European Commission. The aim is to promote the skills needed to drive innovation in the European economy and to encourage business executives to become “e-Leaders”. Despite high unemployment levels, there is a Europe-wide shortage of people with high-level skills in ICT. The shortfall is particularly acute in Management, Business Architecture and Analysis skills and is likely to become worse over the period up to 2020. The situation is illustrated in this graph from the European Commission’s Report "e-Skills for Jobs in Europe”  :
A shortage of people with the right skills acts as a brake on “organic” growth as companies recover from the economic crisis of 2008. More important, however, is the effect of a shortage of executives with the right ICT background to inform strategic decision-making for “transformative” growth. As a result, companies are in danger of missing out on the opportunity to take advantage of technology to transform their business models. At board level, their technical background means that CIOs are increasingly being called upon to take a leadership role in transformation . The European Commission has teamed up with EuroCIO, the European CIO Association, to address the skills gap by devising curriculum guidelines for executive education programmes. To date, curriculum profiles have been approved for three of the key skill areas :
Innovation and Transformation through ICT
Business and Enterprise Architecture
Information Security Governance
The aim of the new initiative is to ensure that executives are equipped to create new business models based on the disruptive potential of emerging technologies: to develop “next practice”, rather than simply adopt “best practice ”. It is not only large corporations that need to do this. It is also vital for SMEs to stay ahead of the technology curve and particularly important from a wider economic perspective, because SMEs account for the majority of jobs in Europe. The European Commission’s active support for the e-Leadership agenda recognises that having “digital transformation” skills at executive level is of strategic importance for the European economy. The UK Regional e-Leadership event on June 3 at Henley Business School attracted over 100 delegates from industry, government and education. Corresponding regional events are still to be held in Milan, Munich, Antwerp, Budapest, Aarhus and Paris. The next event will take place at the Politecnico di Milano on 25 June 2014 
 Agenda for “Developing e-Leadership”, Regional Cluster Event No. 2, Henley Business School, 3 June 2014  European Commission’s Report "e-Skills for Jobs in Europe”, February 2014:  “Digital disruption will fundamentally change CIO role”  New Curricula for e-Leadership: Delivering Skills for an Innovative and Competitive Europe, European Commission  Regional e-Leadership Events Schedule and Registration page
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