Home  /  About us  /  Newsroom  /  Turbo-charging NATO Software Development

09 14 2016

Turbo-charging NATO Software Development

Italy is renowned for its ferociously fast cars. Now, the NCI Agency is looking at leveraging Italian Army expertise with agile software development to speed up combat software development in NATO.

The journey began earlier in the year with a joint Agile Software Engineering class, presenting a particular Agile methodology specifically created by the Italian Ministry of Defence to develop their Land Command and Control Evolution (LC2EVO) system. The system was extremely successful, dramatically reducing the cost of the two million lines of software code produced and delivering it on schedule. Although various elements of the NCI Agency have already been using Agile Scrum methods, it has not been widely used for software acquisitions from Industry. The Italian initiative has taken the methodology even further by looking at specific Agile implementations and has proven to be very successful.

In October 2016, the Agency is planning to introduce the concept to the Strategic Commands, holding a workshop with the goal to expose the innovative concept to our leaders and make it usable within the NATO.

The concept of Agile Software development is not new, but the way the Italian Army applied it makes it really innovative and successful.

Koen Gijsbers, NCI Agency General Manager commented: "We are working on improving software development, and as one of the activities, based on the Software Intensive Projects study, we are looking into moving from Waterfall Methods to a form of Agile Software Development. We conducted this master class internally. The class was held by the Italian Defense & Security Software Engineers Association (DSSEA) that is exploiting a particular version of Agile (DSSEA iAgile®), which is used by the Italian Army to develop their Land C2 system. The class was very beneficial and we all learned a lot from it. The next step will be to involve Allied Command Transformation and Allied Commander Operations, expose them to this methodology and start rapidly embracing it. It will save us time, money and improves the quality of the delivered products. The challenge will be to develop with the Strategic Commands and the NATO Office of Resources a form of Agile that fits the NATO Capability Development Processes."

Turbo-charging NATO Software Development

Software Intensive Projects

In light of the Software Intensive Projects (SIP) initiative, the SIP Task Force outcomes and the Agency's lead role on two of the improvement measures, there is a need for the Agency and NATO stakeholders to better understand Innovative Software Engineering methodologies.

The first of these key principles states the need to deliver earlier and more often. This principle is aimed at changing the culture from one that is focused typically on a single delivery at the end of the development phase to a new model with multiple deliveries during development, leading to an ultimate version that supports the full set of requirements.

The second key principle states the need for Incremental and Iterative Development and Testing. This principle embraces the concept of incremental and iterative delivery, aiming to provide better outcomes than trying to deploy large complex IT network systems in one 'big bang'.

The Agile methodology clearly supports the previously mentioned principles. It does this by allowing the scope of the project to be adjusted if risks materialize while sticking to time and budget. This contrasts with classical project management techniques, which endeavour to deliver 100% of the scope, but then typically go over budget and deliver late in the process. This approach does require strong management and prioritization of requirements, but it allows the requirements to adapt as the project progresses, in particular removing requirements that become obsolescent as users innovate in how they use the early versions of the system.

Business benefits

The Agile approach offers tangible benefits to the different stakeholders of software intensive NATO projects:

  • Operational users: Frequent, incremental deliveries are defined up-front. Capabilities are never delivered late, although not all functionality is provided at once. Operational users play an active and continuous role in both the governance and the development and testing of the capability. Changes in scope are embraced rather than rejected.
  • Allied Command Transformation (ACT): Transformational capabilities get delivered sooner. Requirements from ACT remain focused on user needs and are provided at a higher level of abstraction, increasing the speed at which ACT can initiate capability delivery projects.
  • Investment Committee (IC) and NATO Office of Resources (NOR): By definition, projects are delivered on time and on budget. Financial expenditure estimates are greatly improved. Regular incremental deliveries of capability allow the IC/NOR to monitor progress through partial (e.g. annual) JFAI inspections. Agency performance is monitored through the scope delivered (an outcome) rather than money spent (an input). Type B Cost Estimates and invitation for bid documentation are simplified and made fit for purpose, shortening approval timelines.
  • Industry: Risk to industry is reduced as it has greater flexibility in proposing solutions to user requirements, and through the prioritization of requirements it now has an explicit mechanism for handling project risks. (The current fixed-scope, fixed-cost, fixed-time and fixed-quality approach to NATO Security Investment Programme projects is unrealistic and simply leads to cost overruns and contractual disputes). Requirements are clearer due to continual user engagement.
  • NCI Agency: Project delays and cost overruns are significantly reduced or eliminated. Capabilities are delivered earlier. Financial forecasting is improved. User engagement is improved. Risks are reduced and identified earlier. Software deployment timelines are known in advance and ease scheduling issues for the CSUs. Overall the approach meets the NCI Agency General Manager's vision to "...earn customer confidence through agility, innovation and by delivering coherent and cost-effective solutions".

For more information on innovative projects in NATO, download a copy of our Communicator magazine.