Article written by Eduardo Marson Ferreira, president of Fundação Ezute, for Revista Tecnologia & Defesa (Technology & Defense Magazine)
We live in a complex world marked by constant changes, which forces the different types of mindset to take quick decisions and to adapt to survive. This trend can be represented by an acronym, embedded in the jargon of defense, which translates this scenario: the “VUCA” – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). The term may be appropriate for the management of projects, which often deals with problems which are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
In this context, the pressures for quick results and acquisitions of technology by opportunity make the initial stages of the lifecycle for the execution of a project to be neglected. And the consequences can be devastating, from expenses many times higher than those originally envisaged, until the complete unfeasibility of a project, with the creation of the so-called “white elephants”.
In the face of this growing complexity, the reduction of the risk associated to the stages of a project become of vital importance. So, before kicking off, a thorough analysis of its lifecycle is necessary, which includes the stages of design, requirements, architecture, development/production and operation, until its service is withdrawn/disposed.
This strategy is crucial in the context of complex projects, in which a systemic vision is necessary, materialized in the methodology of systems engineering – which goes far beyond the technical vision. Applied in a vision of Systems-of-Systems, it presents itself as the ideal methodology for the design and development of complex projects, because it analyzes the integrated form of all of the components and stakeholders. In this way, a better global result is obtained than that which would be obtained by applying the traditional management strategy.
It is a holistic approach, based on a high-level view, which allows you to implement and analyze systems composed of heterogeneous, complex and independent elements, to be integrated in a cooperative and effective manner. But, to be successful, it is necessary to focus specially on the initial stages of conception and resist focusing exclusively on the stage of development and production.
To illustrate the importance of the initial stages of the lifecycle of projects, I would like to reference a study prepared by the US Department of Defense (DoD). Based on the history of several projects executed, the DoD has undertaken a study of the costs during its lifecycle, which is presented in the graph below. Special attention was given to the moment in which decisions are made, which define the costs of the project and also the impact of corrections applied, when they are considered in different moments of their lifecycle.
In this graph, the total cost includes the costs incurred from its conception until its withdrawal from service, accumulatively. The stage of design, architecture and requirements, as indicated in the graph, represents 20% of the total accumulated cost of the project.
Definition of cost of the Life Cycle
% Accrued Cost during the Life Cycle x Time
In red: cost to remove a defect
Design, Requirements, Architecture / Development / Operation
Re: adapted from the Incose Systems Engineering Handbook
The graph also highlights the moments in which the costs are defined, represented by the yellow curve. These moments represent the definition of the technologies to be used, the means of integration to other systems, logistical aspects, human capacities and facilities required for its entry into operation, maintenance and evolution throughout its lifecycle, until withdrawal from service. Through the graph, it can be observed that only the design stage determines 70% of the cost of the lifecycle of a project/program. The other 25% are defined in the steps of requirements and architecture. Thus, 95% of the costs are defined before the start of production. Significant, right?
These aspects assume a more important role when we realize that a lousy definition or an incorrect requirement will represent a correction of direction for the project in the future. These adjustments involve costs for the correction of a defect or error in the specification of the system. Taking as reference a symbolic value of “1” for the cost of correction of a defect during the stage of design, this cost will be exponentially greater if the same defect is detected in later stages of the life cycle. If this defect is detected in the production phase, the cost for its correction will be around 500 to 1000 times greater than if it were detected in the phase of design. This represents a hidden cost in the lifecycle of a project that can lead it to never be completed and will certainly result in a final cost much greater than originally foreseen in the budget. Therefore, even though we have inputs considered urgent, we must take due care with the initial phases of definition of a new solution or system, and work with the methodology of systems engineering for increased efficacy of projects. The apparent N. of R.: Eduardo Marson Ferreira is president of Fundação Ezute. The high initial cost for the definition of the solution will certainly avoid, in the course of the project, hidden costs that may lead to the complete failure of an initiative.
Article by Tarcisio Takashi Muta for Revista Tecnologia & Defesa (Magazine Technology & Defense – Jan/2017)
In the United States, the decade following the end of the Second World War generated demands of work that were not met satisfactorily by the existing organizations, be they private companies, government or academia. For example, a first test of a public-private partnership model was the Air Force Project, approved by the DoD for implementation in partnership with the Douglas Aircraft in 1946, and when rapidly the parties experienced conflicts of interest between the activities of supply of equipment (hardware) and the research and analysis with the objectives of guiding the long-term decisions for the Air Force. As a result, already in 1947, at the suggestion of Douglas, 50 researchers were segregated in a non-profit organization, who went on to receive sufficient funds to cover the costs of those researches. This situation led to the innovation of quasi-governmental organizations. This model of organization was gradually extended and improved and, currently, there are about 40 of this type supporting the U.S. federal government.
It was thus that in the 1940s/50s the embryo arose of what today is the Mitre Corporation, a non-profit organization under private law, which operates several centers of research and development, funded by agencies of the Federal Government of the United States. Currently, Mitre works with government agencies in the areas of studies and analyses; research and development; and systems engineering and integration, always seeking innovative solutions of public interest. A differential in the operation of this model is the existence of funds defined for the projects undertaken, creating continuity in the treatment of subjects and projects of relevance to the State and to the North American society. These are the FFRDCs (Federal Funded Research and Development Centers).
The first steps of Mitre were made in the laboratories of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), during the Second World War, with the request to investigate the use of computers to develop a simulator for the training of a bomber crew, which culminated in the development of the first high-capacity digital computer – Whirlwind. At the beginning of the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force decided to use computers for interception control and the Whirlwind was the only one appropriate for this mission. In 1958, the Mitre Corporation was commissioned by Congress as a nonprofit private corporation, to provide engineering services and technical advice to the government, with an initial focus on defense needs. It was then commissioned to develop the SAGE, a semi-automatic air defense system, and, due to its complexity, it demanded the organization to communicate with the sectors of the military, industry and of universities. With this, Mitre consolidated its operations in Systems Engineering and Integration, a characteristic that became its main DNA, meeting current needs and allowing the government and the private sector to make the best decisions and implement solutions for the complex challenges of national and global importance to the USA.
Operating detached from any commercial interest, only providing for the government and not even being able to develop products for the market, nor to compete with private enterprises, these organizations guarantee greater objectivity in the development of the projects of the government and the inter-relationship with other entities related to the Federal Government, private companies and universities, allowing a more fluid interaction between the various bodies of the federation.
This differential and the continued presence of the partnership have made these entities strategic organizations because they do not use the privileged and confidential information to which they have access for any competitive advantage, and they apply all the knowledge acquired in various projects with continuity, ensuring that the best practices and the most modern technologies are applied and disseminated in society’s favor.
In the case of Mitre, it is involved directly in projects of national importance, applying the concepts of systems engineering and advanced technologies. The organization has, for this reason, a multidisciplinary team of specialists and this diversity elevates the level of qualification of the institution to address the challenges to meet the needs of government and the common good of society—with excellence.
This systemic and integrative role has led Mitre to working not only for military agencies of defense and intelligence, but also for civil ones in the areas of aviation, health, legal, cybersecurity, modernization of organizations, and the judiciary.
The big difference that these organizations bring to the government agencies is the continuous availability and updated training, supplying the needs of the government organizations in their mission to society, without common discontinuities arising from the movement of people and leaders, technological updates, examples that typically occur in public organizations and that hinder their productivity, and that of society.
We can say that in Brazil there are similar models of organizations, but that do not have the minimum guarantees of continuity and survival by the absence of a structured and modern institutional design and more appropriate of government, separating the legitimate interests from the market forces of those associated with strategic interests or of long-term effects for the State and for government organizations, which are necessarily considered in high-level strategic planning. As a result, we have gaps in the legislation of purchases and the qualitative poverty in government budgets, a transparent and repetitive reality in Brazilian life.
The Brazilian government could have great benefits if it accepts and knows how to integrate the operations of Defense and of Science and Technology and promotes the partner performance jointly with organizations of this kind.
A vision of the value of this model can be found in an excerpt from an interview of the minister Mangabeira Unger entitled “Criticism of the Brazilian Legal Thought, according to Mangabeira Unger” reproduced below:
“…But there is another option. And this other option will become increasingly important during the course of the 21st century and presents a major challenge to Law. This other option is the engagement of independent civil society, as not for profit, as a partner of the State in the qualification of public services.”
This reality can also be seen as an opportunity for the Ministry of Defense, which needs a continued solution for the constitutional and operational mission instituted for the Armed Forces and, consequently, to make its contribution more real, practical and visible for technological development and national sovereignty, in partnership with the Ministry of Science and Technology, as in most developed nations.