Friday, October 8, 2010

Capstone project for SDM centers on improving defense systems - SDM Pulse Fall 2010

By Troy Peterson, SDM Certificate ’09

Troy Peterson,
SDM Certificate ’09
Editor’s note: Troy Peterson is a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, a strategy and technology consulting firm, which sponsored his enrollment in MIT’s System Design and Management (SDM) Graduate Certificate Program in Systems and Product Development. In this article, Peterson outlines how the methodologies he’s learned at SDM can help better integrate the science and technology and system acquisition life cycles to improve technology transition.


The transition and integration of new technologies to strengthen the armed forces’ operating capability within the US Department of Defense (DoD) is critically important to meeting the disparate and dynamic needs of combat, humanitarian assistance, and domestic emergencies. Yet, the DoD recently reported to Congress that transitioning technology into established programs has been a longstanding challenge.
The DoD has also acknowledged the need to accelerate the system and technology development life cycles to improve responsiveness. However, such acceleration requires a heightened level of collaboration, analytical rigor, and the use of robust methods to mature and integrate technologies as well as identify and mitigate associated risks.
In my consulting role at Booz Allen, I have had the privilege of supporting the US Army on both science and technology (S&T) and systems acquisition programs. This experience—coupled with the systems thinking approach, methods, and tools prescribed in MIT’s System Design and Management Program (SDM)—led me to develop an approach to improve integration of the S&T and systems acquisition life cycles.
My experience in the SDM Graduate Certificate Program in Systems and Product Development has greatly influenced my thoughts on addressing this challenge.
In particular, I learned key approaches from Associate Professor Olivier de Weck’s work on technology infusion, Professor Edward F. Crawley’s system architecture course, Professor Steven Eppinger’s overview of the design structure matrix (DSM), and Research Associate Qi Van Eikema Hommes’ class in systems engineering.
Project focus and scope
The acquisition of new systems and the modernization of legacy systems within DoD is highly complex and requires many disparate organizations to collaborate over a sustained timeframe. The S&T community complements acquisition through research and development of technologies to fill identified gaps in current and future systems. To focus my capstone project I began by using object process methodology (Figure 1A) to depict some of the fundamental elements involved in system acquisition and technology infusion as well as their high-level interdependencies as seen in Figure 1B. 
Figure 1. This high-level object process diagram and system boundary diagram
depict acquisition and science and technology relationships.
Integrating products and personnel
Integrating the products and personnel that enable technology transition requires an in-depth understanding of the parent system, the technology, and the key stakeholders involved. To gain a better understanding of how these elements interact, I leveraged the use of DSM, domain mapping matrix (DMM), and multi-domain matrix (MDM) as shown in Figure 2. The DSM is a powerful system integration and analysis tool which shows relationships between elements of a system where the nth row has the same description as the nth column—the resultant matrix shows relationships between row and column elements.
The approach I arrived at in my SDM capstone project was to create a component-based DSM for the parent system (Figure 2A) and any technology to be incorporated (Figure 2B). These DSMs provide a compact way for teams to represent and analyze the interrelationships within each domain (domains 3 and 4 of Figure 1B). They also give the parent system and technology teams the ability to use DSM modeling and analysis methods, which can provide useful information on system modularization, change propagation, integration maturity, constraints to technology transition, and interface types.
I then combined these independent yet compatible DSMs along the diagonal to form a Technology Transition MDM (T2 MDM). This new matrix provides a holistic view and a complete system model depicting interactions within and between the technology and the parent system components. This view (Figure 2C) enables the analysis and system integration assessment that is essential in bridging the technology transition chasm in programs. 
Figure 2. This technology transition multi-domain matrix combines
information from the parent system with the technology design structure matrixes.
The MDM quickly reveals which elements are highly integral and pose complexity and risk in the technology transition process. In building the MDM, one can couple simple binary DSMs as shown or select weighted analysis DSMs, or clustered DSMs for specific analysis of the technology transition effort. Additionally, multiple technologies could be used to investigate and compare technology invasiveness as proposed by de Weck in his work on technology infusion.
The technology transition mapping matrix (T2M2) is populated by the key stakeholders from the technology and parent systems programs. This undertaking inherently integrates the two communities and focuses their attention on the products and their interrelationships—the primary value instruments providing the required capability. The rich dialog around system and technology integration that ensues while populating the MDM assists the teams in identifying technology transition risks and opportunities. The DSMs produced can also help to integrate the teams within and across their domains to establish more effective and efficient team structures through improved communications and information exchange, as illustrated by Eppinger in his article, “Innovations at the Speed of Information.”
Linking programs and personnel
Figure 3 provides both acquisition and S&T high-level frameworks derived from the DoD System Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Life Cycle Management System and S&T Technology Readiness Levels. 
Figure 3. This graphic shows the links among review
criteria across the S&T and acquisition life cycles.
The key point of Figure 3 is to formalize the technology and system acquisition team interaction across the various reviews by the use of linked requirements. Integrating requirements across reviews will inform both the acquisition and S&T communities of their status regarding technical and programmatic requirements across the life cycle. Increasing the frequency of status updates as shown in Figure 3 will accelerate iterations, reduce rework, and inform and direct the technology transition effort. Furthermore, ensuring key stakeholder’s from each domain participate in each other’s reviews will provide important contextual information that may not be fully described by formal requirements. Mutual participation will integrate teams and help bridge the chasm shown in Figure 3 where collaboration is essential given the technology integration focus of these life-cycle phases. Lastly, the matrix analysis of the previous section provides the rigor necessary to objectively define a technology’s readiness for transition at these reviews rather than subjective inputs.
Concluding thoughts
Focusing on key elements within the technology transition process as outlined above can provide insight to what risks or opportunities might emerge when integrating the related products, programs, and personnel across life cycles and traditional domain boundaries. While it is clear that early and frequent communication is needed—it is not always clear how to structure that collaboration to improve value delivery. By using a systems approach, one can begin to decompose and solve very challenging problems—including those faced at the DoD.
Looking ahead, I plan to present my work to senior systems engineering and integration (SE&I) leadership within Booz Allen, and I am investigating opportunities where this approach may aid programs we currently support. In addition, I was selected to present this approach at the National Defense Industrial Association 13th Annual Systems Engineering Conference in San Diego, CA, in October to share how it might complement currently published DoD S&T best practices. Meanwhile, I continue to research and run use cases through the process to identify areas for improvement as well as dialog with Booz Allen senior SE&I leaders and MIT faculty to receive their counsel.

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