This is the second part of an opinion piece exploring multi-party platforms for the Pentagon. For the previous installment, see part one.

Although every industry and service arm have their own way of doing business, there are underlying commonalities among them. The government is no different. For large organizations then, it is good architectural practice to put common capabilities in a module that can be used and re-used by the entire ecosystem of users and development partners.

Multi-party network platforms offer considerable advantages to the military due to their network approach. Chief among the benefits is their ability to drive efficiencies, productivity and compliance for all parties on the network.

A defense core module encapsulates these common key capabilities and ensures they are available on the platform for other modules and legacy systems that are embraced in the platform. This is one of the key tenets to development productivity: massive reuse of common capabilities, available to all, through permissibility.

The platform should fully support the latest key mandates so military organizations can comply. This should include the U.S. Department of Defense’s mandates for auditability (FIAR), use of DLA Transaction Services (DLMS/MILS), and serialized asset management (IUID).

Ideally, these mandates should be used not only by the application modules on the platform, but also by legacy applications. This is possible with an integration hub and a “tunable system of control” that designates the system of record for a given process. In this way, legacy applications can take full advantage of these capabilities, ensure compliance, and save the government millions of dollars in sustainment.

A platform should offer flexibility and options when it comes to legacy systems and support an “embrace, enhance and maybe replace” strategy. It should also involve a phased approach to migrating legacy applications into a unified platform. In essence, the strategy works like this:

1. Embrace the legacy system

The multi-party transactional platform is introduced as an orchestration and visibility layer between systems. With an extensive system integration capability and flexible data model, the platform can act as an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) to connect existing apps.

But beyond the capability of typical ESB’s, the transactional platform also stores the data that flows through in its own extensible semantic model. This provides visibility, alerting and other analytics across those legacy systems as part of the first step of the “embrace” approach.

2. Enhance the platform to meet or exceed legacy functionality

The platform begins subsuming legacy systems using a combination of its existing commercial modules, and newly configured models that were developed and deployed using the software development toolkit. The platform can house an extensive set of commercial modules covering many business domains, including order management, transportation, warehouse management, financials, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), and defense concepts. Organizations can use these as a foundation to develop new modules with the software development kit to fill functional gaps unique to legacy systems. The modules can then be deployed on the platform to enhance the platform functionality, both for themselves and other organizations and services to “plug and play”.

3. Replace the legacy system

If, and when, it makes sense to replace a legacy system, the transition can be nearly seamless. In most cases, it makes sense to migrate legacy functionality to the platform as modules running on the platform bring many advantages. These include a shared data model, and powerful functional capabilities built on current technology versus their legacy origins.

With the “tunable system of control” used by modern platforms, organizations can phase in the migration of legacy systems (or parts of them) onto the platform. This is fairly easy, as the “tunable system of control” allows the platform’s business flows to be enabled/disabled and delegated to other systems through purely visual tools (simply checking a box to make an external system the system of record). Better yet, no developers are required.

These are the major platform types available to the military today. Modern platforms incorporate best practices, support the latest military mandates, embrace legacy systems, are always current, and are extensible to meet future needs. As such, they offer substantial long-term savings and advantages.

When combined with a partner with a proven track record in military implementation, the chances of rapid return of investment with minimal risk are dramatically increased. To further increase the return on investment and to better prepare for the future, military organizations should look for experienced platform partners with deep expertise and with a history of success in implementing platforms.

David Stephens leads the global government, aerospace and defense practice for One Network Enterprises, the global provider of a secure, and scalable multi-party business network.

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