The Canadian Armed Forces is a large and complex organization with tens of thousands of personnel to recruit, train, deploy and manage. All this must be done in as efficient a manner as possible to ensure the men and women of the CAF are prepared for any engagement and that taxpayers’ dollars are well spent.
Most government institutions manage needs of this nature by deploying “Commercial Off-The-Shelf” (COTS) enterprise software. Many COTS systems use out-of-date methods that try to document all requirements in advance for configuration and deployment. “Scope creep” is to be avoided. The result can be an inflexible system built on assumptions that may be years out of date by the time the system is operational.
For a military organization with unique and rapidly changing requirements, a more agile approach was needed.
Enter the CAF’s Military Command Software Centre (MCSC), staffed by software developers and architects from ADGA Group. MCSC develops and deploys software suites using agile methods.
Agile does not demand that all requirements be documented in advance. An agile system is built to scale up in a modular fashion using flexible design and libraries of reusable code. “Scope creep” is welcomed as an opportunity to drive continuous improvement. This avoids project misfires from over-planning and trying to anticipate what cannot be known.
These projects are undertaken by small teams of highly qualified and resourceful developers. Quick initial deployment is followed by incremental adaptation to real-world military feedback.
Since the early 2000’s MCSC has achieved many successful agile deployments for the CAF. These have avoided the decades-long development cycles typical of trying to shoehorn military requirements into an inappropriate COTS product.
For example, recruitment. In 2015, MCSC deployed the CF Recruit Information Management System version 2(CFRIMS-2), to great success and at an extremely beneficial cost to DND. This replaced an obsolete system based on commercial software. Using agile methods, MCSC developed and deployed CFRIMS-2 in less than a year for a fraction of the cost of COTS software systems with traditional large program development methods.
Another successful Application for MCSC is Monitor MASS (Military Administrative Support System). This began in the early 2000s as a simple data aggregator to give command personnel immediate situational awareness on the status of all personnel within a unit. Today, Monitor MASS has over 60,000 users across the CAF. It is used to simplify several unit-level administrative tasks and replace thousands of spreadsheets and local databases.
CF Tasks, Planning and Operations (CFTPO), used for Operational and Cross-Command tasking, is also widely employed within the Army, RCN, RCAF and CF Health Services. CFTPO has over 7,000 users and manages over 200,000 tasks per year.
Both CFTPO and Monitor MASS, inherently aware of the chain of command, communicate in real-time- to provide data and functionality as appropriate to the user’s rank and position.
The widespread adoption of agile-built MCSC applications across the CAF is a consequence of responsiveness to military needs. Since its inception 18 years ago, its applications have been continually supported with no stoppage of support.
ADGA’s MCSC team has shown that agile methods can meet enterprise level military requirements at a fraction of the cost of conventional IT projects using COTS software, while providing increased flexibility and a much better military fit.