Designing and Optimizing National Defense Systems
About Stanley Tyliszczak
Stanley Tyliszczak is the Staff Vice President for Technology Integration and Chief Engineer within General Dynamics Information Technology’s Chief Technology Office. In this role, he is responsible for managing the company’s long-term technology plan and roadmap. Mr. Tyliszczak advises and supports efforts to expand the company’s cyber security, data center consolidation, cloud computing, big data and IT infrastructure capabilities in order to strengthen new business pursuits. In addition, he also oversees internal programs to promote technology innovation and collaboration across the company.
The Government Business Council (GBC), Government Executive’s research division, sat down with Stanley Tyliszczak of General Dynamics Information Technology as part of its Industry Insights series.
GBC: Optimizing information technology systems in defense agencies requires many moving parts. What should managers consider when tackling large projects?
STANLEY TYLISZCZAK: The first thing that managers need to consider is their project’s role within the broader Department of Defense (DoD) Enterprise. With the Shared Services and IT Consolidation initiatives, managers need to understand how things fit together at the DoD Enterprise level. Creating information technology silos with program-specific point solutions leads to duplication of systems and capabilities, and long term problems in supportability. New projects should be carefully analyzed to see if their requirements – particularly infrastructure requirements – can be consolidated with other existing capabilities to leverage commonality and reduce costs.
Closely aligned with this, managers should also work to find out if designs exist for common IT that can be leveraged, even if the systems themselves can’t be consolidated. Having a solid enterprise architecture provides the necessary guidance so that individual IT project managers can avoid reinventing-the-wheel. Reusing common designs not only saves money in terms of both initial acquisition and total cost of ownership, but it also enhances security and simplifies security certification.
Finally, managers need to make sure that they have well defined and documented project requirements, project plans and defined budgets. Good project management is increasingly important in today’s IT environment. In a time of budget stress, project managers want to ensure that their IT projects are successful. The best way to do that is to provide an appropriate level of management oversight to catch and fix any problems as early as possible.
Working with an IT integrator partner who understands the big picture and not just the little pieces is a major key to the success of a large project. The DoD Enterprise is the biggest, most complex IT environment in the world, and success in consolidation and modernization requires thinking and working at a scale that is orders of magnitude larger than most commercial enterprises.
GBC: How can agencies balance the costs of innovating with achieving tangible results?
STANLEY TYLISZCZAK: Innovation and tangible results go hand in hand. If an IT innovation doesn’t provide tangible results, it is probably not something the agency should be doing.
Innovation does not necessarily need to be expensive. In fact, many innovations can be implemented at little or no cost. For example, many of the IT tools that have been implemented over the past few years are vastly underutilized. Those existing tools have the ability to automate workflows, enhance performance monitoring and enable trend analysis, yet much of that capability hasn’t been “turned on.”
One very inexpensive innovation is to make effective use of existing resources. This requires understanding how the management processes work, and then looking for ways to improve efficiency. For a very small investment in terms of engineering time, significant benefits can be obtained. Agencies should be working with their IT integrator partners to find these kinds of innovations. You don’t always have to buy a new product to innovate.
However, there is a role for the judicious implementation of new technology innovation. Technology is constantly evolving, and missions are always changing. Balancing that kind of innovation against cost means understanding the mission of the agency, and how the IT department fits within that overall mission. It requires the ability to understand technology not just at the technical level, but also the ability to substantiate a solid business case that justifies why a particular innovation is appropriate for that agency mission.
Agencies should make sure that their IT integrators and operators possess this kind of higher-level perspective, and aren’t just providing technical staff that can configure a router without a full understanding of why that router is important to the mission.
GBC: Several new government policies, such as the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy and the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, have put pressure on agencies to comply. How can agencies follow these mandates while still maintaining a high level of physical and cyber security?
STANLEY TYLISZCZAK: The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative and Federal Cloud Computing Strategy Initiative actually increase physical and cyber security. By consolidating data centers, there are fewer IT systems to protect and fewer places for penetrations to occur. With FedRamp, government users have the assurance that their private, hybrid or community cloud environment meets stringent minimum security standards that are agreed to by cyber specialists across the government.
However, neither policy is a panacea. System developers and computing resource users still need to practice risk management by understanding threats and vulnerabilities and taking the appropriate actions to ensure that they have satisfactorily mitigated their risk. This balanced risk management approach to cyber requires an in depth understanding of the information being protected and its volatility, as well as the vulnerability of the information processing systems. It is really “information protection”, not just IT systems protection.
GBC: Agencies across the federal landscape may want to consolidate and modernize, but face obstacles to doing so. In your experience, what are the biggest challenges facing defense agencies today?
STANLEY TYLISZCZAK: One of the biggest challenges is answering the question “where do we start”? IT consolidation and modernization can seem so large and daunting that IT managers may struggle to get their arms around everything. My recommendation is to start small. Identify a few simple things that you can do, and begin the process there. Look hard at adopting a shared service, and then start using it for small projects first. Grow incrementally as you gain experience. Reinvest the cost savings into other cost saving initiatives.
As consolidation and modernization begin to gain traction, issues with IT budgets will likely arise. The DoD is already taking steps to make changes to budgeting and CAPEX/OPEX models. My advice is to stay closely involved with what the DoD CIO is doing in that area.
Finally, culture is frequently mentioned as another potential roadblock – the idea that IT managers in the DoD have to maintain control of their own resources so they can personally assure that they will achieve their mission goals. Although this is a very real concern, the DoD has an even stronger culture of teamwork and reliance on each other – a discipline that’s ingrained from day one in the services. That culture of teamwork will, I think, overcome any minor cultural roadblocks to consolidation.
GBC: How can defense executives ensure that IT optimization projects stay within budget?
STANLEY TYLISZCZAK: One of the most successful mechanisms I’ve seen is the idea of breaking projects up into very small pieces that can be delivered incrementally – then making sure that everybody involved stays on top of what’s happening with each individual piece. This approach is a variation on the Agile Software Development Process (although it can be applied for any type of project, not just software development), and it enables higher-level plans to be modified as projects evolve.
Utilizing this process requires that project managers and technical architects really understand the project’s goals, requirements and budget. Simply building a Microsoft Project plan isn’t enough. Too many project plans look good on paper, but don’t have any realistic grounding due to a lack of understanding of the technology and associated risks. Selecting the right team of people who have both experience and expertise is another key factor in project success.
Finally, it’s important to remember that every project will have its fair share of problems. Risks and problem management is something to be handled, not avoided or hidden. For me, success is all about anticipating and then addressing those problems while still maintaining the budget and schedule.About General Dynamics Information Technology
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