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It's LOSA, not loser! The challenges of creating a land open systems architecture for defence

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On 9th July, over 50 members of South Wales and West of England Branch gathered in Bristol to learn from Simon Masley how a complimentary knowledge set of systems engineering and project management can together achieve results potentially greater than the sum of their parts.

In 2008, senior military staff set the challenge to understand and, where feasible, increase the integration and inter-operability of army equipment to increase operational and financial efficiency. An 8 year programme was initiated but initially with no funding, no project management and no allocated resources.  This did not prevent the programme getting off the ground and, after 5 years' work, has resulted in a set of standards for soldier, vehicle and base equipment to be designed and delivered to, with programme governance in place. These achievements have given confidence to commit increased resources to take this initiative further forward,

Simon set the scene for LOSA by illustrating examples where current project management practice had led to undesirable operational limitations. He explained that LOSA is simple in concept but complex in implementation and had never been done before. A wide and diverse group of stakeholders had to be engaged. Implementation of LOSA causes individual project costs to increase while benefits are gained elsewhere. How to identify and quantify these benefits in the business case is a particular challenge as higher level benefits cannot be quantified.

Key points made were the need for:

  • a senior champion in the organisation
  • the role of effective governance
  • flexible project management 

Effective stakeholder management in such a complex and uncertain programme environment required prioritising, reviewing and re-prioritising issues whilst getting the right stakeholder representation to achieve productive buy-in to the implementation.  Understanding the effect of communication was another significant factor to prevent the wrong message being sent. 

Simon highlighted the impact of the Rimmer delusion, of tailoring process to project rather than the opposite, doing enough but not more to gain maximum benefit from limited resources, and tailoring risk management to the circumstances. 

A lively Q&A session followed, exploring a facet of programme management which is gaining more attention. That systems thinking underpins programme optimisation - the means of getting more for less. 


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