Apple is the most valuable technology firm on the planet. DoD is the most valuable and most costly user of information technologies (well over one percent of global spending for IT).
Is there anything that DoD could learn from the success of Apple? Here are four fatal flaws, which explain what is now generally agreed that DoD IT is not performing well:
Flaw #1: Apple designs its software, products and operations together.
Apple’s approach to software and hardware is tightly linked. Apple is organized for central management and control, with long-term leadership. Apple systems have short-term delivery schedules. They have tightly defined tactical increments that fit a long-term design.
The DoD software design is subdivided into a planning, software acquisition, software development and software testing phases. Operations are subdivided into acquisition and operations phases. All of these are disjointed and assigned for execution to separate organizations. The linking between these efforts is obtained only by means of elaborate procedures.
DoD systems are fractured to get anything accomplished. Coupling across applications is never achieved because of elongated schedules. DoD systems are not built to an overarching architecture. Systems projects do not contribute to a coherent design. DoD is organized for local management and changing leadership.
SUMMARY: Apple is coherent. DoD is disjointed.
Flaw #2: Apple designs reflect unified leadership.
Apple controls the contents, the format, the applications and the hardware that deliver its products. It is a closed system that promotes innovation by executives who drive the entire organization to deliver superior products and services but only from a limited set of proprietary options. The management is totally centralized and organic to the firm. It subcontracts only when that is economically advantageous though always under Apple control.
DoD does not control the contents, the format, the applications or any hardware. DoD only defines generally its requirements, leaving to contractors to dictate how implementation is accomplished.
SUMMARY: Apple leadership runs the enterprise. DoD contractors run how the enterprise operates.
Flaw #3: The Apple enterprise is vertically integrated.
Apple has a coherent end-to-end visibility of its products and services. Changes in the architecture, design, operations and products are managed for inter-dependency. Though a part of its value-chain is subcontracted, that is never done with a loss of unified control. Apple manages everything what it delivers.
DoD has no end-to-end visibility of its systems. The management as well as the budgets for delivering a systems function to its customers is widely distributed. Accountability is diffused.
SUMMARY: Apple management controls its systems, including security. DoD has distributed control over its diverse systems and is unable to impose a coherent approach to assuring its security.
Flaw #4: Apple manages its products and services from source to use.
Apple dictates everything from design to manufacture to distribution. This is inclusive of prescribing proprietary solutions as to what microprocessor should be used, how and where services will be deployed and what marketing method will be applied. Fundamentally, Apple operates in a closed environment and therefore is in a position to offer security safeguards.
DoD does not dictate software or hardware choices but only the acquisition that picks whatever meets procurement requirements. DoD deals with the problem of information security by safeguarding a wide range of vendor offerings.
SUMMARY: Apple manages everything and therefore can offer greater security. DoD tries to safeguard its systems by attempting to protect against every possible vendor risk.