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 Inside the Navy press release

To inform policy, processes next fiscal year

Navy Crowd-Sourcing Ideas To Promote Innovative Acquisition Strategies

Posted on Inside the Navy - 07/22/2013

Last week, the Navy launched its second round of an online war game aimed at crowd-sourcing ideas from contractors, government and academia representatives on how best to incentivize the use of the Open Systems Architecture (OSA) strategy by industry and the acquisition work force.

The game, run through Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet, or MMOWGLI, the gaming platform sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, began on July 15 and is set to run through July 26. Its results will be used to inform the Navy's acquisition policy and processes in the next fiscal year, Nick Guertin, director of transformation under the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, test and evaluation, told Inside the Navy last week.

Ideas presented through the exercise will be validated and then translated into action plans for how best to implement the service's OSA strategy and will likely be reflected in the way the Navy will develop contracts in the future, Guertin said during the telephone interview.

The way the war game is set up is not all that different from a traditional computer game or video game. Players from industry, government and academia register under creative pseudonyms, such as "iron," "jack of all trades," or "t-Rex," and proceed to present or develop ideas for the Navy's acquisition strategy. Guertin said that more than half of the nearly 300 participants in the game so far are from industry and quite a few are from the small business community. The game is moderated by "game masters," government employees who cull the ideas, look at which need more exploration and ensure that no business-sensitive information is discussed.

Ideas in the game are supposed to be presented in 140 characters, the character length used on the social media site Twitter, and players have the opportunity to gain points and even win through the development of successful or well-liked ideas. These "idea cards" are then collated into one of the resulting reports from the game, while successful ideas are developed further in an "Action Plan Report," where players expand on the thinking that inspired their more concise thoughts.

The first round of the game, conducted in January, was essentially completed in order to validate the online war game method. While Guertin said that few ideas in the first round will actually be informing future policies, they did inform this second iteration of the game.

Round one looked more broadly at the Navy's Open Systems Architecture strategy, published in late November, and assessed how it was received. Participants were largely accepting of the way the strategy was formulated and were more interested in how it would be put into play, which became the focus of round two.

"Another thing that came out, especially from the industry perspective, was how important intellectual property is to how they structure their business, and how they want to relate to the government in structuring their designs and the way they position themselves as businesses," Guertin highlighted, noting that this finding is an example of how the game has been effective. "This is something that the government hasn't been as aware of in the past, and we're really trying to amp up our game and how do we consider intellectual property and government's right to intellectual property in what we can hear and when we can hear it as a way to help us get better competitive pricing."

The primary aim of the second round of the war game is to determine how the Navy can implement its open systems strategy, meant to establish greater competition, into the acquisition process and provide incentives for the use of the strategy, Guertin explained.

"The big thrust is, how do we incentivize industry through the way we develop our contracts and the way we interact with them as the government buyer? And then also, how do we motivate the government activities to take on open business models and using the principles that we have developed and published about . . . in the way we build our warfighting systems?" Guertin told ITN. "We're looking at a handful of different ideas that we want people to play out and suggest innovations for how we go off and do that. How do we reward government people? It turns out not to be a terribly easy thing to do."

Moving forward, the Navy will be using the results of this game to shape acquisition policies and processes during the next phase of the initiative, set to begin in the next fiscal year. When the exercise is completed at the end of this week, the Navy will have a large number of 140-character-long "idea cards" and expanded action plans.

"We use the large number of cards and we do some statistical analysis on those things, using some language tools that the Naval Postgraduate School's come out with. But the action plans, because they're written to be read and acted on, are the other result of the game play. And we take those two things -- statistical analysis and action plans -- and we validate whether those ideas are, in fact, usable to help change processes and policies in acquiring Navy warfighting systems," Guertin explained.

"So as we go through the rest of the fiscal year and we validate the results of the game play, and then we hand those validated results off to the second year's task starting in October of phase two of the Business Innovation Initiative, which is to take these ideas, and other ideas that come from other sources, and look at how do we change, for the better, our acquisition policies and processes to take advantage of innovations that are coming out of events like this game," he continued.

The Navy will write another report based on the results of the game, which will be used to inform the second phase of the initiative, Guertin said. "It's something that's going to affect the way we interact with industry, the way we buy things, the way we structure our contracts," he added, noting that this will be the last round of this kind of game play, at least for now.

While the Navy is the only service that's doing this, Guertin said he briefed the idea to the Better Buying Power senior integration group, noting that "it was warmly received and the other services are watching to see what comes out of it."

"There's nothing that we're doing here that isn't directly transmutable, transitionable into something that could be embraced under Better Buying Power or picked up by some of the other services," he said. -- Olga Belogolova

Inside the Navy - 07/22/2013, Vol. 26, No. 29  

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