Military Technology Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 8 has an interview with David Mihelcic, the CTO and Principal Director, Global Information Grid, Enterprise Services Engineering, at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).
In the interview, Mr. Mihelcic describes the Adopt, Buy, and Create (ABC) strategy of General Croom:
Adopt—“we want to focus on using technologies that are mature to meet our needs. Our first is to adopt something that’s already in existence” in the enterprise.
Buy—the second choice is to “buy services and products that are readily available in the commercial space.”
Create—“only as a last resort do we create capabilities from scratch.”
The ABC strategy is valuable to CIOs in that is provides a continuum of options for obtaining technologies to meet requirements that starts with adopting existing platforms, which is the most conservative, trusted, and often economical. If we can’t adopt what we already have, then we proceed to buy the technologies we need—this is potentially more risky and expensive in the short term. And finally, if we can’t readily buy what we need, then we create or develop them (usually starting with research and development)—this is the most risky and immediately expensive option.
However, I would suggest that we need not follow this continuum in sequence (A, B, then C) in all cases.
While creating new capabilities is generally expensive in the short term, it can lead to innovation and breakthroughs that are potentially extremely cost effective and strategically important in the longer term. The development of new capabilities often yields competitive advantages through performance improvements. Also, innovations can provide for new revenue sources, market growth, and cost savings. Often the enterprises that are the strongest in their industries or segments are those with a capability that others just can’t match. In fact, I would argue that our nation’s own technological advances are a critical component to maintaining our military’s worldwide superiority.
Therefore, while the ABC Strategy is a good continuum for understanding our technology refresh options, I would advocate that we use the A, B, C’s with agility to meet our needs for innovation and global competitiveness.