My adopted programme (Navy Schedule Service) is a year old, and this is what I’ve learnt.
Please join me in wishing the Navy Schedule Service a happy first birthday. Navy Schedule Service (NSS) went live 16th September 2021. NSS, a web-based service at SECRET, is used to manage operational planning and tasking of all Navy Force Elements. NSS (known as project SIRIUS) started life as part of the Navy’s Digital Transformation accelerator programme, to transform how digital services are developed and used in the Navy.
This first year has been our proving ground and I’m proud to have joined the already successful team as Product Owner for NSS in April 2022. I missed the early months of excitement (I’ve been told “We laughed, we cried, we had sleepless nights” describes it well). One year on, NSS serves more than 800 users; the majority viewing the real-time schedule, which is planned, created, and edited by a core user group of Navy Plans schedulers.
NSS has already contributed to the realisation of wider stakeholder benefits in the areas of supporting collaborative working and better-informed decision-making, purely by enabling users across Defence to access a real-time view the Schedule of the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary Force Elements.
Software in the Navy: old dog, new tricks
NSS team, part of the Navy Digital - Data and Navy Applications (DNA) software house, have successfully adopted modern agile approaches and processes for software development. The plan was ambitious, especially when deploying a service at SECRET. Learning lessons, adapting, and evolving demonstrates the benefits of these ways of working."
Good design includes real users
NSS is anchored on the principle of User Centred Design (UCD). We speak to our users, building up concepts and ideas with them to solve problems, spending time to try alternatives on the drawing board or with clickable prototypes to get early feedback. We regularly visit the Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) at Northwood, engaging with schedulers, to ensure NSS is designed with, by and for the people who use it. Covid didn’t stop development, we learned how to do remote interactive concept testing safely and securely over MODNet-S, which has become an embedded tool for us and enabled us to include UKMCC schedulers in Bahrain as a result.
Releasing at SECRET and at pace
While technical folk get excited about software tooling and automated build discussions, implementing automation when developing in OS and releasing at SECRET is no easy feat. It is worth noting that although we have automated the process almost entirely, releases still require humans to be onsite when moving code from OS to SECRET; separate means secure, and that integrity is paramount. As a result, frequency of releases must be balanced between the need for speed to get features into the hands of users and managing the costs to release.
Where do we go from here?
We have a lot to do. For NSS itself, we have a roadmap and backlog which includes more advanced functions that touch on gnarly topics such as integrating common reference data, fuel forecasting, alternative scheduling, and NSS access while at sea. As a front-runner transformation project, we are working closely with Navy Digital’s data governance and enterprise architecture teams to make our contribution to delivering on the Navy Digital and Data Plan 2022-25.
Bring on year 2! We got this!