All businesses develop, integrate, deploy, and use innovative technology. If a business isn’t innovating, it is likely going out of business or suffering because the competitors are. This series of articles is intended to summarize the system software development process evolution at Prime Solutions Group, Inc. (PSG). The challenges are daunting, but must be embraced and aggressively worked at the business level in order to add value and fuel exciting growth potential.
Part 1: Understanding the Technology Environment
PSG is a small business engaged in the defense industry primarily in the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) domain. Our specific expertise and experience is with the processing of data from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensor systems. Radar is a game-changing technology that emerged in defense during World War II and has been on an exponential technology innovation growth curve since. Like many technology applications introduced in defense, opportunities for commercial applications emerge and add to the expansion of the technology.
The above may not seem to be related to small business systems or software development processes, but it is. As the technology matures and expands (in this case radar), it presents evolving opportunities and use cases in increasingly complex systems. These come in the form of capability improvements, integration of current system capabilities into new systems and System of Systems, adjacent technologies such as multi-sensor intelligence and sensor fusion, cloud migration, and the on-going computer vision and Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution. For a business (small or large) which wants to grow along with technology, process definition becomes a critical consideration for continuous and repeatable results accomplished on “just-in-time” timelines that support fast time to markets.
Given the nature of radar, radar sensors, RF communications channels that carry radar signals, and the ground processing algorithms that transform received signals into usable information, the common denominator is data. The ability to manage, process, transfer and use digital data is essential. This means this technology is also necessarily software intensive. This software intensive digital environment must react to systems which generate, sense, transfer, use, and apply massive data volumes from remote radar sensor systems. Users want more from these systems and they want it now. The small business (or any business for that matter) which can react to this want are the businesses which have a chance of surviving much less growing.
The physics-based technology in the radar systems domain is rapidly changing. Software development methods and tools are changing at the same pace. Digital transformation has sailed with digital engineering methods, tools, and standards also evolving. AI is influencing all the above. Complexity is increasing as systems are asked to do more and integrate into hierarchical architectures that also connect digitally. Gone are the days when a radar engineer can focus on one radar, a particular mode, or a fit-for-purpose mission. Gone are the days when customers can wait months and years for new capability needed today.
The pace of change is dizzying. Expertise in existing systems is disappearing in the face of new needs. Even if you have the expertise, you can’t develop new capabilities on timelines that worked just 5 – 10 years ago. By the time you build it, the requirement has changed. To cope with the challenges of this environment, we see the need for fundamental change at the business level. That is what we are trying to do. I will describe that in Part 2: What are We Trying to Do? In the meantime, remember it is about systems, software and data.