MAY 4, 2015, Quantico, Virginia – Last month, intelligence Marines, designers, and developers formed a cohort and participated in the first Marine Corps Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Enterprise Accelerator to create a minimum viable product called Tellus. Tellus is a mashup of Life Alert, OnStar, and Waze that provides operations and intelligence personnel with the ability to report significant activities or events. Users can drag and drop icons that represent the type of SIGACT being reported onto a map and add their unit ID. Tellus then auto generates an alert that contains location information, unit ID, and SIGACT data and instantaneously alerts operations and analyst personnel across the Intelligence Operations Center, Combat Operations Center, Aviation Combat Element and Logistics Combat Element.
The MCISRE Accelerator incorporates processes and tools that startups use for product development to define and prioritize problems, identify specific end users who need a solution for this problem, brainstorm an MVP, and determine how to measure “product-solution” fit as part of the development process. The MVP concepts are conceived and initially designed by the Marines who participate in the cohort. The entire process takes 12 weeks and culminates in a demo day event in which the Marines then pitch their MVP to MCISRE users, leadership, and supporting organizations. The demo day culminates in a decision that determines if, where, and how the MVP will be transitioned to the fleet.
The MCISRE Accelerator’s environment fosters rapid design and development of MVPs, services, and capabilities. It creates a critical mass for innovation that shortens the lifecycle for defining problem-solution fit and gets capabilities into the hands of users quickly. Mentors representing key stakeholders from across MCISRE and supporting organizations support the cohort by removing barriers to transition; working with key partners to capture and update requirements, doctrine, and policy; and providing key resources to the cohort to help them stay on track with product development.
By standing up the MCISRE Accelerator, the Intelligence Department is falling in line with other innovation initiatives in the Marine Corps as described in the Commandant’s Planning Guidance published in January. “The end state of our experimentation will be to develop and nurture the intellectual energy, innovation, and creativity that will enable the Marine Corps to lead tactical and operational innovation,” General Dunford noted in his planning guidance.
One of the main objectives of the MCISRE Accelerator is to break large problems down into discretely defined problems for which a simple, quick, and effective MVP can be built in 12 weeks. The Tellus cohort started their concept development looking at commonly discussed issues in the communications and network architectures and policies and training that impacted access to, use of, and dissemination of relevant data. They worked to identify key user segments that were impacted by these problems and reached into the operating forces to get feedback that helped them further decompose those problems until they could define a minimum set of features that provided a universal, simple to use app that could operate across networks and warfighting domains. Once these features were identified, the cohort used wireframing techniques to storyboard the initial MVP design. The initial MVP design was documented and disseminated to other Marines in the operating forces for feedback again. Using this feedback and comparing this design to existing capabilities, the cohort then refined the MVP design again to include only those features most requested in user feedback and that did not already exist.
Once the first week of concept development ends, the cohort developer team prototypes the user interface and user features design, providing outputs to the cohort members weekly for feedback and input. When the cohort validates the user design, developers will execute four, two-week sprints to build the MVP. Iterative capabilities are demonstrated at the end of each sprint and the cohort engages in person and virtually throughout the sprint to test each iteration of the MVP and provide feedback.
In addition to the deployable MVP, key outputs of the MCISRE Accelerator include MVP requirements, design, metrics, user feedback, and other data. These outputs are then used to inform the MCISRE Functional Design.