Case study

Niteworks 3: Rapidly upgrading Submarine Combat Systems

Develop a new Operating Model that allow the rapid upgrade of submarine combat systems.

Ministry of Defence Submarine at sea.

MOD Crown Copyright.


In order to continue to protect the Royal Navy and merchant fleet against new threats, Submarine Combat Systems need to be updated frequently to be able to take advantage of new innovations and technologies. The existing process for upgrading them is restrictive both in cost and timescales and needs to be improved and simplified. It is also necessary to understand what the operators need from the systems, to respond to lessons learnt from operational situations and to quickly apply this learning.

Niteworks Task

The Defence Equipmeny and Support (DE&S) Submarine Combat Systems Group (CSG) recognised that if changes were to be implemented, it needed a collaborative approach with buy in from the entire supply chain and Navy Command. Niteworks’ construct allows easy and independent access for engaging everyone from the prime contractors to SMEs and niche suppliers as they are all part of the Niteworks partnership. CSG asked Niteworks to design a new operating model along with underpinning principles and policies.

How did Niteworks approach the task?

In order to accurately identify the issues with the existing operating model, the team designed the project in three stages: Discovery; Analysis and Design; Testing the Model.

The team held initial discovery meetings with key stakeholders from industry, Ministry of Defence (MOD), Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and Navy Command. An initial workshop was held for the entire supply chain (and those who aspired to be in the supply chain) to come together and discuss the barriers to the current model.

This information was used to refine the vision and develop a set of underpinning principles and policies and review these with the suppliers. Following this, industry best practice and further stakeholder input was used to design the new operating model. This was extremely complex, but Niteworks was able to visually represent this in one rich picture design.

The operating model was tested through a simulation exercise and workshops involving the entire supply chain, Navy Command and Dstl, and was then refined. The validation and testing events indicated that the operating model was feasible and could be used to realise the vision.

Customer, Submarine Combat Systems Design & Integration Leader, DE&S:

The project has established the playing field and rule set for taking forward a new and potentially very powerful Operating Model.

What was the outcome?

The new model can be applied across any MOD system that contains tactical software applications and is the first time that an operating model of this nature has been applied to deployable systems on this scale.

The operating model introduces a new approach that changes:

  • how MOD interacts with the supply chain via an Innovation Hub
  • how new technology and ideas are prototyped and brought into service using agile and evolutionary techniques, exploiting hundreds of identified innovations and associated funding
  • the way MOD prioritises and procures new technologies and innovations, enhancing the influence that front-line users have over the requirements

What were the benefits?

CSG has since asked Niteworks to define the high level requirements for a Capability Concept Demonstrator to complement the new operating model. Immediate and longer term benefits of the project include:

  • capability improvements can be more rapidly implemented through the new operating model
  • greater stakeholder cohesion achieved by bringing disparate parts of MOD together with their supplier network
  • exchange of ideas and information – the supply chain understands the top issues for the operators and are better sighted on future priorities
  • the operators and Front Line Command are more involved in the software requirements process, which should result in improved user requirements definition
  • the possibility to test new functions at sea within a reasonable timescale, reducing the amount of rework required before implementation

Customer, Submarine Combat Systems Design & Integration Leader, DE&S

The project has delivered valuable coherence with ongoing DE&S transformation objectives (notably GEAR); and arguably is ‘leading edge’ development.

Published 28 March 2018