How the U.S. Department of the Navy is delivering IT that just works

A case study from the Navy’s Chief Information Officer and Program Executive Office for Digital and Enterprise Services
Jun 10, 2024


The United States Navy’s Program Executive Office for Digital and Enterprise Services supports about 750,000 users across the globe. Their team is working to revolutionize how information technology is acquired within the Department of Defense and focusing on the warfighter with modern service delivery principles aligned with world-class alignment metrics. Learn more about their approach in this case study.

In August 2023, then-acting U.S. Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer Jane Rathbun shed light on the ongoing efforts spearheaded by the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Digital and Enterprise Services (PEO Digital) to improve user experience. In this case study, we’re going to delve deeper into the “why” and “how” behind the Navy’s strategy to drive the delivery of modern, secure, and effective enterprise information technology and business systems and services.

Setting the stage

The Navy’s ambitious goal is to make “information technology (IT) so good it’s invisible” — much like the infrastructure that allows you to turn on a tap and expect to get clean water. This monumental task is long overdue, owing to competing priorities, a historical mindset of doing more with less, and Department of Defense planning, programming, budgeting, and execution processes ill-equipped to support IT infrastructure needs. The outcry for better IT experiences, like the “fix my computer” plea in 2022 from within the Department of Defense, prompted a collective response.

The Navy’s approach

The Navy’s strategy revolves around modern service delivery, a design approach applied across all digital and enterprise services. The aim is to ensure strategic alignment, interoperability, and integration within the Department of the Navy and Department of Defense. The Navy envisions offering the premier enterprise information technology user experience. To achieve this, they started with leaders who would champion the cause, and focused on cultivating a culture shift within the PEO Digital workforce—the team that would be responsible for leading the transformation.

Culture transformation

The PEO Digital team defined the top 10 behaviors (PDF, 172 KB, 2 pages) critical to this transformation. These behaviors are listed verbatim below.

  1. Disrupt ourselves with experiments
  2. Use before rent; rent before buy; buy before build
  3. Beta earlier; a 10% solution is better than no solution
  4. Partner bolder and as often as possible; leverage the success of others
  5. Move with urgency and exercise a bias toward speed
  6. Seek simplicity for scalability
  7. Seamlessly deliver customer-centric technologies
  8. Never duplicate, always automate
  9. Reward innovation; make government IT cool to do and boring to maintain
  10. Weaponize data to make better decisions at the speed of relevance

Key enablers of this cultural shift included speed, scalability, simplicity, and alignment. The PEO Digital team implemented measures such as an agile requirements approach, tech scouting, and vendor outreach while streamlining, agile framework execution and product management, and more.

Aligning strategy to execution

PEO Digital has meticulously designed and aligned a process to move from strategy to execution. This involves integrating new capabilities and requirements into the planning, programming, budgeting, and execution cycles. This framework allows effective research, prioritization, delivery, and system sustainment, and connects industry research, Navy mission analysis, and IT business strategy.

Modern service delivery goals

The ultimate goal of modern service delivery is to ensure secure access to services and data from any device, anywhere, without interruptions. They focus on the following elements:

  • Devices: Services and data are accessed equally across all devices
  • Network: Multiple connectivity methods for managed and unmanaged devices
  • User: Device, access, and user combinations are verified
  • Application: User-centric services are designed for ubiquitous access
  • Data: Seamless data synchronization across all devices
  • Foundational elements: Visibility and analytics, and automation and orchestration

Guidance for modern service delivery

For more detailed guidance on their execution, three modern service delivery documents provide necessary insight:

Investment horizons

PEO Digital uses investment horizons, a term to identify technology that ranges from emerging innovations to strategic divestments, to manage current investments and expected returns. They’ve established specific criteria for advancements through each horizon:

  • Horizon 3: Evaluating: Wide ranging and exploratory work with capabilities funded by external sources
  • Horizon 2: Emerging: Next generation products funded by PEO Digital
  • Horizon 1: Investing and extracting: Enhancing current offerings with PEO Digital funds
  • Horizon 0: Retiring: Decommissioning regardless of organization

Pilot programs

Pilot programs are at the core of the transition from strategy to execution. They serve as testing grounds for innovative technology and processes, providing a controlled environment to assess feasibility and effectiveness. Priority is given to pilots that are quick to onboard and execute, allowing for smaller investments and hypothesis testing to meet user needs.

If I have to switch back [to my previous computer], you will have to take this computer from my clutching hands.—Quote from a participant in one of the pilot programs

Measuring success with world-class alignment metrics

PEO Digital emphasizes linking mission outcomes to modern service delivery initiatives. These outcomes are underpinned by user satisfaction and business impact, which are informed by the following metrics:

  • Customer satisfaction: Measured by net promoter score (NPS) and perceived parity with industry
  • Cost per user: Tied to time and includes offsets from investments
  • Adaptability and mobility: Informed by the technology’s adaptability and mobility
  • Operational resilience: Focus on data security and system resilience
  • User Time lost: Measuring processing times, workforce hours, and technology implementation


PEO Digital is on a mission to make IT invisible, seamlessly supporting the sailors and civilians critical to our national defense. By fostering a culture of innovation, aligning strategy with execution, and focusing on modern service delivery, they are delivering cutting-edge technology solutions that meet the needs of their users effectively and securely.

This is the first time in my career that the tools and information tech that I use every day are better at work than at home.—Captain Sean O’Lone

Ready to learn more?

Follow PEO Digital on LinkedIn.

The Department of the Navy’s information technology magazine, CHIPS, is available online, and as an RSS Feed.

Contact the PEO Digital team.