Understanding, predicting, and responding to a rapidly changing Arctic requires sustained observations that capture variability and transformative change of the Arctic systems with all its major components. A key challenge for researchers, Arctic communities, and others tasked with effective responses to such change is to achieve structured coordination of numerous individual observing activities and networks. These have different regional and thematic foci. Many are driven from the bottom-up by research interests, while others are mission-oriented operational networks. The Arctic Observing Summit (AOS) is an effort that seeks to help coordinate such disparate activities and support efforts such as the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) initiative. We report on progress as part of an AOS 2018 working group focused on implementation and optimization of sustained observations. Drawing on the Framework on Ocean Observations, our group identified effective approaches and barriers to integration of different observation requirements and activities/platforms into a coherent observing framework. Case studies for benthic communities, sea ice prediction, and permafrost highlighted the importance of allowing for independently driven activities to coalesce into a uniform framework. This in turn requires clearly defined requirements that ideally serve multiple societal benefits. Such clear definitions also aid private-public partnerships and the development of new observing system business models. Prerequisite to better coordination is a comprehensive, international assessment that describes the current set of systems, community-based networks, sensors, networks, and surveys that are used to observe the Arctic today. Pieces of such an endeavor are starting to emerge, and SAON may serve as a home for integrating and building upon these pieces. Essential to this goal is the development of a knowledge map that collates and connects observing resources to societal benefits, helps identify and prioritize essential variables, data management needs, and critical products and services. The AOS 2018 calls for the launch of an optimization and implementation team of experts that would conduct such an effort under the auspices of SAON. We explore different elements of such a team’s portfolio of tasks.