While the information age has brought much opportunity, it has also created a challenge for MOD by making underwriting the UK’s national security more complex than ever before. At the same time, financial pressures faced by the Defence sector have not eased since the last Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR) in 2015. With this in mind, both the MOD and industry suppliers must work more closely together to address these challenges.
Disruptive technologies, such as bio-technology and artificial intelligence (AI), are playing an ever-increasing role in the digital transformation of UK businesses operating across private sector. The defence sector must act now to benefit from these technologies, rather than being at the mercy of their consequences. In practice, this means that both the MOD and its suppliers must create an environment in which they readily adopt technologies and processes, so that the UK can stay ahead of, or at least maintain parity, with adversaries. Equally, keeping pace with our key allies will be vital, as interoperability continues to play a crucial role in the development of new capabilities.
The current Modernising Defence Programme review of the MOD’s business is the perfect opportunity to address and remove the barriers to digital transformation, in partnership with sovereign industry and our international allies. If successful, the MOD will be able to greatly enhance UK military capabilities, boost industrial productivity, drive efficiencies across the defence sector and exploit new opportunities.
To support this journey of digital transformation, techUK has worked with members to develop recommendations for the MOD, Front Line Commands and the Defence industry itself.
The recommendations are:
To truly embark on a process of digital transformation, the MOD should work with industry to understand best practice, and the challenges faced, by large complex organisations which are further along in this process. techUK can provide the mechanism for this engagement, giving the appropriate senior decision makers in the MOD access to the right businesses
When launching new procurements, the MOD should adopt interoperability wherever it is possible. This will give the department the flexibility to bring in new technologies quickly and help increase its spending with small to medium sized businesses. The MOD should also look at using secure cloud technologies for future infrastructure, and look to take advantage of the strategic direction of the technology industry to gain innovation edge and more efficiencies.
In the IT/IS space, the MOD should move away from bespoke systems, (where product switching is not easy or cost effective to undertake) and make greater use of Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) products, which will reduce costs and can be more easily upgraded. In using COTS products, the MOD should also consider enterprise licenses, giving it the opportunity to leverage a wide user base across Government
The MOD should aim to make use of pre-approved technologies (where possible in partnership with the rest of government) and look to create sandpit environments to enable pilots for new technologies.
Given the vast and increasing quantity of data held by the MOD, it should look to utilise AI technologies to support data analytics across Defence. The introduction of new data-driven capabilities means that the MOD must invest in new analytics tools to manage and exploit the increased volume of information.
Commenting on the launch of the report, techUK’s CEO Julian David said:
“this report outlines what practical steps the MOD and its suppliers can take to ensure that UK Defence remains at the forefront of the digital innovation. With an extra £1bn of funding for Defence announced in the Autumn Budget and the expected announcement of the Modernising Defence Programme by the end of 2018, there is an opportunity to fundamentally transform the sector. This can only be achieved with a more open, collaborative approach to working with industry. Technologies that can deliver genuine digital transformation for UK Defence are already well established in the private sector. We must act now to proactively exploit the opportunities created by new technology, rather than being at the mercy of their consequences. techUK looks forward to working with members, the MOD and the Front Line Commands to support the sector as it transforms through digital technology.”