Ministry of Defence focuses on digital and end-user with new ICT Strategy

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a new ICT Strategy, which updates its previous 2010 plan, and focuses on creating a 'single information environment' dedicated to digital and the needs of the end-user.

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a new ICT Strategy, which updates its previous 2010 plan, and focuses on creating a 'single information environment' dedicated to digital and the needs of the end-user.

The update also claims to hold a wider defence focus, rather than just looking at the MoD, and responds to requirements laid out in the Government Digital Strategy, the MoD Information Strategy, as well as the Digital in Defence and Cyber Strategies. 

“Defence is a massive, diverse and complex enterprise within and across which we need to exchange information and share knowledge in dynamic and sometimes unpredictable ways; this requires that we create and sustain a Single Information Environment,” reads the report.

The MoD claims that although much work has been done across the defence enterprise to improve ICT, largely through the 10 year £7 billion Defence Information Infrastructure scheme, too many of its processes remain poorly articulated, are out-dated, and are unsuitable for modern ICT workflows.

These failures have resulted in shadow-IT developing, where employees are taking IT deployment into their own hands.

“Our core programmes have failed to keep pace with changing user demand to such an extent that some Defence organisations are choosing instead to invest in alternative solutions that more readily meet their parochial needs; this may achieve the desired outcome locally but it can be detrimental, and carries a consequential cost, to enterprise coherence and interoperability,” the MoD states in the latest strategy.

The report argues that the procurement and supplier of ICT services to defence users has to change, where they must be delivered more efficiently and with more agility. The MoD is seeking to strike a necessary balance between the benefits of modern ICT and the necessary security.

Off-the-shelf and simplification

The MoD aims to achieve this by adopting a “user-centric view” of ICT provision and ensuring that corporate tools add value to an employee's workday, which will in part be achieved through the delivery of commodity off-the-shelf (COTS) products.

“We have an extensive and complex legacy landscape, which we must seek to simplify as we modernise it, making maximum use of COTS solutions and open standards wherever possible, including the use of COTS as modules of bespoke end-to-end solutions where the user need requires it,” the strategy states.

“Itself cheaper to procure than bespoke solutions, use of familiar COTS ICT can also ease interoperability between processes and their integration (where appropriate), as well as reducing the training burden.”

However, the strategy also notes that to take advantage of COTS ICT and the benefits it can bring, the MoD will have to adapt its current processes in order to allow it to be integrated and consumed.

The document also highlights that many of the MoD's line of business applications, of which it has over 1,500, are 'inadequately supported' and are lacking the necessary funds to migrated onto a new operating system as Windows XP goes out of support.

It reads: “We must therefore work together to streamline our business, minimise our dependence on this legacy landscape and invest in retained or new applications and services that possess a funded Through Life Management Plan that keeps pace with future network upgrades and consumption methods.”

Future technologies in defence

The MoD has also laid out its vision for its future 'single information environment', which will rely on devices that allow for defence employees to get access to productive corporate tools on the move, as well as technologies that can exploit increasing data volumes.

The strategy document argues that the MoD will not seek to provide the exact same capabilities in the office, as when on the move, as this doesn't work with the current financial and security restrictions in the public sector. Instead it aims to create a “single information environment enabled by ICT (services and end user devices) suited to the point of need”.

It reads: “In many cases, it will not prove economic or sensible to provide users on the move the full suite of services available at their home base; the business or operational architecture that is being enabled by ICT must clearly show which services are required where.”

Finally, exploiting big data is obviously a core interest to the MoD, as it has outlined plans to free data from the legacy (and often proprietary) applications in which it is currently locked.

The MoD claims that data holdings across the defence enterprise are growing exponentially and it wants to “harness and exploit the power of this data”, which it currently isn't able to do. It will require new tools and ICT to enable this.

“We wish to interrogate these data holdings at a time and place of our choosing to derive maximum value in a dynamic setting and to inform our decision making in a timely and cost effective manner,” the strategy states.

“We need active data management and analytical tools capable of manipulating the breadth, depth and diversity of our data holdings (be they numerical, text based or imagery) of presenting the findings clearly.”