MOD IT chief unveils 'Defence as a Platform' plan

The Ministry of Defence hopes to move from multiple, duplicated siloed systems to a single common architecture, its CIO Mike Stone has announced.

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The Ministry of Defence's chief digital and information officer Mike Stone has unveiled a new initiative to overhaul the department's ICT, dubbed 'Defence as a Platform'.

The vision is for the department to move from multiple siloed systems with duplicate functions to a unified, common architecture supporting all end user services over the next year.

The plan is similar to the 'Government as a Platform' initiative currently being enacted by the Government Digital Service, but on a departmental level.

Stone discussed his plans with peers and suppliers during sessions at IT trade body techUK and the CIO Symposium.

However, he warned the main challenge to his plans will be delivering the necessary cultural change.

Stone told techUK delegates he has not been able to achieve his aims as quickly as he wanted since joining the MOD in May 2014, largely as a result of “cultural torpor” within the department.

He also pointed to restrictive procurement policies and a “lack of suitably qualified and experienced people” as factors holding back his ability to implement changes. He said 58 percent of ISS staff are aged over 45.

“The way we've outsourced in the past means we have abrogated design. I want to in-source a lot of capabilities to make us masters of our own destiny and stand up our own design authority, with an architectural direction of travel,” Stone said.

He wants the department to also take control of its own DevOps, test, integration and management functions.

He promised to focus on areas where the MOD can learn from other industries, for example information exchange challenges from the mobile sector, vetting from the insurance industry and looking to banks for security measures.

“Rather than trying to invent something new, as in the past, can we grab hold of something from elsewhere?” he said.

The department recently started moving to Microsoft Office 365 and is currently running a competition for suppliers to help it build an 'evolutionary' new open source analytics platform to help it better understand its data.

Under Stone's new 'DaaP' plan, instead of buying their own IT, MOD business units will share common components and infrastructure provided by the ISS [Information Systems & Service] department.

If successful, the plan would be a “remarkable shift away from the current model”, James Murphy, head of defence at IT trade body techUK, said.

To ensure coherence, ISS would act as the design authority for units' bespoke needs, with all other requirements available to be ordered from a single catalogue of services, he explained.

“In essence, ISS will become an 'ICT as a Service' organisation,” Murphy said.

“The move to DaaP is bold and ambitious. But it is absolutely the right thing to be doing and will set the MOD on a trajectory to take advantage of the digital revolution,...the realisation of DaaP will provide the bedrock upon which everything is build. Its importance cannot be underestimated,” he added.

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