The UK Ministry of Defence organisation to launch Defence as a Platform

Speaking at techUK’s CIO Symposium in London, MOD Chief Digital and Information Officer Mike Stone announced that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Information Systems and Service (ISS) organisation is to transform its ICT procurement and provision under an initiative called Defence as a Platform (DaaP).

MOD transforming its ICT organisation

The DaaP initiative is the bedrock of CDIO’s vision to deliver information services to Defence that are a force multiplier – whether in the operational or business space.
The DaaP concept will provide a shared set of common components and infrastructure across the MOD to support all mission and line of business services and applications, provided as a ‘common good’ by ISS. No longer will MOD business units procure their own systems or services.

This is a shift away from the current model characterised by multiple stovepiped systems with duplicative components in multiple providers (increasing cost due to fragmented architecture and no core common infrastructure) to a model whereby a unified, common architecture supports all end user services. ISS will act as the design authority for all new or bespoke requests from end users across Defence (to ensure coherence) whilst all other requirements can be ordered from a single catalogue of services, which ISS will provide. In essence, ISS will become an ‘ICT as a Service’ organisation.

In-sourcing capabilities

“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.

The goal is for the MOD to take ownership and develop DevOps, test, integration and management functions.

Limit commercial interaction to the ISS organisation

The DaaP initiative has a clear impact on industry. The first and most obvious is that defence users will – by and large – engage only with the ISS organisation when requesting or purchasing ICT services. There will be no vendor interaction at the ‘point of sale’. This will be a major change and require vendors to have strong relationships within ISS. Although the intent is to limit commercial interaction to the ISS organisation, it is unclear whether industry will still be able to interact with business unit end customers (meaning the Army, Air Force, Navy etc) to help them understand and shape their information requirements that they then place on ISS.

Secondly, a better-defined (and understood) infrastructure and architecture will give industry greater clarity about how their solutions might fit into the overall system. The reduced complexity should allow industry to be more competitive and allow SMEs to provide solutions into a system that is less Byzantine. More will need to be done, not least improving visibility of future requirements so companies can assess and invest accordingly, but DaaP should be welcomed by industry as a positive move

The transformation is not intended as a centralisation effort of all ICT in defence, a move which Stone argued would stifle innovation and limit their ability to develop services locally.

The vision is for MOD business units to be given their own ‘innovation platform’ (comprising small amounts of compute, hosting and storage) to develop their own – relatively small-scale – information capabilities by leveraging the talent they have in their immediate teams. To do so, however, the innovations must interact and interoperate with the DaaP core.

Other governmental departments taking note

Current vendors involved in providing ICT to central government will have recognised immediately the similarities between DaaP and the aspirations behind the Government as a Platform (GaaP) initiative. In many regards, the MOD is ahead of the curve and CDIO’s from other departments – as well as the Cabinet Office – will be watching ISS closely.