THEIA, the Army’s digital transformation programme, has grown in scope and ambition since I wrote my last Defence Digital blog post. As the Army seeks to continually develop and evolve, I’d like to explore three of the most challenging aspects in the hope you’ll be able to share your experience and advice to help us.
Challenge one – culture
Firstly, I’d like to explore the challenge of changing an organisation that’s over 360 years old and enjoys a rich tapestry of culture. Military judgement or intuition is for many an integral part, and enabler, of success. It grows alongside knowledge, skills and experience; like an unquantified superpower (analogous to the infamous “right-stuff” so prized by the early US space programme). We recognise that, as the Army transforms, we will need to share data with increasing impunity, but with the ever-expanding number of sources feeding us with bigger, faster and novel data sets, we cannot continue to expect commanders to use their intuition to recognise the hidden patterns and critical nuggets within the data. Resolving this will have to become the domain of machines and algorithms; being comfortable with this paradigm change will require a fundamental shift in our culture.
This will be critical when we’re competing with an adversary, be that war fighting above the threshold (where planned activity goes past the point of go/no go and then becomes visible to the adversary), in the grey zone or supporting a national emergency in the resilience space. We will need commanders to intuitively turn to the data first, with the application of their military judgement remaining important, but only as one of a number of tools in their arsenal, not the only one!
In the business space the Army has begun to shift our culture towards the data. For example, we now have a pretty comprehensive board management information pack, but the opportunity is much more than dashboards and visualisation. It’s about recognising the inherent power of our data and spending time curating it to get the best insights as the technological opportunities grow.
However, data curation is far from engaging and it’s no surprise it is often side-lined and left to functional leaders to sort out, but that’s just not going to be sustainable. All leaders in the business need to own their data, for their own benefit and insight. Furthermore, as we see data democratised though open standards and the cloud, the as-yet-unrecognised utility to fellow leaders in the organisation is an opportunity we must not miss.