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Understanding the Future of IT in Defence

By Charles Damerell, Senior Director UKI at SolarWinds

In responding to the demand for better digital capabilities, defence organisations are among many across the public sector to have seen significant recent changes in their technology strategies and investment choices.

This has delivered a wide range of benefits, such as enabling the sector to cope with remote working, increased online collaboration, and the adoption of efficient, cost-effective cloud-based services. It has also increased the overall pace of digital transformation—an IT modernisation process already underway, but which was given new urgency and momentum by the varied and complex technology issues to arise as a result of the pandemic.

However, this has also brought a collection of challenges, including how to balance new and innovative technologies with existing legacy infrastructure. As a result, consolidating existing and new solutions has become a key priority for defence organisations.

Our recent research focused on the defence sector has underlined the current ongoing opportunities to consolidate, automate, optimise, and improve tech-led process efficiencies, so organisations across the sector can maximise value and minimise costs.

In particular, the findings revealed there are five key areas where defence organisations must focus, so they can plan confidently for a digital-first future:

1 – Embracing the New Normal

COVID-19 has been an exceptional accelerator for many CIOs and IT departments, many of whom were already focusing on the next wave of the digital revolution.

Confidence across the sector is high, with 84% of defence respondents saying they are in a strong position to adapt their IT environments rapidly, as and when needed. Yet nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents believe defence is no further ahead than other sectors in its IT development journey. Organisations must, therefore, continue to take the opportunity to advance their technical aspirations to transform their overall legacy environments into modern, consolidated systems.

2 – Identifying and Addressing Risk IT Factors

Among the specific challenges presented by current IT environments, the interoperability of systems is ranked highest by respondents (51%). To keep up with technological developments, organisations have onboarded niche solutions that have solved certain problems but have also presented others when assessing the collaboration of systems and collation of data.

Unsurprisingly, security also ranks highly as a concern (45%), while managing legacy technology and a lack of easy oversight (36% each) are also problematic. Organisations have adopted new solutions as technological advancements have been made, but little has been done to manage the overall structure of this IT ecosystem, which has left organisations losing time to data management and consolidation requirements.

3 – Automation

Across many sectors, organisations are looking closely at the scope for automating simple or repetitive tasks. In defence, however, only 6% of respondents report all basic tasks are automated with staff thereby free to pursue more meaningful tasks.

What’s more, almost a third (30%) of organisations haven’t automated any tasks and are missing out on the efficiencies and staff productivity gains that could be secured. Encouragingly, however, 40% have undertaken a fair degree of automation and are likely to pursue further opportunities as they reap the many benefits it brings.

When assessing digital performance and the relative lack of automation, the research found 34% of respondents were spending a significant proportion of their time dealing with these basic issues—with anywhere from one-fifth (21%) to three-fifths (60%) of their time spent on performance problems. In addition, over a quarter (26%) reported they didn’t know how much time was being lost as a result.

4 – Consolidation

While IT consolidation is recognised as having many benefits for organisations, almost half of the defence sector have not looked at it as an initiative.

However, almost all respondents indicated they are either already benefiting from the solution in several crucial areas or expect consolidation to bring benefits in the future. For example, the ability to collaborate more effectively with colleagues was the highest-ranked benefit (96%); with organisations often managing several offices and supporting home working, effective collaboration is crucial.

The top two barriers for organisations were reported as the perceived cost of change (60%) and risk of service disruption (58%). The problem is, 43% of respondents either have no overall consolidation strategy or are unaware if there is one, suggesting this is a widespread issue that needs to be addressed.

5 – Security and Cloud Adoption

Despite the ubiquitous availability of proven cloud services across a wide range of use cases, security concerns are the main barrier to the adoption of cloud technology in the defence sector, with some 40% just beginning their journey into the cloud.

Only 19% of those surveyed had completed a cloud adoption strategy, leaving a large percentage without the benefits of a full cloud system. A fifth (21%) of respondents are at the beginning of their cloud journey and are looking for the best way to approach this process. Whatever stage organisations are at, it’s important they get the right advice when looking into systems and appraising the full range of public and private cloud systems available.

As the defence sector continues to focus on improving the performance of existing and new IT systems and infrastructure, organisations targeting their efforts to balance the requirements of these challenges will be well placed to succeed.

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