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British Army Digitalisation: THEIA

THEIA will organise the overall programme of digital modernisation across the Army aligning money, accountability and responsibility.

Introduction

THEIA (“THAY-A”) is the name for Army’s Digitalisation, making use of digitised information and digital technologies to improve business and social processes. It is at the heart of the Integrated Review (IR), British Army Land Operating Concept (BALOC), and Army Operating Model (AOM) Review, governed by a bespoke quarterly meeting of the Army’s Executive Committee (ExCo (Digitalisation)) and championed by Deputy Chief of the General Staff.

The ExCo (D) agreed Digitalisation is everyone’s business (not just the Directorate of Information); it requires scaled changes reaching across the Army, a focus on identified digital enablers and a commitment to resource the deliver of early outputs.

THEIA will operate across all Army functions; guided by EMBANKMENT, which is the Army’s input and response to the government’s Integrated Review and the AOM Review.

To do this THEIA will:

Drive coherence and integration: the numerous change programmes and siloed governance make the digitalisation landscape cluttered and incoherent. Both EMBANKMENT and the Integrated Review seek a more coordinated and aligned approach especially around architecture, a single design authority, security and common data standards.

Break down the silos: Digitisation needs to change culture and behaviours by promoting new digital ways of working and operating transversally across the Army functions. This will feed into the Army Operating Model.

Communicate to stakeholders progress and success: both within the Army and into defence.

Capture efficiencies: demonstrate early and then continuous wins by showing the efficiencies that can be made through the deployment of the digital initiatives and their change to Defence Planning assumptions.

Orchestrate the overall programme: focus on actionable activities aligning money, accountability and responsibility.

THEIA (Digitalisation) Aims:

  • as the world evolves in response to changes in technology, our adversaries’ approach to conflict and indeed how we respond needs to evolve, at the same pace; the British Army must remain competitive and deliver increased relevance to operate and fight in this new way. We will see conflicts as ‘strategic competitions’, where we must be faster, leaner and more efficient from the corporate HQ to the tactical edge
  • ensure the British Army is connected, interoperable with partners and allies and data driven
  • deliver effects in months, not years.

THEIA (Digitalisation) Objectives:

  • change digital culture and behaviours, equipping our people with digital skills and promoting new digital ways of working
  • deliver a digital backbone and multi-domain tactical cloud to integrate all information from command and control, intelligence, sensors, effectors and platforms across domains, partners and allies
  • deliver better data to enable better decisions and better operational and corporate competitiveness, efficiency and effectiveness.

Context

The Integrated Review is the largest review of the UK’s foreign, defence, security and development policy since the end of the Cold War. A important feature will be a policy discussion of the appropriate balance between maintaining a contingent force and acting quickly to resolve threats in advance. Information-based capabilities that can demonstrate effect now, such as cyber and Information Operations, are likely to be highly valued, both offensively and defensively. Moreover, in an era of persistent competition, the ability to deter, disrupt and demoralise potential adversaries by leveraging and integrating nuanced defence and security options is increasingly important.

Kvachkov, Vladimir, Russian Special Purpose Forces IN Keir Giles, Handbook of Russian Information Warfare (Rome: NATO Defense College, Fellowship Monograph, 2016) quote says:

A new type of war has emerged, in which armed warfare has given up its decisive place in the achievement of the military and political objectives of war to another kind of warfare – Information War.

What is clear is the demands of the contemporary operating environment and the IR require Defence to integrate across all 5 domains (Land, Sea, Air, Space, Information), with other Services, government departments and allies and provide reach, speed of response and agility. Equally there is a requirement for new and cutting-edge technology to keep pace with adversaries. However, to compete in Information Warfare and widely integrate effects requires Defence to do more than simply buy new technology. It needs to conduct a digital transformation.

The Army’s digital transformation, THEIA, will exploit innovation, research and experimentation to better deliver the Army’s purpose of defending the nation, protecting our people, projecting influence and promoting prosperity. It will be built by harnessing new technology such as the Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems (LE TacCIS), structured by a robust digital backbone of ready data and enhanced by expert training of motivated people. It’s about a user-centred digital culture that enables leaders at all levels to make more informed, better and empowered decisions. However, to make better decisions, individuals need accurate personal and organisational data that they can trust. Equally, investment in ‘skills for the digital age’ across the Whole Force will equip our people with the means and mindset to exploit digital and data capabilities to the full.

Enablers

Army Operating Model

We will support in defining a new strategic centre; the role and composition of the Design Authority, the business architecture and how it works with the digital architecture.

Data Coherence

Working with Defence Digital for enterprise data governance and standards whilst simultaneously driving the Army demand to exploit data at the tactical edge; creating a ‘Doctrine for data’. Defining where we store data and how we commute (edge versus centrally); how we undertake edge analytics (inc storage) and reach back refresh.

Digital backbone

We are supporting delivery of the Digital Backbone by defence; helping to improve understanding around BATCIS (Battlefield and Tactical Information Systems) and what is being delivered, enable optima, and use of readily available commercial technology.

End to end processes (E2E)

The Army will look at its own end to end (E2E) processes in getting data from bayonet to HQ, as part of a targeted architecture review, looking at all E2E processes using capability use cases, assessing current performance, deliverability, cost, capacity, resilience and latency. We will map programme interdependencies to improve understanding between LE TacCIS/ ISTAR and Land Cyber, how these sit on the network, and what assumptions need to be refreshed.

Accelerators

We have already identified 6 Accelerators; the THEIA team, working with the functional leads across the Army, will effectively prime the digitalisation pump and deliver early successes. These accelerators will be underpinned by the enabling activities:

Digital Estate: will be led by Director of Basing and Infrastructure (DB&I), supported by D Info and enabled by Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO). Three components have been identified; firstly, Sustainability and Efficiency – collecting dispersed data to create a holistic Energy Management System to identify savings on current spend on energy to re-invest into the estate. Secondly, exploitation of the new DIO owned Future Defence Infrastructure Services (FDIS) Contract – using estate data to incentivise better behaviours through gainshare. Finally, Whole Estate Asset Management, creating a common data environment with DIO to create an industry best practice level of asset monitoring.

Business information, integration and exploitation: will be led by Assistant Chief of the General Staff. Two components have been identified that will improve our ability to access business information to better inform decision-making. Firstly, identifying and understanding the enterprise architecture of current systems used across all areas, sources and points of entry of data and secondly, improving data quality by refining duplication and data definitions to improve the digital support to decision making.

Equipment Information Exploitation: will be led by Director Support (D Sp) and enabled by Defence Equipment & Support and industry partners. D Sp will build on current activities to further develop predictive sustainment and the automation of drawing data from multiple platforms as well as inventory systems to accurately monitor and plan the maintenance and sustainment of the Army fleet. THEIA will review the business architecture across all systems to help drive down the annual spend on maintenance of its fleet.

Foundation of Digital Skills: will be led by Director Personnel (D Pers) and reaching into Field Army. THEIA will complete a maturity assessment of Digital Skills, with an initial focus on the Army HQ, upskilling our talented workforce to be leaders in the Digital Age; this will map out required educational pathways and identify points for digital training. THEIA will also reach into the Field Army to help create a digital savvy workforce that can keep be competitive through appropriate adoption of fast-paced advances in technology.

Digitalising the Field Army: THEIA will evolve the excellent work conducted to date producing a proof of concept and using the ‘My Series’ applications into a useable capability to draw information sets together and provide Commander Field Army/Land Operations Command a clear understanding of readiness from individual training, to unit and formation status, whilst improving the lived experience of our soldiers.

Digital Army Processes: will be led by Home Command and build on the successful work within the Army Personnel Centre (APC). The Army digital team are in the process of delivering the Career Management Portal; automating manual paper-based processes into a suite of digital-integrated workflows such as promotion boards and post allocation. Further work will look at automation of workforce heavy processes and modernisation of corporate services and the development and use of online applications to complete administrative tasks and communicate key information to the wider population.

Data as a Strategic Asset

We must ensure we eradicate the era of standalone spreadsheets, siloed and duplicated information and usher in an era of accurate, trusted and authoritative data sources, accessible to all. It is also inextricably linked and enables evidence-based decision-making. Many decision-makers have historically relied upon instinct and experience to make crucial decisions. However, in the era of digital data, this information can be analysed, evaluated and visualized in milliseconds. This is something the Army Data Analytics Team (ADAT) has the technology to do now. THEIA will foster and embed a culture of looking for and using data, over pre-conceived hunches.

We know the trusted content must be easy and attractive to use for our people; Army Digital Services (ADS) has created the MySeries applications. The MySeries applications hosted on the Defence Gateway now enable ‘any-device’ access to important self-service functions such as leave applications, checking pay statements or submitting a travel or food claim without needing to queue for a MODNet terminal. THEIA will look for more opportunities, similar to the MySeries – getting data into the hands of our people – easily, quickly, and accurately.

Integration is the future

Final words from the Army’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Director Information, General JJ Cole in his speech to RUSI Integrating Information Manoeuvre Conference, 10 Mar 2020:

“Let us be bold: There is no Integrated Action without Information Advantage. There is no Information Advantage without (Joint) Information Manoeuvre. We are delivering Information Manoeuvre…and this requires integration in all its forms:

  • within the Land Environment, combining the 5 capability areas of networks; intelligence; influence; cyber and counter-intelligence
  • between physical manoeuvre and information manoeuvre
  • across a wider Joint, Allied and Partners enterprise
  • with training, people and culture
  • of physical platforms with cutting edge digital technology
  • with data as the critical asset.

Integration is the keyword. There is a long way to go, but we are on the way.”

How to find out more

THEIA Engagement Lead: Sally.Wareham333@mod.gov.uk and Charlotte Callanan Charlotte.Callanan100@mod.gov.uk.

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