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Accenture Defense Technology Vision 2016

People first: The primacy of defense industry people in the digital age


Every year, the Technology Vision team partners with Accenture Research to pinpoint the emerging IT developments that will have the greatest impact on companies, government agencies, and other organizations in the next three to five years. As technology advancements continue to accelerate at an unprecedented rate defense organizations that equip their staff with new skills can fully capitalize on these innovations.

Digital Culture Shock
The world is in the midst of a major technology revolution, specifically a digital revolution. Our analysis shows that digital is now dominating every aspect of the defense organization—from the front end to the back end. Change is the new normal. According to our global technology survey of more than 3,100 IT and business executives, 86 percent of the executives anticipate that the pace of technology change will increase rapidly or at an unprecedented rate in their industry over the next three years. Many defense organizations already reeling from the impacts of technology and the changes they need to make in response, find themselves temporarily overwhelmed as they absorb the magnitude of the tasks ahead.

Getting past the digital culture shock that so many defense organizations find themselves in today sounds daunting. But fortunately there are models already available for inspiration. The Accenture Technology Vision 2016 identifies five technology trends, fueled by the people first principle, that are essential to success in a security environment that is increasingly digital.

Trend 1

Trend 1: Intelligent Automation
The essential new co-worker for the digital age

Intelligent automation is the launching pad for new growth and innovation. Powered by artificial intelligence, the next wave of solutions will gather unprecedented amounts of data from disparate systems and create solutions that fundamentally change the defense organization, as well as what it does and how it does it.

Defense organizations can expect to see unmanned physical solutions as well as unmanned automated, cyber and virtual solutions. For example, artificial intelligence can predict, observe and sense incidents from big data that human intelligence or signal intelligence methods are unable to detect.

Digital also opens up the potential for machine learning or artificial intelligence to “weaponize” data —increasing volumes of data, and the capability to manage it, is a growing challenge for defense organizations. Predictive analytics can help defense organizations gain swift business outcomes. Advanced analytics can help defense organizations to enhance military capability as well as take mission support efficiency up to the next level.

Digital solutions are also being used to align the interaction between warfighters and defense with the current expectations of digitally savvy millennials. As warfighter services and mission processes are becoming more intelligent, digital, interactive and automated, the military capability can benefit significantly from technology evolution.

Trend 2

Trend 2: Liquid Workforce
Building the workforce for today’s digital demands

Increasingly, today’s defense organizations are challenged by attracting and retaining the right talent. Digital technologies have changed how the military workforce operates. Rapid innovation demands continuous learning and re-skilling. Growing automation and robotics reduce the need for less qualified personnel. Digital situational awareness and command and control systems means decision making can happen faster and more comprehensively at the frontline of military operations. Such developments require highly qualified, digitally savvy and flexible personnel. Managing this new talent also needs a predictive approach, as the impact of new technologies on skills and workforce structure must be understood early enough to plan accordingly.

With many armed forces serving in operations internationally, a high degree of flexibility is needed around not only the staffing of soldiers but also the training required to multi-skill and reskill the military workforce within short time periods. For example, many military personnel may find themselves working out in the field with digitally controlled weapon systems, sophisticated command and control systems and complex IT applications. Increasingly, they will be equipped with handheld devices, sensor capabilities and all kinds of digital assistants that support the sharing and receiving of information “on-the-move.”

A next generation of digitally savvy staff is required; yet typically, these millennials are not interested in defense organizations or do not wish to commit to standard, long term work contracts. Millennials are seeking out jobs that combine exciting challenges, excellent qualification programs, and flexible career paths. In future, to meet these demands and build a liquid workforce, military leaders will need to consider new digital tools, systems, and workforce management approaches.

Trend 3

Trend 3: The Platform Economy
Building the workforce for today’s digital demands

Industry leaders are unleashing technology’s power by developing platform-based business models and strategies to drive the most profound change in the global macroeconomic environment since the Industrial Revolution. This is reinforced by 81 percent of our survey respondents who agree that platform-based operating models will become part of their organization’s core strategy within three years.

Platform-centric operating models and strategies are being considered in many defense organizations across the world. In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defence unveiled a new initiative to overhaul the department’s information, communications and technology capabilities. Known as “defence-asa-platform’” the vision involves the department moving from multiple silo’ed systems with duplicate functions to a unified, common architecture supporting all end user services.

Trend 4

Trend 4: Predictable Disruption
Looking to digital ecosystems for the next waves of change

Fast-emerging digital ecosystems are creating the foundation for the next big wave of enterprise disruptions by straddling markets and blurring industry boundaries; forward-thinking leaders can proactively predict these ecosystem trajectories to gain a competitive advantage. Companies and organizations are already experiencing ecosystem disruption, with 81 percent of survey respondents indicating that they are seeing this in their industry.

Established defense organizations can no longer rely on their traditional way of doing things. They must draw on different ecosystems to provide new services—whether that is social media, artificial intelligence, connected ecosystems, connected services, smarter machines, or intelligent processing capabilities. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence and technology investments lifecycles are shortening—requiring more frequent re-investments or midlife upgrades. As a result, defense organizations need to re-align their technology strategies, and speed up procurement and development cycles.

Trend 5

Trend 5: Digital Trust
Strengthening stakeholder relationships through ethics and security

Trust is a cornerstone of the digital economy, said 83 percent of survey respondents. To gain the trust of individuals, ecosystems and regulators in this new landscape, defense organizations must recognize that better security, on its own, will not be enough.

The question of how to build trust in a digital environment is highly relevant to defense organizations. Whether pursuing data security outcomes—taking advantage of cybersecurity awareness or training of military personnel—or collaborating with other countries, defense organizations must continue to work in a secure way as the digital world evolves. Data integrity, quality and accuracy is vital for situational awareness. Defense organizations need to carefully assess how they can secure not only the identity but also the access of a warfighter in a digital environment, whether from headquarters or the field. As the number of digital devices increase and as operations are more dependent on those digital devices, security, trust and reliability are evermore critical.

Defense leaders may be investing in digital technologies, but due to a lack of trust they are not adopting them quickly enough. Even though there are moves to embrace the private cloud, there is a suspicion about the public cloud—a reluctance to entrust military data outside of the defense organization’s own four walls. Embracing mobility and employing a liquid workforce requires new thinking around being able to trust in the integrity of data received and shared. There will always be a need for multiple security levels which means there is an added complexity to gaining digital trust. Unlike most other organizations, the defense industry has responsibility for the safety and security of the nation, so defense leaders are wise to want to ensure the security, integrity, and reliability of the networks and systems for which they have responsibility.

Antti Kolehmainen

Antti Kolehmainen
Global Managing Director – Accenture Defense Services

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Dr. Valtteri Vuorisalo

Dr. Valtteri Vuorisalo
Industry Innovation Senior Principal – Accenture Defense Services

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