Throughout history, fighting forces have pioneered new technology to achieve their mission goals. World-changing innovations like the internet and touchscreens began life in defence. Now we are seeing a new emphasis on how technology is transforming defence organisations. Rather than organisations focusing on specific technologies, it’s the organisations themselves that have to transform. That shift can be characterised as the difference between doing digital and being digital. And it has major implications for everyone in the defence organisation, from leaders to boots on the ground.

Digital is leaders’ business

Digital is now leaders’ business. They need to take charge of digital transformation as a key element of their mission.  It’s a non-negotiable path that all organisations have to follow. To that end, we are seeing an evolution in the trajectory of some military careers. 

A new generation of leaders

Traditionally, leaders would rise through the ranks, and only once in a commanding role would they be able to lead digital initiatives. Now we see a new generation of leaders with experience of digital transformation from other government agencies coming into defence. They bring with them a human-led approach to digitalisation, putting people first to create the impacts and outcomes that really matter to them. 


One key element of this? Putting the human experience at the centre. In the past, the emphasis for digital initiatives was largely driven from an organisational push for efficiency. Now, there’s a new focus on bringing back- and front-office functions together to transform experiences.

So, what does it mean to have people at the centre of it all? How can we effectively meet the different needs of different people?

Rather than focusing on creating the most efficient website, the emphasis now is on creating digital platforms that are built for the modern user. They continuously evolve with their users, transactions are quick and easy with clear navigation to enable users to deliver services better and perform better. They are supported by intelligence and automation enabling seamless experiences that are meaningful, and personalised to internal and external users processes. 

Rather than confining the responsibility for experience to specific functions, this new approach embraces the ‘business of experience’ as everybody’s focus, right from the top of the organisation to deliver a truly digital transformation by looking at this from a different perspective. This enables a robust cross-domain ecosystem to explore social connections and reach into possible use cases users' health and wellness. Ultimately, it aims to achieve effective community engagement with the right audiences, the right way, in the right place, and at the right time.

Building around the human experience is the key here. And it underpins the success of transformation. For example, the army wanted to improve the relocation services that it offered. The project Posting Connect[1] shows how human experience-led projects work. This reimagines what a successful posting would look like, not just for the service member, but also for their family. “Back to basics” research and genuine enquiry about what would make a difference is the key, not just gathering “user requirements” in an outdated paradigm. 

Or to take another example, the US Department of the Navy (DON) is driving an enterprise transformation strategy[2] to redesign its future plans and practices related to data, cloud, cybersecurity, architecture, investments, and talent. The aim is to holistically transform mission capabilities using innovative solutions, new ways of working and designing for the future, that can scale to meet future needs and improve operational outcomes, to be better prepared for a digital future.

Looking beyond the defence compound

Consequently, we increasingly see key stakeholders in senior positions actively seeking insights into how other organisations, in both the public and private sector, have managed to drive successful transformation that creates a robust and cross-domain ecosystem. This is important to defence organizations that are by nature heterogenous. That means not just high-level guidelines, but more detailed playbooks and scorecards that can be adapted for defence organisations to plan, implement and track progress.  It’s a shift in emphasis from the ‘what’ to the ‘how’. 

Digital readiness

One key element here is assessing an organisation’s digital readiness. This covers much more than technologies deployed. Digital readiness embraces digital skills, technologies, and behaviours. These are all critical aspects of how far an organisation has progressed towards the goal of empowering people – at every level and in every function – to better achieve their assigned tasks. Digital is as much a cultural change as it is about the latest technology. 

Leaders need to drive change and encourage adoption by showing how digital makes it possible to work smarter, with a better experience for everyone. That may mean leading people out of their comfort zone. But as they see the benefits of new ways of working, they too will become evangelists for change. Leaders also need to look at their organization’s digital maturity and manage the journey ahead to ensure that the approach they take is broad and deep, going beyond just digital outcomes.

They need instead to foster the development of new capabilities and skills across the organization. So that means looking at the IT operating model, the organisation structure, capabilities, future skills (plus other people elements) and even the technology infrastructure required to make it come true with real purpose.

Take a look here to find out more about why defence leaders must lead the digital charge, and how they can mobilise their organisations to advance with real purpose.  This will require both a new mindset within defence and making available the kinds of digital tools that today’s young talent takes for granted. Instead of working environments that are often paper-based and orders-driven, refreshed people-centred experiences will help keep people engaged and develop their careers.

I'd be delighted to hear your view on digital defence. Let's get in touch.




Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Interactive, Technology and Operations services — all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 569,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at

Eng Han Heng

Technology Consulting Managing Director, Singapore

Subscription Center
Subscribe to Future of Cities Blog Subscribe to Future of Cities Blog