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It’s time for Defence to collaborate and innovate to speed up the pace of digital adoption.

Mike Dwyer
Dec 11, 2023

Mike Dwyer, Head of Intelligent Industry at Capgemini shares his thoughts on how and why the defence sector must band together to solve our collective challenges.

In our seminal Digital Culture 26 report, we took a thorough deep dive into the challenges and opportunities facing the defence sector, accelerated by changes across the digital landscape. In it, we explored how digital adoption can improve collaboration across organisations but predicted that a lack of cross-industry collaboration would continue to hold us back from meeting the sector’s collective and urgent issues. At this year’s DSEI event – a landmark moment in Capgemini’s long relationship with UK defence, as we exhibited with a significant global presence – we found ourselves proved disappointingly correct.

We need to talk less; act more.

There was a lot of good talk and excitement at DSEI, with plenty of gadgets and innovation to explore and encouraging signs of the industry discussing important topics like sustainability and talent for example. But it’s clear we still need to turn that excitement into a production reality – and more quickly. As an industry, we spend lots building single point acquisitions, like submarines, aircraft and ships. But bringing the wealth of expertise and capabilities across the industry together must be the future to provide better protection for us all.

Conversely, what we see in private industry is continuous adoption of new digital tools driven by continuous pressure. And this culture of can-do innovation brings with it a new digital culture for our staff. Defence needs to be seen and start to behave as a continuously innovative industry, seen through small, medium, and large investments and new digital defence quickly coming to the fore.

We need to talk less; act more together.

As highlighted in Digital Culture 26, despite more “good talk”, most players in our industry are still mainly focused on their individual organisations. Healthy competition has its place, but when we’re building products for the defence of the realm, actual collaboration should be driving a connected environment. We need to shift from a “this is how we did this bit” mindset, to a more connected manufacturing and servicing process driven by a brilliant set of digital tools, that eliminates waste and duplication in the process. And we need the MOD to continue to incentivise it. It would allow for higher creativity, higher speed of delivery, and could be supported by a wider portfolio of products.

It was something athlete, adventurer, and Digital Culture 26 foreword author Rob Bell also noticed on his visit:

“With Digital 26 in mind, what became increasingly clear to me was the need for supremely strong leadership to drive real change and true collaboration amongst industry partners. Especially where large national defence projects are concerned.

“In the report, Capgemini clearly set out that a modern, effective, and fully integrated arena relies on comprehensive adoption of digital capabilities and seamless collaboration between many different players – some of whom may be direct competitors in certain fields. And as I understand it, that requires a significant, industry-wide culture change from the status quo.”

But we are embracing the digital agenda

The very good news is we saw evidence that small, medium, and large companies are seeing the need for and in some cases embracing a digital culture, with much discussion about getting data flowing across boundaries and the need to go faster.

All organisations are on a journey, and no one is perfect, but you could see significant shared thinking and in some cases investment in digital capabilities. And this is where the next wave of innovation is required, to drive to the next step and scale ‘it’ to the extent of collaboration and the depth of this digital culture. Together, our next step is to sit down as an industry and work out the tricky equations of how ‘it’ all gets wired, connected, shared, and controlled, so that we can trust ‘it’ and make sense of ‘it’ and crucially leverage ‘it’ to provide a better service to end users.

As Rob put it: “I was left impressed by the sophistication of the engineering on show, but the questions in my head were mainly about that leadership role. Should it come from industry project management? Is it the role of governmental procurement personnel? What is the motivation for commercial project partners to change without strong external leadership? Does a leadership team of sufficiently skilled, digitally aware individuals who are unshackled from current industry culture presently exist?”

My Colleague, Simon Macwhirter, has written a very similar, related piece on the defence industry’s need to modernise and diversify its talent pool. To read his thoughts on that subject please click here:

Capgemini has provided IT, engineering, and consulting services to the defence industry for more than 30 years. We are seeing, and indeed experiencing, the essential changes that companies across the sector must make to successfully compete in the market, stay ahead of challenging geopolitical actors and to keep our citizens safe.

Get in touch to join us in creating a new digital culture, for the protection of us all.

Mike Dwyer

Head of Intelligent Industry, Capgemini UK
Mike leads the Intelligent Industry Centre of Expertise (CoEx) in the UK and brings a deep knowledge of Industry 4.0 and how it transforms the worlds of engineering, manufacturing, service, and operations and through the process, systems, data, people & culture change. Mike is an experienced digital engineering consulting and delivery lead with 25 years of working in R&D, engineering development and digital transformation for Rolls-Royce Defence and Siemens Germany. Mike has worked in other organisations across a variety of sectors including Aerospace & Defence, Power Generation, Rail, Oil and Gas, Formula 1, and Electronics & High-Tech.