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  • Danny Wootton

Baseball and Defence


What do baseball and the MoD have in common. No this isn't the start of a bad joke. The answer, surprisingly, is data.

I recently watched Moneyball, a film adapted from the book by Michael Lewis, which is based on the true story of how the Oakland Athletics baseball team reinvented if not the game of baseball itself, then the game of baseball team management. They did this by moving from personal observations about players from scouts with mixed track records, to the use of player analytics to decide which players they bought, looking at one specific metric…which players could put runs on the board. In effect they had moved to evidence based decision making using clear and authoritative data.

So what is the link to Defence? Well, a few weeks ago, my team and I met with a cross section of people from industry to brief them on our recently published Defence Data Strategy and how it mapped out our plans to move Defence towards managing our data as a strategic asset.

Our (MoD's) vision is to create a Defence Data Environment (DDE) and culture that delivers timely, accurate and trustworthy data, managed by subject matter experts and accessible to all who have a right to use it, complimented by strong governance and a skilled workforce that supports innovation and exploitation.

Our intent in the coming years is to create:

  • A more data-driven organisation, enhancing existing data capabilities and establishing new services to create opportunities for data exploitation.

  • Removal of current hurdles relating to data access and poor data quality, establishment of authoritative data sources, owned and managed by teams capable of producing and maintaining data of sufficient quality.

  • Achieving the vision and meeting the intent will see simplified data sharing, improved data quality, stronger accountabilities and responsibilities for data and the acceleration of the establishment of common standards.

So how are we going to achieve this? The strategy has three components: Data Management, Behaviours & Upskilling our people and Leveraging Game Changing Technologies. The latter, I'll cover in another blog.

Our Data Management Principles

We have clear ownership of data in defence. With this comes the responsibility of being a Data Service Provider, that includes the core data management activities such as data acquisition, storage, quality, curation and sharing.

  • Our data is fit for purpose. Building on data management, we will understand the problems we need to solve and acquire the right quality data that enables us to drive the necessary insights

  • Data is managed through life, meaning that a some point it needs to be archived or removed as it is no longer fit for purpose.

  • We apply the right level of security to our data ensuring it remains accessible and usable whilst also remaining secure.

  • Authoritative data sets are established for 'defence wide' data to ensure we use consistent and high quality data in our decision making.

  • We apply a trust score to our data, eventually ensuring that only trusted data is used or the quality / trust of the data is taken into account when making decisions

  • Our data is visible and accessible through a pan defence data and API catalogues.

  • People have the knowledge and skills to manage and use defence data. We have adopted DMBOK as our Data Management standard

Our Data Service Provider and Catalogue approaches are based upon storing our data in a federated set of data warehouses and lakes, rather than one single data lake. This provides us with more flexibility in how we manage our data whilst also enables us to secure our data whilst also providing access where needed.

Behaviours & Upskilling

It is widely recognised that defence does not have enough suitable qualified and experienced people (SQEP) in the Digital and Data space and although we do need to put a clear recruitment strategy in place, we also need to develop our existing people.

As part of our data strategy, we have established the Digital & Data Academy, a blend of Communities, Training and a Digital Skills Marketplace that will help our people develop the skills they need, learn from others and put those new skills into practice.

Communities: We have established our Digital Buddies programme, where a network of tech savvy individuals are making themselves available to share their knowledge with other users improve how they work.

Training: We have built a single one stop shop for all digital and data training, where individuals can identify the development pathway they need and the portal will provide them a range of certified training activities to develop their skills. This service has also been complemented with a range of other activities such as a Code Club, AI Masterclass and Agile Development.

Digital Skills Marketplace: Once our people have developed the necessary skills, we want to give them the opportunity to use them, something that is not always easy in an organisation as silo'd as defence. The Marketplace allows an individual (with their manager's approval) to offer their services for an agreed period of time. Teams who then have a skills shortage, can explore the portal for short term skilled resource. This model both helps our people put their new skills into practice whilst also allowing knowledge transfer between teams

In the short period of time the academy has been running, we have already seen a great uptake in the training resources offered and through our code clubs, we have seen people outside of the core IT teams start to develop solutions to everyday problems.

Our strategy has been well received, both inside and outside of MoD. Our focus now is on implementation, engaging with the wider defence community to start to transform how we manage and use data and to develop a digital and data savvy workforce.

In the coming weeks, I'll post blogs on our AI and Automaton strategy and activities, which are obviously very interlinked with Data and Upskilling.

#Defence #BigData #Insights

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