6 ways cloud computing can help create the defence agency of the future

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Defence agencies are responsible for some of our government’s most crucial functions – from intelligence gathering and battlefield operations to disaster relief and collaboration with allies. Now, more than ever, the success of these operations depends on access to timely, accurate and comprehensive data.  

That being said, the growing volume and complexity of available data – driven by technological advances such as remote electronic sensors, cybersecurity, and surveillance by satellite and drones – is creating new challenges for defence agencies. To effectively manage, protect and leverage information in the digital age, these organisations need considerable increases in storage capacity and analytical processing power – all while facing decreasing budgets that mean that they must deliver “more for less.” 

Looking to the future with cloud 

For these organisations, cloud computing offers a way to manage competing pressures, while paving the path for the digitally-enabled defence force of the future. Whether public, government, private or hybrid, each model of cloud computing brings its own set of mobile and analytics-based defence tools and capabilities that have a place within a modern defence agency. Public cloud, for example, can be leveraged in intelligence gathering or non-classified communication. 

Government adoption of cloud computing is already taking place to varying degrees around the globe, and many defence agencies have cloud projects in the planning or pilot phases. The U.S. Department of Defense recently launched a series of cloud initiatives aimed at improving mission effectiveness and cybersecurity in a reengineered information infrastructure. Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence has adopted a ‘cloud-first approach’ and is rolling out an online app for employees using the Government’s G-Cloud programme. And in the Middle East, the Israeli Army is shifting its server system to the cloud. 

These investments are part of a larger trend of government bodies trying to capture the potential of the cloud; an Accenture survey found that the majority (82 percent) of organisations worldwide identify cloud technology as a key part of their IT strategy and three-quarters (75 percent) are already implementing or using at least one cloud application.  

Below, we at Accenture Defense Services have outlined six overarching reasons why we believe cloud adoption by defence agencies will continue at pace in 2017 and beyond: 

1. Stronger IT security and resistance to cyber attacks 

To maximize operational security, defence agencies have historically built “siloed” systems, with different branches of the armed forces having completely separate IT resources. Cloud computing can strengthen overall security by reducing the risks of individual errors or weaknesses in each silo, while ensuring consistent security standards across the entire organisation. 

2. Doing more at higher pace and lower cost 

Defence agencies are already realising significant speed, cost and agility benefits from cloud technologies, including “thin provisioning” where storage capacity is constantly realigned with current needs. The cloud can also free up skilled IT staff to perform higher-value activities, by helping to automate complex yet repetitive tasks. 

3. Seamless global data sharing  

Defence agencies have traditionally sought to avoid sharing data with external parties. Cloud computing can facilitate the secure transfer of information across missions, between forces and among allies, boosting the ability to respond quickly and effectively – while enhancing efficiency, interoperability and collaboration.  

4. More secure, efficient logistics and supply chains 

Defence agencies manage complex, mission-critical supply chains. When combined with mobility, analytics and advanced sensor technologies, cloud can vastly improve the efficiency and security of these processes, giving unprecedented control and visibility into the supply chain and reducing the risk of counterfeit goods and equipment.  

5. Enhanced situational awareness 

In the future, a blend of cloud, mobility and analytics will take situational awareness to a new level. Data will be collected, shared and accessed from a vast array of sources and devices, and fed into portable cloud ‘containers’ to support better-informed in-theatre decision making. Ultimately, this data can be used to help improve situational awareness for defence agencies, both at HQ and at satellite locations. 

6. Integrated global Identity and Access Management (I&AM) 

Adding advanced biometrics to the already powerful combination of cloud, mobility and analytics will enable defence agencies to automate and integrate identity and access management globally.  All defence forces are taking steps to ensure a federated identity and access management capability to enable trusted access to, and secure sharing of, information by personnel and partners across operational, support and business areas. The ability to verify someone’s identity in real-time from anywhere in the world will enhance speed and security in all forces and geographies. 

Realising potential in 2017 

Despite growing awareness of – and support for – cloud technologies, defence organisations are struggling to implement cloud solutions due to an array of challenges, including outdated IT systems, skills shortages and cumbersome procurement processes. But cloud’s massive potential in defence makes it imperative that defence agencies work to overcome such challenges.  

With different defence agencies at various stages of digital transformation, the industry’s overall cloud migration may take several years. But it will come, along with game-changing implications. Now is the time for organisations to start planning their digital journey – fuelled and energized by an understanding of the benefits that cloud offers and the important role it must play in creating the digital defence agency of the future. 

Janne Nurmi and Valtteri Vuorisalo, Accenture Defense Services