The end of the year is a chance to take stock. To consider the year gone by and reflect on what might come next. Here, we sit down with a selection of leaders from across BAE Systems Applied Intelligence to hear their thoughts on the past 12 months.
What has surprised them and which issues have shaped their priorities and impact? Here’s their take on 2019…
Holly Armitage, Head of Data Services
2019 has seen data ethics turn from a niche, academic subject into tabloid news.
That data ethics can hold its own against celebrity drama and escapades in the mainstream media is testament to increased digital literacy or an indication of how low – in certain industries – analytical practices have sunk.
As a consequence, we have seen (and heard) a more spirited discussion as organisations debate their data-related values. Organisations are waking up to the fact that data ethics is so much more than tick-box compliance exercise, and the ability to take a values-driven approach provides a new form of intelligence advantage for the digital age.
Andy Lethbridge, Head of Central Government Consulting
Central government has, as ever, been an interesting place in 2019 but it was the middle of the year that saw perhaps the biggest realisation that digital transformation isn’t just about shiny new websites. There is now greater focus on the back-end legacy systems on which so much of our society depends.
This presents an interesting and huge challenge for the public sector. It requires a more fundamental look at not only IT systems, but enterprise wide transformation; from the operating model, into budgeting, forecasting and exploiting different delivery approaches. Next year will see two speed and even three speed IT become common topics at the discussion table.
Mivy James, Head of Consulting for National Security
2019 is the year when large and mature organisations really committed to Agile working and digital transformation and all that it means. In other words, they are not stopping with teams of coders but beginning to extend Agile principles and deliver transformed leadership across their enterprises.
It has also been the year when diversity is no longer seen as a “nice to have”. Organisations increasingly realise the error in well-intended initiatives that look like attempts to “fix the women” and understand that major investors will no longer fund businesses led by non-diverse teams.
Charles Newhouse, Global Consulting Director
2019 has been the year of the quiet revolution for blockchain.
Driven by a constant stream of news relating to crypto currencies, blockchain has had a difficult year from a PR perspective. But cryptocurrency is only part of the story. Whilst we have been distracted with volatility and scandal, the technology sector has been finding an astonishing number of new ways to use the distributed ledger technology to solve real-world problems. With over 1,100 new blockchain related patents granted in the first eight months of 2019, expect to see a whole raft of blockchain-enabled solutions in 2020 and beyond.
However, the technology community is going to have to address the power problem. The amount of power required to maintain BitCoin already exceeds the power consumed by Switzerland. In an era of growing environmental awareness, blockchain is going to have to get much more efficient or rapidly become the next eco pariah.
Lorna Rea, Account Manager, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
2019 was the year marking a return from maternity leave for me – I was looking forward to it and it hasn’t disappointed.
I have returned to our Foreign and Commonwealth Office Account where I started out ten years ago. I knew it would be challenging – but the interesting side of it is accessing senior clients. Long-serving diplomats always have an interesting story or two and the good news is that we are really well placed to help them resolve their challenges.
Clients are asking us to be creative in the data space so we have been talking about data landscape maps, procurement success analysis, Gov Reveal and, of course, the catchy phrase ‘Pseudonymisation’ (which is about retaining meaningful relationships between data sets but anonymising the data). I look forward to continuing my FCO adventures in 2020. Bring on serverless tech!
Professor Roberto Desimone, Manager, Strategic Innovation (Disruptive Technologies)
2019 has been a seminal year for disruptive technologies, not only in landmark achievements but also in establishing government institutions for overseeing the rollout of artificial intelligence (AI) across society.
Google announced they had shown how a 53 qubit quantum computer has solved in 200 seconds a mathematical problem that would take over 10,000 years on the fastest supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Labs in the US. This is the first example of quantum supremacy, albeit on an esoteric mathematical problem. Expect more announcements over the next few years showing how quantum computing will disrupt new markets.
And finally, the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport established the Office of AI and Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. It will be interesting to see if it manages to achieve its aim of AI enhancing economic development in a manner that does not compromise ethics or impact jobs.
Mark Rayner, Head of Consulting for Financial Services
2019 has been a year for intelligence.
In cyber, threat intelligence has come of age as banks and insurers put a much greater focus on being threat-led. This has been driven by the continued roll-out of CBEST and similar schemes and we’re now seeing financial institutions basing their cyber transformation programmes on a real understanding of the threat landscape. More broadly, regulators are looking holistically at risk and promoting the operational resilience of financial market infrastructures across a range of risk scenarios.
The adoption of machine learning is helping banks to intelligently fight financial crime whilst also returning bottom line savings. There’s much more to do in developing an end-to-end analytics eco-system but the direction of travel is clear. Finally, financial institutions are also becoming more intelligent in delivering change. Engineering teams are moving beyond agile to leverage automation through dev ops, whilst leadership teams are adopting agile practices in their core ways of working.
One change that’s yet to have a transformational impact is Open Banking but, with the foundations now in place, this is one to watch in 2020.
Samantha Neath, Interoperability and Secure Solutions Sales Lead and Co-Chair OutLinkUK
The defence industry needs to diversify. They know it, we know it. But how do they do it? That’s not a question we can answer for the whole industry. But what we can do is try and make BAE Systems more a diverse and inclusive workplace.
The good news is that 2019 has been a great year for D&I at our organisation. We’ve had a new Head of D&I join; it’s been discussed by the Executive Committee; we’ve given back to LGBTQ+ communities by sponsoring Pride events; and a new framework for Employee Resource Groups has been launched. It’s been truly amazing to see this change happening. But unfortunately it’s still not enough.
Our company, like the industry as a whole, is still largely made up of white, male and able-bodied people. Change won’t happen overnight, but we need to make sure that our door is open to everyone and that all people will be accepted and celebrated.
Ravi Gogna, Principal Consultant
For me, 2019 has been a year to deal with the giant elephant of the EU-exit. While the majority of the work we do isn’t explicitly related, what’s been both personally interesting and professionally challenging is seeing our clients’ headspace get filled up by the ripple effects of ramping up No-Deal activities twice this year.
I’ve also been hugely impressed by the scale and volume of innovation going on across the public sector. I think this will be a challenge for us over the years to come, as we will have to work hard to articulate our value when our clients are actively recruiting and nurturing data analysts, scientists and engineers of their own.
Alex Richards, Head of Data and Digital
2019 was the year artificial intelligence went mainstream. Organisations of all shapes and sizes are building capability to capitalise on the tools and computing power now available through the major cloud providers in particular.
However, it also brought to the fore the inherent challenges in the adoption of AI. The two most significant are the quality and appropriateness of the data being used to build, train and feed AI solutions, but also the ethical and auditability considerations that are only just starting to test the boundaries of existing experience. It will be fascinating to see how these issues develop over the course of 2020.
Sandy Boxall, Account Director
2019 has seen ever increasing levels of geo-political uncertainty. Combined with the perpetually evolving face of technology, the threats and challenges faced by the Ministry of Defence have increased and become more varied. As ever, more must be done with less to counter these developments.
We are seeing an increase of Ministry of Defence procurements towards higher tech projects and the rise of digitisation and projects run on Agile models – customers are recognising that the old ways of doing things are simply too slow and too inefficient.
For us, the prime example is Programme Nelson, the Navy’s effort to embrace digitalisation. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to take a leading role and have seen our team balloon from an initial two to the 50 odd we have now. The work we’re doing is just the tip of the iceberg and we’re at the start of something very exciting. It’s been a privilege to be involved so far and 2020 could be the best year yet.
Dylan Langley, Home Affairs and Justice Engagement Lead
This was the year that a litany of large outsourced Home Office IT services were scheduled to come to an end. In 2014, I promised myself I would sit and watch 2 Marsham Street on 31st March 2019. Sure enough I did, and sure enough those contracts and services are still ongoing.
However, after five years of large programmes and application building the Home Office is starting to get these new services live and are looking to reduce their range of suppliers and ask more from them across their portfolios. We are well placed going into 2020 as we now support live service applications, advise on their key strategic programmes and are building their key analytics capability.
Gary Kalish, Senior Financial Crime Prevention Analyst
The focus on financial institutions requirements to mitigate financial crime risk has continued to remain a big focus, as seen with yet another Laundromat scandal making the headlines.
One of the bigger pieces that was published in the year by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority was its thematic review looking at understanding the money laundering risks and vulnerabilities within the capital markets space. Although not new, it has reinvigorated focus on the risks itself as well as some of the connections with other risks faced within the capital markets space, such as market abuse.
Another big, positive move, this year was the FATF’s announcement to prioritise the development of good practices in tackling the financial flows associated to illegal wildlife trade.
I expect to see greater focus towards both these elements and more as we move into 2020 in the fight to disrupt the movement of criminal proceeds.
Orsi Patterson, Lead Business Analyst – Defence
Many organisations talk about transformation. Some start it but very few seriously commit to it – unlike the Royal Navy. In 2018 it appointed its first CTO to start educating the organisation about the transformative power of Agile ways of working.
As we now know, that was just the very start of the Royal Navy’s transformation journey into which they have seriously invested in 2019. This was an unprecedented investment and I don’t mean in terms of funding but the sheer top to bottom and bottom up support that galvanised the entire organisation to start its change programme. I am eternally grateful to be part of the BAE Systems team on part of this journey via Programme Nelson and NavyX.
For the next year, I predict that the Royal Navy will become the poster-child for how to do transformation in defence and with leading contractors. It will have a much improved relationship with both large and small enterprises rooted in modern working practices and a re-affirmed purpose of delivering world class defence.
Hannah Green, Head of Data Platform for Programme Nelson
2019 saw the Royal Navy’s new First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin announce his five priorities. The particularly exciting one for us is “putting technology at the heart of the fleet”, and this came alongside a challenge to Programme Nelson to “Go Faster”. It is incredibly exciting to see the industry publicly embrace technology and commit to pushing forward, whilst acknowledging there are challenges to be overcome in the process.
For us, this means there is work to do! We have achieved so much helping the Royal Navy with their goals this year, hitting some major milestones like deploying to sea for the first time. I am proud of the way everyone – military, civil service, civilians – have pulled together into “One Team Nelson” to deliver and consider our success a testament to what a great team with ambition can do.
So on to “Going Faster” next year!
Maya Kolaska, Principal Consultant
2019 has been all about data. Across government I’ve seen a much greater appetite for sharing data, balanced with improved awareness of the importance of data governance. With intense media coverage of when organisations have got it wrong, along with legislative changes such as GDPR, government agencies are coming under increased scrutiny about what information they hold on individuals and what they are doing with that information.
Whilst many government organisations have ambitious plans with regards to using data to make their organisations more efficient and more effective, the cultural shift and gap in data literacy should not be overlooked and will indeed be a key focus of the next few years.
Anna Whitmore, Senior Consultant
2019 has seen a rise in the awareness and demand for change management. Historically business change has been regarded as ‘nice to have’ and would often be considered after go-live in many technology programmes. Across government I have seen a large shift in the appetite for business change this year, understanding the importance of the function to realise early benefits of delivery as well as ensuring the greatest Return on Investment.
Partnered with the increased availability and awareness of professional change management accreditations, change management is no longer a nice addition but is now a must for successful technology programmes across our industry.
Nick Rhodes, Privacy and Trust Capability Lead
2019 has been the year of GDPR implications – potential fines have materialised and organisations are increasingly aware of their accountability obligations (such as privacy by design) and transparency expectations (such as artificial intelligence explainability) to build trust.
2020, I believe, will see increasing convergence between the digital and physical (including social media and the Internet of Things). There will also be regulatory harmonisation, ethics and substance (such as guide rails for machine learning) and a growing realisation that surveillance capitalism risks unbalancing societal norms without the “mid-course correction” that Tim Berners-Lee and others are calling for.