UNLEASH editor Jon Kennard talks to Lt Cdr Morgan ‘Mogsy’ Long about the Royal Navy’s journey through digital transformation. What are the challenges in an organization where turnover is low and people have careers typically lasting 20 years? This question and more are discussed in the latest UNLEASHcast interview.
We join the conversation as Mogsy talks about the distant past of the Royal Navy…
Morgan Long: The Navy’s got a long, prestigious history ranging back to all the way back to the 1200s. And over the last 100 years we’ve been through a transformational journey from initially, lots of metal, lots of steel, lots of chips, some communication systems, some networks, some digital iterative transformation, and that’s really catalyzed moving us forward.
So the Navy, when we look at some of the outputs for overseas territories, we’re talking about on-the-sea presence. We’re talking about ships, submarines. As you can imagine, we’re quite good at moving forward technologically with different sensors, different arrays, different weapon systems. We’re pushing hard on type 26 frigates to come out in the near future, and others, which will enable us to have greater technologies.
I think the difficulty we’ve got is that will push us forward from a process perspective but how do we bring people on that journey with with us?
How do we transform our people to become more technologically savvy, more data driven, better upskilled in some of those areas?
Jon Kennard: I’ve asked this question of other people who are going through similar things in their organizations, but… was there a moment that drove you to make this change, or the sudden realization of the need to go digital?
ML: I don’t think it was a specific incident. I think if you look at current world affairs, we know that there are external threats across the globe, which have chosen to look at more invasive technological advances around cyber and cybersecurity that goes with it, and some attacks that are widely known in the media.
Ultimately, I think that has driven us…I’m pushing 19 years now in the Navy, and in my time, the first ships I served on we didn’t really think about anything digital or transformationally from a technology perspective, apart from weapons systems and sensors. Whereas, we’re in a very different space now, where we’re looking at the hybrid warfare side of things rather than just peer-on-peer aggressor, which is far less nowadays.
JK: An organization that is established as the Navy – what can it offer that other industries can’t in terms of digital upskilling? It’s obviously one of these rare employers that offers long-term prospects and a stable job. But how, in terms of upskilling, reskilling and the skills agenda, what can the defense industry offer?
ML: I think I’ll answer that in two sections; one, which is around how we invest in our people. So we’re talking digital transformation in the wide at the moment. If I go back to US aircraft pilot, John Boyd, who famously talked about people processes and technology in that order. And I think the Navy is getting after that.
We are really trying to embrace that, we know that new technologies are coming, we know the processes and the working mechanisms that will come with that.
What we are heavily investing in at the moment and trying to get at is how do our people understand data.
To give you an example, the first time I served on a ship we were recording some information on spreadsheets, and ultimately, at the end of that operation, we might push that spreadsheet into a post-operational report. We’re in a position nowadays where we are absorbing data from a multitude of sources; whether that’s aircraft data, whether it’s engineering data, all the way through to some of the more really technologically advanced sensor arrays and data exploration that we’re doing in conjunction with known quantity datasets – so big data really – and how we’re plugging into that to provide insights into the future.
So we provide a unique opportunity, I think, in that if you are a data scientist interested in crunching data and building models and providing insights that will change the tide of conflicts or change the tide in how we are approaching new aircraft carriers of the future, then the Navy provides an opportunity which you just don’t get in industry at the moment…
For the full conversation, listen above…
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