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Baseball and Defence

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Artificial Intelligence, Data

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

Our Head of Data 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. They looked 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, the Data, Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Digital team met with people from industry to brief them on our recently published Defence Data Management Strategy and how it mapped out our plans to move Defence towards managing our data as a strategic asset.

Our vision is to create a Defence Data Environment (DDE) and a culture that delivers timely, accurate and trustworthy data, managed by subject matter experts and accessible to all who have a right to use it. This will be 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
  • authoritative data sources, owned and managed by teams capable of producing and maintaining data of sufficient quality
  • simplified data sharing, improved data quality, stronger accountabilities and responsibilities for data and the acceleration of the establishment of common standards
An image showing the shape a lock surrounded by 1s and 0s
More effective use of data, information and the systems that manage and process data are vital enablers of both operational advantage and business transformation.

So how are we going to achieve this? The strategy has 3 components:

  1. data management
  2. behaviours and upskilling our people
  3. leveraging game-changing technologies

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 insights
  • Data is managed through life, meaning that at 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 considered when making decisions.
  • Our data is visible and accessible through pan defence data and application programming interface catalogues.
  • People have the knowledge and skills to manage and use Defence data. We have adopted Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBOK) as our Data Management standard.

Our Data Service Provider and Catalogue approach 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 and also enables us to secure our data while providing access where needed.

How will we change behaviours and deliver upskilling?

As part of our data management strategy, we have established the Digital and Data Academy. This is 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.


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


We have built a single area 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, Artificial Intelligence 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 siloed as defence. The marketplace allows an individual to offer their services for an agreed period of time. Teams who have a skills shortage can explore the portal for short term skilled resource. This model 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 data management 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.

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