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BAE Systems Digital Intelligence Reveals 97% of UK Government, Defence and Aerospace Organisations Face Barriers to Achieving Digital Advantage

  • New research highlights the urgent need for organisations operating in three of the UK’s ‘high trust’ sectors - aerospace, defence and government - to gain digital advantage
  • 85% of senior decision-makers say digital capability is key to mitigating increased threats from adversaries, while increasing innovation, but almost all (97%) face barriers to gaining the digital advantage required
  • Over two-thirds say they need to ‘completely overhaul’ or ‘significantly improve’ their security savviness or ability to innovate

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 4, 2022-- Achieving a digital advantage is more important than ever, with factors including climate change, the COVID-19 crisis and Brexit accelerating digital strategies. This is one of the findings in a new report, published today, by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, which has found that digital advantage is critical to protecting UK society and maintaining the public’s trust.

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Story in Numbers (Graphic: Business Wire)

Story in Numbers (Graphic: Business Wire)

The report, Unlocking Digital Advantage in High Trust Sectors, looked at the challenges faced by over 120 senior IT and business decision-makers within the UK’s aerospace, government and defence organisations when it comes to using technology to gain an advantage.

‘Digital advantage’: not a nice to have, but essential for the protection and advancement of UK society

For high trust organisations, having a digital advantage is seen as mission critical to protecting UK society and maintaining the public’s trust in today’s landscape. The research found that the vast majority (85%) of decision-makers see digital capability as key.

James Hatch, Chief Digital Officer, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence commented: “High trust organisations are responsible for handling the country’s most sensitive and secret data, delivering services to citizens and safeguarding democracy. Society fundamentally needs, and expects, to be able to have faith in these organisations. They therefore have the double challenge of accelerating their digital advantage while continuing to deliver critical value to society reliably and responsibly.”

Respondents also highlighted the consequences of not having a digital advantage, citing an increased threat from adversaries, slower innovation and a reduced ability to protect and serve democracy as potential severe societal impacts.

Lifting the lid on digital barriers for government, defence and aerospace

However, almost all (97%) are facing significant people, technology and data barriers when it comes to achieving the digital advantage required today.

These include:

  • Organisations are struggling to attract and retain talent, facing a number of external obstacles. Decision-makers said the Great Resignation (38%), changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic (36%) and changes to working patterns (36%) are key threats facing their organisation.
  • There is a lack of confidence around current digital capabilities. For example, over two-thirds (70%) of respondents said they need to ‘completely overhaul’ or ‘significantly improve’ their ability to innovate, their agility (68%) and their security savviness (67%).
  • Nearly half (46%) of decision-makers dealing with secret or top secret data, said the nature of this highly sensitive information makes it harder to advance their digital capabilities.
  • Over half (53%) of respondents said that using data ineffectively would prevent their ability to solve challenges within society.
  • A third (33%) cited more sophisticated threats from external vectors / enemy states as a key data barrier preventing them from becoming more digitally mature.

Air Commodore Julian Ball OBE, Head of Defence Space Capability, at the UK Ministry of Defencesaid: “A major barrier today is when people look to deliver digital transformation, they still default to thinking about the hardware first. In the space context, everyone will straight away start talking about how we can optimise the satellite. But it’s not about the hardware, it’s about the data that runs behind it.

“What I’m interested in is how we can get the information from the satellite to the ground and the end user safely and securely. We therefore need to optimise the data management layer first before we start thinking about developing sensors or getting the ship into space. Satellites are useless if the data isn’t doing its job. It’s the ability to use and understand the data in a meaningful way that will deliver digital advantage.”

Sneha Dawda, Research Fellow in Cybersecurity and Cyber Threats, RUSI said:“Governments have traditionally struggled with a lack of digital agility and a large amount of bureaucratic processes that slow down innovation. Disjointed procurement has been another challenge, whereby different departments speak to different people and use different technology which not only slows down innovation but can also lead to cybersecurity issues. There needs to be a degree of centralised management to accurately calculate and manage cyber risks.”

Higher stakes but higher rewards

Despite the many challenges to achieving digital maturity, 83% of respondents agree the reward in doing so is worth it.

Hatch concludes: “For high trust sectors, the stakes for unlocking digital advantage are higher, but so are the rewards. If we collaborate as an industry, the future will host a richer and safer society and the UK will have an increased global influence, across defence, technology and science, and cybersecurity.”

To read more about the solutions, download the report today:


Note to editors – Further notable findings:

  • For many (55%) of the respondents surveyed, having an advantage aligned directly with agility, namely having the ability to quickly and easily change processes to keep up with advances in today’s connected world. Other potential outcomes include:
    • Accelerating innovation and transformation (48%)
    • Meeting and exceeding organisational goals (45%)
    • Ensuring seamless delivery of essential services (45%)
    • Staying ahead of the adversary (35%)
  • 51% of decision-makers said that data breaches were the biggest threat facing their organisation.
  • Over half (52%) of respondents cited climate change as a geopolitical factor which has caused them to accelerate or attempt to accelerate their digital strategies over the last 12 months.
  • Adopting a digital culture that employees are on-board with was highlighted as the top people roadblock (36%); followed by attracting STEM talent (34%); the ability to implement a hybrid working model (33%); and finding DevOps employees that work in a secure way (33%).
  • Sector-specific barriers include:
    • Aerospace respondents are more likely to cite new systems being incompatible with legacy systems (49%) and being unable to easily move data from one environment to another (44%) as barriers to digital maturity.
    • Government respondents are more likely to cite the ability to implement a hybrid working model (43%) and a lack of diversity when it comes to recruiting STEM talent (33%) as key challenges.
    • Almost a third of defence respondents (32%) said concerns over the security of new technology were preventing digital transformation.

Methodology: This research commissioned for this report was led by independent market research agency Vanson Bourne on behalf of BAE Systems Digital Intelligence. The study, which was in the field between May - June, 2022, surveyed 120 senior IT and business decision-makers from organisations with 1,000 employees within the aerospace, defence and government sectors.

All interviews were conducted using a rigorous multi-level screening process to ensure that only suitable candidates were given the opportunity to participate.

About BAE Systems Digital Intelligence: BAE Systems Digital Intelligence is home to 4,800 digital, cyber and intelligence experts. We work collaboratively across 16 countries to collect, connect and understand complex data, so that governments, nation states, armed forces and commercial businesses can unlock digital advantage in the most demanding environments. Launched in 2022,

Digital Intelligence is part of BAE Systems, and has a rich heritage in helping to defend nations and businesses around the world from advanced threats.

Issued by:
BAE Systems plc
Media hotline: +44 (0) 7801 717739
Ref: 111/2022.

For further information, please contact:
Charlotte Marshall, BAE Systems,
Charlotte Kelly, Clarity, +44 7891 496946,

Source: BAE Systems