The Ministry of Defence (MOD) Defence Information Services Team (DIST) is responsible for the quality and continuity of information infrastructure and applications available on 180,000 devices around the globe. It serves the needs of more than
300,000 MOD user accounts. Reliability and availability of core applications is critical, because users are often based in remote areas and work in difficult conditions. The MOD has been working with Application Development Managers (ADMs) from Microsoft Services
Premier Support for Developers (PSfD) to establish and enhance the processes, guidelines and capabilities for developing and testing applications across the MOD. Throughout the engagement, the ADMs have quickly proven their ability to deliver measurable value
to the MOD through both reactive and proactive delivery.
Continuity is critical for the MOD Defence Information Services Team (DIST). The MOD information infrastructure is spread across the globe, and the numerous applications it hosts need to be available and reliable for more than 300,000 user accounts, often
in remote and inhospitable locations. The MOD has a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for Volume Licensing, giving low-cost access to Microsoft software. However, while the MOD Defence Information Infrastructure (DII)—which has a unique configuration and features—is
based on Microsoft platforms, other parts of MOD around the World use applications from numerous different software vendors. These all need to adhere to the functional requirements of the MOD.
In 2012, Doug Banks, Service Delivery Manager for the MOD Microsoft Services engagement, was part of the team that took over responsibility for the support of applications on the MOD infrastructure. Mr Banks had a long-standing relationship with Microsoft
through Microsoft Services Premier Support, and a conversation with his Technical Account Manager (TAM) made him aware of the company’s services for application developers. “Discussing our need to support applications with our TAM led to an introduction to
one of Microsoft’s Application Development Managers. What became immediately apparent were Microsoft’s capabilities not only in supporting its own applications, as one would expect, but also in being able to provide broader expertise working with other vendors’
applications. This combination is critical for the MOD,” he says.
||“The Application Development Managers have my complete trust. The quality of their work is never in question, and I’m entirely confident that they positively represent the DIST team throughout the MOD.”
| Doug Banks,
Microsoft Service Delivery Manager
and ADA Risk Practitioner, Ministry of Defence
The relationship between the MOD and PSfD started at a relatively modest level, with DIST employing a part-time ADM to assist on a reactive basis. Quickly, however, the ADM’s understanding of MOD requirements, allied to their awareness of the Microsoft technology
roadmap, resulted in a far more proactive role. “We can’t afford to deploy an application anywhere to find out that it doesn’t work or is unreliable,” says Mr Banks. “In many ways, our role is about de-risking the development and deployment of future applications,
and getting insight into where Microsoft is heading with its platform is essential in doing that. Our ADMs continually propose ways in which we can plan and prepare ourselves and our internal customers for future developments.”
Shortly after beginning work with the MOD, Microsoft reviewed and proposed the updating of MOD Development Guidelines, provided to all developers supplying applications to the MOD. This is an essential document in ensuring that applications are built to
specification, reducing the time involved in testing and, ultimately, leading to more rapid and successful deployment.
Microsoft also created and hosted a “developing secure applications” day for stakeholders from a number of agencies across the MOD, encouraging the sharing of knowledge, best practice and communication. Mr Banks says: “The workshop was fantastic. Getting
the people in the room talking together and the invaluable content delivered, has led to tangible benefits across the MOD.”
One of the most significant initiatives created as part of the relationship between Microsoft Services PSfD and the MOD has been the creation of the Application Compatibility Environment (ACE). Located at the Microsoft UK head office in Reading, ACE is a
testing environment that replicates the unique MOD information infrastructure. Dave Neale, Head of Applications Governance at the MOD, works closely with Microsoft on ACE. “It is essential that we know that every application we deploy will work on the infrastructure
in both its current and future form, and we can’t afford to risk live deployment until we’re certain of compatibility. This is exactly what ACE delivers—a high degree of certainty that any application will work, or early notification of any development that’s
required. Not only has ACE allowed us to de-risk application deployment, but it’s also helped save time, resources, and money,” he says.
ACE is available as a resource to any internal MOD customer and any developer of applications for the MOD. First-hand exposure to ACE has brought additional benefits, as Mr Neale says: “The ability to give access to the MOD information infrastructure has
allowed our internal customers and application vendors to increase their own knowledge and de-risk deployment onto the infrastructure.”
The MOD is transforming its work style to make significant cost and efficiency savings through its partnership with Microsoft Services PSfD.
Instant Access to ADM Expertise and Knowledge
As well as their visibility of the Microsoft product and platform roadmap, the ADMs embedded in the MOD are also able to influence product development. Mr Banks says: “We’ve had occasion where the relationships our ADMs have with the product development
teams in Seattle have allowed us to shape the development of new products prior to their launch. This means that they have stayed within MOD operational capabilities across the globe and in all environments, which is really valuable. It’s fantastic access
and represents the true nature of the partnership between the two organisations.”
Partnership Gains Collaborative Working Recognition
The partnership has been so successful that the MOD and Microsoft have achieved the British Standard 11000 for collaborative business relationships, an award given to organisations that develop and manage their own approaches to working with other
organisations more effectively.
Reduced Downtime, Significant Cost Savings
The MOD is under the same pressure as any UK Government department to demonstrate value from budget spend and deliver savings wherever possible. The MOD has worked with Microsoft to build a value model into which each proposed task or initiative is
inputted and measured, and then reviewed by an MOD finance specialist. Mr Banks expands on the value model. “While we’re obviously under pressure to deliver savings, the value model also allows us to build in softer factors, such as the customer experience
and team morale. For instance, it’s amazing how much morale can be improved by something as simple as a reduced logon time.”
Substantial ROI Savings
Since the creation of the value model and the evaluation of all initiatives, the return on investment has consistently been between three to one and four to one in cost savings and efficiencies.
Growth and Engagement within the Team
Microsoft ADMs, regularly working on-site at the MOD, are not only seen as representing the DIST team, but also act as the face of Microsoft within the MOD, both vital roles for Mr Banks and Microsoft. As he explains: “I have regular meetings with
the Microsoft UK management team to discuss the performance of the Microsoft engagement and make sure that the relationship is working for both parties. I’m keen that any Microsoft employee engaged in the contract with the MOD feels that they’re developing
personally and that it represents a step forward in their own career. In doing that, I feel I get the most motivated team, which delivers results. Hopefully, they also enjoy their work here.”
A Strong Partnership for theFuture
Mr Banks sees the partnership between MOD and Microsoft Services Premier Support for Developers continuing into the future. “From a single conversation with the TAM, it quickly became apparent that the ADMs could provide an important capability for
the MOD. In many ways, they were the final piece in the Microsoft ‘jigsaw’. Certainly the service the Microsoft ADMs provide today is fuller than we originally envisioned, and it will continue to grow into the future,” he says.
For More Information
For more information about Ministry of Defence products and services, visit the website at: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-defence
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