DI’13: Secure Collaboration across Team Defence

Crowd | Defence Contracts InternationalEach year, an open two-day defence information conference and forum hosted by the UK Council for Electronic Business attracts participation from a range of individuals and organisations across Team Defence, including a strong presence from the MOD. Here, UKCeB outlines the main themes of the forthcoming Valuing Information as an Asset and Secure Collaboration event. 

The format for Defence Information 2013 (DI’13), jointly presented by the UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB) and Cranfield University at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham on 17 and 18 April, combines interactive panels, keynote speakers, case studies and a Good Practice Market Place featuring competition finalists for the annual UKCeB Excellence Award for joint MOD/industry collaboration projects.

Valuable context will be provided in keynote talks from industry and defence leaders.  Keynote speakers include Nigel Whitehead, BAE Systems Group Managing Director, Programmes and Support and UKCeB Chairman, who will present his views on the business drivers that impact the need to value information as an asset and to develop secure information-sharing capabilities, with an assessment of how UKCeB is responding to these challenges. 

MOD keynote topics will include the value of quality information to enable good decision-making, especially in regard to logistics and inventory management; the role of industry as both a user of information and a supplier of solutions, in the context of DCNS (the MOD Information and Communications Services (ICS) Acquisition Change Programme); and a vision from the new MOD Chief Technical Officer (CTO). Presenters include Air Vice Marshal Graham Howard ACDS Log Ops, Air Commodore Mark Neal CTO and Commodore Jamie Hay, DES ISS Progs-Hd. 

The implications of a range of pan-government changes will be debated, including G-Cloud, the Public Service Network (PSN), the Citizens Agenda involving Identity and Access Management (IdAM), and the Security Classification Review. The latter will be the subject of a keynote address by Michael Brennan, Deputy Director, Government Security Secretariat (Cabinet Office). Other topics include Cyber Security Strategy and the critical role of Data Management with lead input from Simon Ricketts, Chief Information Officer, Rolls-Royce plc.

Key themes of interest for attending delegates will include: Value of Information and the Data Quality Assessment Tool; Contracting for Information and Information Value Chain Analysis; Information Management (IM) Professional Skills; Transforming Information Services with perspectives from the MOD Logistics Network Enterprise Capability (Log NEC) Delivery Partner; Cyber Security Management and improving Secure Information Sharing (SIS) capabilities – joint work that includes Team Defence user requirements; SIS taxonomy; and IdAM.  

Also, a dozen defence Digital Natives (employees in their twenties who have grown up with technology) will share their future perspectives on ‘Collaboration 2020’ during the event.

Working together securely and successfully across Team Defence is the common purpose at this joint MOD/industry event, highlighting how information is a key enabler for improved effectiveness, agility, efficiency and compliance in the defence enterprise.

Careful how you say that! – STE brings efficiency savings and helps avoid damaging costs

DCO Maria MacDonald is an experienced translator and qualified trainer of Simplified Technical English, or STE. She is the UK National Coordinator for STE and a member of the STE Maintenance Group for the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) and provides STE training within UKCeB. Here, Ms MacDonald explains why it pays to choose your words carefully when creating product and maintenance documentation. 

User and maintenance manuals written in Simplified Technical English (STE) will be in use for decades, for example on sophisticated defence equipment. Benefits include savings from reusability and the avoidance of financial and reputational costs arising from accidents and malpractices that may have ambiguous documentation as a factor. Consider this: most of the lifetime of an aircraft is spent flying and being maintained. So, after the aeronautical designers, engineers and constructors have done their job, the maintenance crews take over, keeping aircraft reliably airborne over many years, using and updating documentation. The equivalent happens for land and sea equipments.

Clear technical documentation, which includes user and maintenance manuals, instructions, service bulletins, warnings and cautions, is crucial. It must be accurate, unambiguous and intelligible. To achieve this, a specialised ‘controlled’ language – Simplified Technical English – is necessary. STE is the international lingua franca for documentation and there is an international standard for it.

ASD-STE100 is the ‘international specification for the preparation of maintenance documentation in a controlled language’ and the basis for STE. Initially developed to standardise the readability of maintenance documentation in the aircraft industry, ASD-STE100 is widely used across manufacturing sectors involving not only aerospace but other global products and services such as automotive, rail and marine.

Technical staff who have English as their second (or third) language face challenges when they have to read or write technical documentation. This is often underestimated by native and fluent English speakers. The principle for STE is one word for one function, procedure or object. There are rules to guide the writing process, explanations of how to use keywords and approved examples.  

The STE versions combine simpler sentence structures, the active voice and precision in the use of a ‘controlled’ vocabulary that avoids ambiguous words and phrases. 

What are the benefits of STE? Accidents, malfunctions and costly damage can often be traced back to faulty maintenance, which in turn may result from misinterpretation of ambiguous and unclear instructions. Documentation produced and updated to the ASD-STE100 specification reduces the chances of human error in both manufacture and maintenance and thereby prevents risks of injury. It also avoids damaging financial and reputational costs. STE saves time and costs as it facilitates reusability and data exchange.

So, control your language!

Interoperability in aerospace and defence

UKCeB | MOD DCOHoward Mason, Co-Chair UKCeB Joint Information Standards Co-Ordination Team (JISCOT) and Corporate Information Standards Manager, Office of the CIO, BAE Systems, write exclusively for MOD DCB, outlining how interoperability in aerospace and defence will continue to deliver efficient and effective solutions for Team Defence.

The global aerospace and defence (A&D) industry is often associated with companies such as Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce. In reality though, the A&D industry comprises a complex global network of thousands of suppliers with a typical supplier being a small or medium-sized enterprise with fewer than 100 staff. 

The supplier network depends increasingly on the use of information in electronic form: for the design process, manufacturing, financial transactions and the essential flows of data required to keep products in full working order throughout operational life-spans that are often measured in decades.

Different organisations use different combinations of software that, in turn, evolve on a much shorter timescale than the products the information describes. Companies serving many international A&D customers can, therefore, be faced with handling information in multiple proprietary formats. This can require them to have numerous software systems to mirror those of their customers, with associated on-costs for purchase and training; or, they may have to acquire and validate multiple ‘translation’ tools.   

Fortunately, there is a powerful and efficient alternative – information standards. The challenge is to select the most appropriate standards from the range of organisations that develop them at national, regional and global levels. The UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB) provides a forum to help companies in this regard.

Worldwide, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) in theUSand the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) represent both large and small companies. They have progressively expanded the scope of their collaboration to harmonise recommendations on standards. For example, the AIA and ASD now use a common method for preparing recommendations (Figure 1) that relies on establishing a business-level understanding of an interoperability requirement. Typically, this comprises several processes and associated information flows between participating organisations, along with business constraints such as contractual, security or operational matters that need to be factored in.

The resulting requirement can be matched to standardised processes, information standards, IT services and other components adopted by the industry to provide a standards-based recommendation for a solution. Recommendations are subjected to thorough review through trade associations and are published on relevant websites. Selected standards are often accompanied by expert guidance on how they should be used in designing, implementing and operating the solution.  

Within the ASD, initiatives are tracked on a simple radar screen graphic comprising three concentric bands showing relative status. The outermost tracks initiatives of emerging relevance. Blips in the middle ring represent candidate standards relevant to the A&D industry. Following formal adoption, these are shown within the innermost circle.  

The shared approach to interoperability in A&D has proved to be efficient in delivering effective solutions. Although the results are not binding on individual companies, published best practice guides help companies to make the most efficient choices in achieving interoperability.

For more information on how the UKCeB is proactively supporting interoperability in A&D, visit www.ukceb.org