British Army’s First CTO to Drive its Technology Strategy

The British Army has appointed its first CTO to drive the organisation’s modernisation as it continues on its Project THEIA digital transformation journey

The British Army has announced that it has appointed its first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to drive the organisation’s digital transformation and modernisation.

As part of a commitment to modernisation under the Army’s Future Soldier initiative and working with industry to deliver capabilities for the increasingly digitalised battlefield, the British Army has announced David Williams OBE as its new CTO.

David Williams OBE has been appointed as the British Army's first ever CTO. Pic British Army/LinkedIn

With a diverse career history spanning 21 years of engineering leadership, from across industry within the civil engineering sector and across government, David has worked within the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), where he focused on understanding and developing technology solutions for how defence should operate in cyberspace.

The British Army’s digital transformation journey

In late 2020 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the Army’s intention to ‘double-down’ on embracing new technologies and enhancing operational facilities via a digitalisation programme called Project THEIA

According to the MoD, the aim of the project is to drive digital transformation in the British Army, enabling it to “outcompete adversaries, integrate with partners and operate with maximum efficiency”.

Digital transformation was forced upon the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Army was no exception. Speaking to Technology Magazine, Brigadier Stefan Crossfield, Head of Information Exploitation, Chief Data Officer and Principal AI Officer at the British Army, outlined how the organisation was able to drive admin activity online to improve processes for “our people. And that means they can get back to doing the job they want to do – the reason they joined the Army.”

THEIA aims to enable several advanced solutions, from artificial intelligence and machine learning to autonomy, quantum computing, augmented reality and analytics.

“We've got a lot of data out there to play with,” says Brig Crossfield. “If you begin to put it on a pedestal or in some way, treat it differently, I think we missed the point. Yes, it's the new oil, yes it's the new black gold. In an operational sense, helping commanders make the right decisions at the right time with the right amount of information is the way to win.”

THEIA’s Digitalisation Objectives
  • Change digital culture and behaviours, equipping our people with digital skills and promoting new digital ways of working
  • Integrate all information from command and control, intelligence, sensors, effectors and platforms across domains, partners and allies
  • Deliver better data and enabling and better operational and corporate competitiveness, efficiency and effectiveness

The organisation’s announcement of its first-ever CTO aims to drive the digital transformation and modernisation of the British Army.

“I am deeply honoured about the opportunity to grow and shape the CTO role and office as the first person in this position,” David says. “My previous experience has taught me that technology alone is not enough, technology is best when it brings people together.

“Through the Information Design Authority, our focus is on developing ways of working essential to integrate digital technology across the Army to ensure we execute our strategic intent.”

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