CGI: spearheading agile defence procurement

CGI: spearheading agile defence procurement


Fresh from CGI’s recent UK Space Operations Centre contract announcement,  caught up with MOD DCB features editor Julie Shennan to share some best practice tips on agile defence procurement and working with the Ministry of Defence.

Leading information technology firm CGI announced an important contract award earlier this month at Farnborough International Airshow, where the company revealed it had been selected by the Ministry of Defence to develop a transformation roadmap for the UK Space Operations Centre (UK SpOC).

Neil Timms, Vice President Defence, UK explained the background to CGI’s involvement in the UK defence sector and how that led to him joining the company.

He said: “CGI started working in the defence sector over 40 years ago. The UK defence side of the business stems from its Logica acquisition and it was through this acquisition that I joined the company.”

Since then CGI has worked on a vast range of MOD projects, including over 35 of the Department’s current programmes. CGI’s UK defence programmes range from back-office infrastructure to defence medical applications and fire control for artillery systems.

Mr Timms added: “As well as Defence, Space and Cyber are also big areas here at CGI; there are well over 1000 people that work in them in the UK and over 4500 worldwide. I am part of the CGI business unit that looks after Space, Defence, National and Cyber Security.”

This business unit will be employing its cross-domain experience, working closely with the MOD to transform the roadmap for the UK Space Operations Centre. The project will see CGI identify the roles and responsibilities of UK SpOC’s future space analysts, as well creating a technical plan to enhance the MOD’s space capabilities.

Mr Timms explained: “Just now CGI and the MOD are at the beginning in the advisory stage; the first piece of work is complete and we are now discussing the ongoing programme of activity needed to set up the centre.

“This contract will use CGI’s space expertise to help the MOD understand the capabilities already in the marketplace and their potential use to help meet MOD requirements.”

With UK SpOC being just one of CGI’s many MOD projects, Mr Timms noted the challenges that come in working with the authority.

He said: “Defence is a difficult marketplace in which to do business; it is complex and secure with robust commercial positions, so suppliers must approach it with their eyes wide open.

“In many cases suppliers must be prepared to invest in security clearance for their premises and their staff, before they can supply to the MOD.”

However, Mr Timms noted that if met, these challenges can bring great rewards to suppliers.

He explained: “Once you enter the marketplace it is a solid one. Supplying to the MOD is good because the authority publishes all of its requirements and opportunities; the contracts are long-term and this provides stability for suppliers and their employees.”

Mr Timms also noted that doing business with the MOD is becoming easier.

He commented: “Recently CGI has found the commercial approach of the MOD is widening, as the authority requires faster-paced, better-value contracts.

“The Department has become more open to negotiation; there is a real willingness to engage with suppliers and have conversations about contract requirements.”

Different tendering procedures are becoming more widely used by the MOD, such as agile defence procurement – the sourcing of contracts without a fixed outcome – which allows solutions to evolve to meet the client’s changing requirements.

CGI has recently signed an agile defence procurement contract with the MOD’s Information Systems and Services (ISS) cluster in Corsham, Wiltshire, covering Cyber Situational Awareness Fusion Architecture (CySAFA), or enterprise cyber security.

Mr Timms said: “This contract allows CGI to use agile procurement approaches to keep working, while enabling the MOD to manipulate the contract’s direction to meet the needs of the end-user at its delivery date.

“Cyber security is a very fast-moving area, where the threat is changing constantly. Traditional mechanisms of procurement can take a long period of time – and can’t keep up with modern cyber threats – so the MOD ran an agile defence procurement competition through ISS Corsham and awarded a fixed-price but flexible outcome contract for CySAFA.”

This flexible approach is something which is becoming more necessary across the whole defence supply chain.

Mr Timms explained: “CGI needs flexibility in its partners. We don’t want to be stuck in rigid contracts which have no room for manoeuvre; we need our suppliers to move with the ebb and flow of the contract.”

Agility, Mr Timms suggested, could also help UK defence suppliers target new markets in the face of the nation’s impending Brexit from the European Union.

He concluded: Brexit and the change in Government have meant changes to the defence landscape, but CGI sees these changes as an opportunity.

“The UK has strong partnerships with NATO and the other four members of the ‘five eyes’ community – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA – so outside of the EU there are great opportunities to do defence business. Also, acting in more of a sovereign way could allow the UK Government greater scope to work with suppliers to forge new deals.”


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