Operationally led, digitally enabled: A fresh approach to transforming legacy border systems

Simon Daykin, Chief Technology Officer at Leidos, on how to deliver a more advanced border through digital transformation

By Leidos

07 Jul 2020

While the term ‘digital transformation’ has been over-used for more than two decades, advancements in technology and its declining cost have made it easier for organisations to be more ambitious and successful in delivering new technology led capabilities. Most people would agree a significant level of technical debt has been created over the years from the implementation of hermetic systems. With modern approaches to loose coupling, data architecture, and enabling technologies such as robotic process automation, the debt is no longer insurmountable.

We firmly believe that it is possible to deliver a more advanced border through digital transformation, and that an operationally-led, digitally-enabled approach should be baked into tackling the scale of the border management conundrum facing the UK. Britain’s aim of creating an integrated border ecosystem that includes both goods and people, through automation such as advanced information submission, and fully digital customs to facilitate flow, break down data silos and build a holistic intelligence picture.

Exploiting Available Data Platforms for Operational Benefit

The benefits of digital transformation come from reimagining the user experience and business processes in a technology unconstrained and information-rich model. A growing eco-system of global data sharing platforms to support this currently exist, encouraging information sharing for mutual benefit.

There is an opportunity, for example, to collate advanced passenger information prior to arrival, by capturing data from multiple sources before the border, levitating pressures on the Home Office and HMRC. Live information on transport, in terms of airline delays or highway closures, could all contribute to a better experience for people and trade communities.

This availability of data and information is key to improving supply chain and logistics performance, security and traceability. Government customs release and border transaction data is increasingly valuable to supply chains and logistics operations. We often don’t even realise the nature of the data we are creating, but through the use of broad data sources and sophisticated algorithms, data scientists have the ability to build a rich picture of operational performance, and to predict behaviour. And this is data that can potentially transform our border services.

Creating a rich data environment by fusing multiple internal and external sources into a secure environment can help drive public sector benefits through digital transformation.

Leidos is well versed in supporting this; specifically, we have extensive experience fusing structured data from heritage systems with the most modern IP-enabled sensors and other internet-born data to provide a rich picture for critical decision-making. Our clients are demanding this more and more in real time, supporting informed decision making through real-time and predictive analytics.

Single Trade Window: UK realisation without significant refactoring

By reimaging the borders, we could implement improved border management through considering a Single Trade Window. The term Single Trade Window is used to describe a multitude of different platforms, systems and environments, and the use is not limited to the trade context.  The Single Trade Window is a set of operational processes and systems that allow parties involved in trade and transport to lodge standardised information and documents with a single entry point to fulfill all import, export, and transit-related regulatory requirements. This is not a new concept and has been discussed in the UK for many years in various guises, however the reality remains extremely complex, requiring a carefully planned operational roadmap, and incrementally implementable technical strategy.

Transferable Learnings: Single Supply Chain Integration Portal Example

Learning from how organisations have transformed legacy systems to modern architectures and processes can provide the knowledge transfer to reduce risk and ultimately drive success. One example in the UK is how Leidos has transformed the commodity procurement, storage and distribution functions of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) Logistic Commodities and Services Operating Centre. Since 2015, the Logistics, Commodities Services and Transformation (LCST) Programme has delivered over £1bn worth of products to the UK Military, using cutting-edge procurement techniques and strong governance. That means getting everything from food rations to boots, exactly where they need to be, at the right price and at the right time. With an effective process for engaging the market, the Programme has driven equal opportunity to all suppliers, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises, across the Food, Fuel, Medical, General Supplies and Clothing commodity sectors.

Prior to the LCST Programme, the MOD used a lot of manual processes to enable the fulfilment of orders. Leidos has now built interfaces with the legacy MOD systems at the same time improving information flows, delivering modern end-user services and delivering a source of trusted management information. Clearly security was paramount with robust processes required for approvals, financials and identity management.

The key to this complex digital transformation challenge is the creation of a single Supply Chain Integration Portal (SCIP). SCIP takes the ‘best of breed’ infor­mation technology from online retailers, and com­bines it with the security expertise that Leidos has developed in 50 years of working with the military worldwide. SCIP has brought together all previously separate MOD logistics functions, ensuring data accuracy, process efficiency and resilience, while driving out cost.



SCIP provides a secure integration platform that serves as the central hub to broker inbound and outbound messages and queues that interface with partner systems (i.e. non-government systems that sit outside of SCIP). Leidos designed the innovative solution to operate in a cross-domain context, allowing independent applications distributed across the various military domains to securely communicate with each other.

Leidos has been able to reduce the time it takes from receiving an order and then packing it for shipment from, in some cases, 24 to 48 hours down to a matter of minutes. SCIP has provided the technical transformation to enable a huge reduction in technical demand process­ing time. All scalable through cloud technology.

Combining our experience with data-intensive programmes alongside our operationally led, digitally enabled methodology, enables us to ensure business and policy drivers are at the heart of the answer, and the benefits of previous experience and lessons learned are applied.

Appreciating the interlinked nature of the EU Exit delivery portfolio - a single, accessible and real-time view of data that can inform, support and validate decisions across government - is perhaps, the UK’s biggest aspiration, and biggest challenge.

Our contemporary and proven approach avoids common issues surrounding front-end re-engineering, whilst back-end complications can be mitigated. Using robotic process automation and micro-services to interface with the legacy, a transformed system is incrementally delivered. This has the potential to enhance the entire portfolio, alongside international trade processes over the coming years, empowering a collaborative and informed UK trade infrastructure.

For more information visit https://www.leidos.com/uk-borders


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