Incoming CIO: Data crucial to Army's situational awareness

Technology has a single major role to play to support business transformation in an increasingly expeditionary Army: to provide warfighters with greater situational awareness.

“Situational awareness is an attempt to reduce uncertainty in decision-making,” said Army chief information officer-designate Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson during a conference sponsored by AUSA in Washington Oct. 10.

Key to the Army CIO’s role in this area is to pursue an enterprise data strategy, Sorenson said. “Data can’t be stovepiped. It has to be made accessible across the force and at the enterprise level.”

The first step to supporting decision-making is figuring out what data decision-makers need, Sorenson said.

“They don’t need reams of data,” he said. “They make their decisions based on four or five elements and on their gut feeling. We have to understand what those four or five elements are and how to get it to them.”

A similar effort at Cisco Systems involved significant input from functional area managers, Sorenson said.

This task also must be accomplished at the enterprise level, Sorenson said, by eliminating the barriers that reduce access to databases.

“There must be a single source of truth and there must be an assurance of data quality,” he said.

One important element to breaking down data stovepipes is organizational and cultural rather than technological, Sorenson said.

“The way things work now, whoever creates the data, owns the data,” he said. “But they also tend to want to protect the data. We have to move to a situation where data owners are responsible for the data and for allowing access to that data for those who need it.”

The Army CIO is also facilitating business transformation by streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary technology.

“We had over 3,000 information system processes,” Sorenson said, “but over time and through analysis we got them down to 1,400. That’s still too many. We still have stovepipes.”

The Army CIO also has used discovery tools to analyze the network and the software and hardware that comprise it.

“We found software on computers that we had paid for but that had never been touched,” Sorenson said. “We also found software that we didn’t have licenses for and were therefore not authorized to run.”

Sorenson added that eliminating redundant and unnecessary software saved the Army $56 million in fiscal 2006 and that consolidated hardware purchases saved $103 million during the same period.

Buxbaum is a freelancer writer in Bethesda, Md.

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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