Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Army Collaboration Software Aimed The Wrong Way

On November 3, Defense News reported “The U.S. Army is rolling out collaboration software that will allow soldiers around the world to instant-message and Web-conference with each other, capture and transmit screenshots, and edit documents together, service officials said.” (http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=3801669&c=AME&s=TOP). Given some of the background in the article, the picture in this post must be their mascot.

The software is being pushed out to computers in Kuwait as a prelude to getting the software to Forward Operating Bases in Iraq. Lt. Col. Mathew Riordan, product manager for the Army's program office for EIS Enterprise Information Systems was quoted as saying: "We have to focus on getting these technologies to the garrison side of the Army," Riordan said. "We really have to focus on that because you can be looking at a report and have a question. With this system, you can get an answer instantly."

What is wrong with this picture? A couple of things for sure. First of all, since when does the Army focus on getting answers to questions on reports? A fascination with administration often hampers the warfighter, which is something we clearly don’t want to do today.
Secondly, shouldn’t IT resources be directed where they can influence the outcome of battle and support USG messaging?

Collaboration can be a powerful weapon for information engagement. The ability to harness reachback resources especially in terms of images, language translation/validation and all around collaboration can significantly enhance the quality of a work product. This type of capability would also seem like a natural tool for the all too often lacking interaction between Public Affairs and PSYOP.

I suspect that the troops are already employing Yahoo or Blackberry’s between people already in the same units or who have working relationships, but necessarily across functions and organizations. Hopefully the Information Technology and logistics organizations within the chains of command for PSYOP and PAO are aware of this technology and are already assessing this technology and how it can serve their missions, if not, this is a good time to do so.

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