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A call for information transformation

Canadian soldiers today are in combat and DND/CF personnel are working flat out to support them. At the same time, large and complex weapons systems in procurement are stretching resources even tighter. It is time to recognize that information is also a weapons system requiring a robust integrated infrastructure. It may be the most important of all. Despite the immediate and urgent tasks today, it is time to start planning tomorrow’s Information Management infrastructure. Canadian Forces will need the right IM support in the years ahead to maximize resources, deploy them to best advantage with allies and coalition partners, and give our men and women in the field the information they need to conduct operations.

As new sensor and detector systems are fielded, the flow of battlefield information is only going to increase. Behind the lines, pressure to optimize personnel usage through automated systems will change workflows and business processes. The full benefits of network-enabled capability come from connectivity, interoperability and accessibility – when the network enables each user with the right information and the right communications capability at the right time. In the Canadian military, information must be managed within one integrated system. Creating that integrated vision of DND/CF means profound cultural change. That demands a comprehensive and well-managed transformation.

The March 2008 White Paper, “Transforming Information Management For Operational Benefit” challenges the Canadian defence community to recognize the strategic importance of Information Management in Canadian Forces operations and take action now. EDS Canada recognizes that this call comes when leaders and decision-makers are pressed for time, but there will never be a better time to start designing Information Management transformation. With the critical need in front of us every day, the rewards are too great and the outcomes are too important to delay.

A series of six articles, to be published over the next year in Vanguard, will summarize key elements of the White Paper and, more importantly, discuss those elements with the defence community in a straightforward and interactive fashion. The contributions you make and the questions you ask will be reflected in these articles. EDS Canada defence industry vice-president Emile Lindsay explained that transformation requires strong leadership, but leadership depends on building a consensus about goals and how best to achieve them.

“As a company, EDS is putting forth this white paper to foster dialogue about IT transformation within the department, and now through a series of articles, we hope to enliven the debate. Over the next year, these articles will ask tough questions and, we hope, ignite an innovative response from the department,” Lindsay said. “EDS will directly engage all the key stakeholders or they can respond on or off the record to Vanguard, but my hope is that people will participate and have their voices heard.”

The next four articles will look at: Information Management As A Weapon; Transformation; Lessons Learned; and The Challenges Of Procurement. As the series progresses, EDS believes the White Paper will provide a point of reference to focus the discussion and these articles will provide a forum for debate.

EDS Canada has the experience and qualifications to initiate this dialogue but it will not be a lone voice. This forum will design an Information Management system to serve the Canadian Forces through the 21st century and beyond. That is an ambitious target. Whatever model for moving forward eventually emerges, it must be informed and inclusive. In the months ahead, the response from the defence, political and supplier communities will drive towards creating a consensus on some fundamental points: what are the goals and benefits of IM transformation and what is the structure that can deliver that change? Later articles will look at the process to achieve the desired outcome, whether that is an event or events, an action plan, or a continuing dialogue.

Without a strategic framework, there is a risk that IM transformation will be driven internally by “rust-out” and externally by circumstances and demands that a comprehensive program would have anticipated. Done right, Information Management can equip the Canadian military properly for the challenges of the 21st century. This is an opportunity to get it right. EDS welcomes your participation.

Transforming Information Management For Operational Benefit is available online at www.netgov.ca under Online Extras. To comment, please contact Emile Lindsay at Emile.Lindsay@eds.com or (613) 787 4613 or Vanguard at IMtransform@networkedgovernment.ca.

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