In the year since the first article in this series was published, the relevance of its subject, “Transforming Information Management For Operational Benefit,” has increased. Based on the White Paper of that name, prepared by EDS Canada, an HP company, this series has pointed out the urgent necessity to “join up” all of Canada’s military information management assets in support of the mission.
Information is a weapon. The ultimate goal of transformed information management within CF/DND is to deliver the right information in usable formats to the people who need it, at the right time. The infrastructure that supports that information management system must be affordable, sustainable but, above all, agile to meet the changing challenges and opportunities of the future.
Transforming information management will necessarily be a gradual and incremental process, but it demands a radical change in mindset now.
The pace of technological change generates fresh opportunities at the same pace it renders old solutions obsolete. This rapidity of change requires a governance structure that can make the leap from rigid to responsive, and from static to mobile. Experience with very large-scale defence information management transformation projects elsewhere in the world has driven home the point that it will require a “lead service integrator” to manage a project of this scope.
In the same way that change in governance is needed, it is clear that the present procurement system must change as well. It is simply not designed to deliver optimal information technology solutions because it does not encourage and reward innovation through flexible and realistic rules. Because information technology in the private sector is rewards-based and research-driven, many of its benefits quickly become available to CF/DND, but they can only be implemented properly if the capability to manage change and absorb new technologies is already present.
Today, it seems highly likely that early in the next decade, the Canadian Forces will interrupt the urgent operational tempo of recent years and regroup. Indeed, in this issue of Vanguard, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, Chief of the Land Staff says, “The folk who do the daily grind of the Army business are frankly getting tired, very tired. That’s why, when the government said the military mission ends in 2011, although I firmly believe in what we are doing, my reaction is, ok, got it. Your army will need a bit of time to re-set itself – six months, 12 months – post 2011.”
This anticipated respite is an opportunity to begin the process of information management renewal, as the Canadian Forces review the recent past and plan for the future. This is an opportunity for leadership with vision to meet soldiers’ needs with a realistic, attainable vision of the future IM infrastructure.
Even in a period of rebuilding, there will still be competing demands for scarce resources. Whoever emerges as the champion and sponsor of renewed information management may face a key strategic decision, very early in the process – comprehensive change, or incremental improvement?
The vision and the goals are all still the same. The difference is process. Everyone can agree that there are unique projects that need to be done but those projects should be done within the strategic vision of a completely renewed IM infrastructure. Skilled leadership can use this approach to undertake simple, affordable and necessary projects at first, building confidence inside a team and creating credibility among the client community. Building one block at a time gets each job done, but more importantly, it gets the job started. It is no secret that governments everywhere are hungry for successful IT projects. If CF/DND can demonstrate and document success in IM/IT project management, it creates incentive for government to reinforce and exploit that success.
Today, there is no argument that we need a new electronic infrastructure to support our forces. Done right, that infrastructure will make the best use of all our resources and allow our commanders to commit them in the most effective way. The time to start building CF/DND’s future information management infrastructure is here. The Government of Canada should define the project, select a partner and begin this urgent work as quickly as possible.
We encourage you to read “Transforming Information Management For Operational Benefit,” a White Paper prepared by EDS Canada, and send us your comments. It is available at www.vanguardcanada.com under White Papers. To comment, please contact Emile Lindsay at Emile.Lindsay@eds.com or (613) 787 4613, or Vanguard at IMtransform@networkedgovernment.ca.