Information management in the Canadian Forces must deliver timely and accurate information to decision makers in formats they can use. IM transformation can achieve that goal but without a true revolution in mindset, no amount of spending on new technology will bring successful IM transformation.

Transforming data into knowledge means culture change within CF/DND. Control must pass from the service provider to the operator. Frontline commanders must be able to order up the information they want rather than simply accept the information they are given. In turn, the service providers must be more than highly skilled quartermasters, issuing solutions from a static inventory. Instead, they must work closely with operational commanders to develop information products that anticipate needs instead of lagging them: it must allow Network Centric Warfare.

Today, the Canadian Forces have already fallen behind the data expectations of its recruits. These young men and women are used to a constantly updated stream of relevant information to guide their decision-making: from banks and other service providers through telephone, text messages and ubiquitous email. To them, information is not an optional extra but rather an exploitable resource that is tightly integrated with their lives.

The process of IM transformation will be gradual and incremental but the revolution in thinking that will guide that transformation must happen soon. Within projects, there must be real space for innovation. Again, the key to success is the change from static to mobile, from rigid to responsive. The governance structure must not only support but demand creativity and agility. To support the three elements engaged in an operation (Land, Maritime and Air), information must be perceived as important as logistics. To do that, to keep pace with our allies and defeat our enemies, CF/DND IT providers must transform from passive hardware and applications providers to become proactive process enablers.

To succeed, transformation must look past existing mindsets about “outsourcing” or the “administrative focus” of IM; the true test of transformation is the ability of the Canadian military to carry out their missions. This must be the focus of the enabling technology, the business processes and the people who operate and use IM systems.

Right now, the best arguments for IM transformation are being made in ISAF command posts in Afghanistan where mission commanders must plan with limited information. Rather than planning their missions within the context of a continuously updated, near-real-time picture compiled from a range of sources, they brief and launch their operations from whatever information they can receive and trust.

Today, it can take about twelve hours to prepare almost any kind of order. That may be acceptable in a conventional war, but Afghanistan and almost every other mission the CF will undertake is anything but conventional. The enemy is now inside our decision cycle, choosing when, where and how to strike on their own terms. It is no longer possible to have a fixed Air Tasking Order cycle, for example. The time it takes to gather and assess intelligence and compile a Tasking Order must be compressed into a time frame in which it is still reasonable to assume there is a target to strike. Canadian Forces do not yet possess that capability.

Some of our coalition partners are already far ahead of Canada in linking information with the mission. In the United States, information has become a weapon of war and its armed forces are aggressively developing offensive cyberwarfare capabilities. In the meantime, Canada is still concentrating on passive defence of our cyber assets. Of course, we want to limit enemy access to our strategic infrastructure but we should think about the offence and acquire the tools to limit enemy access to their own information.

When Russian air and armoured forces swiftly overwhelmed Georgia’s defences, they were following up an invisible war that had already crippled that country’s electronic infrastructure. A new branch of warfare has emerged and new weapons have been deployed, while large parts of CF operations are still manual and paper-based. Other military organizations around the world are treating information management as a legitimate, indeed, vitally necessary component of military operations. Canada must act decisively now or fall further behind.

The EDS White Paper, “Transforming Information Management For Operational Benefit,” is available at under White Papers. To comment, please contact Emile Lindsay ( or 613-751-2590) or Vanguard (