By Ken Warburton, Naval Special Warfare Command, Knowledge Management Program Manager
Imagine the potential if Naval Special Warfare (NSW) units could readily access stores of data about its people to create better mission outcomes. What if, for example, those stores of data could be used to significantly reduce the number of training injuries experienced by Navy SEALs? What if those stores simply helped users to better understand their data in order to make more informed decisions? That is exactly the goal of the NSW Generation 3 Information Architecture (NSW GEN 3 IA) data management system.
NSW GEN 3 IA is a holistic approach to instill foundational best practices and principals to information management. Today, it centers on a data warehouse that ingests and aggregates data from various authoritative sources. This information can then be tapped into, manipulated and displayed using a number of commercial technologies including SharePoint, DefenseReady, Microsoft CRM, HP Records Manager, and standard MS Office products. With just a few clicks of the mouse, disparate data programs containing information such as medical data and after action reports can be cross-pollinated, producing increasingly valuable insights. The result is that NSW headquarters has an enhanced capability to identify causal relationships and trends in data to influence force management and mission outcomes.
Previous generations of NSW information architecture were based solely on traditional organizational, regional and IT infrastructure design and constraints. Those generations suffered from lack of governance and inconsistent implementation of information sharing technologies. With this lack of a consistent enterprise plan, organizational units instinctively filled this vacuum with their own policies and IT systems development. This subsequently led to data silos, redundancy of effort, reduced information sharing, and increased maintenance.
Figure 1 illustrates the results of successfully migrating information out of these silos into a larger information ecosystem to facilitate evidence-based, analytically supported solutions. As depicted in the diagram, information is collected from the data silos, aggregated and stored in a data warehouse, and then mapped into functional modules (e.g., training, workforce management, finance, etc.) for users to leverage in their day-to-day work. The GEN 3 IA approach, shown in Figure 1, enables NSW to visualize, analyze, and present data in new and meaningful ways.
To illustrate this point, consider the problem faced by NSW’s enterprise range management group. Business was being conducted with no real-time information capability and decisions were being made based on information exchanges in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and email. To effectively manage the range enterprise, they needed an automated, force-wide capability to provide accurate and near real-time data on range infrastructure, funding, projects, environmental compliance, utilization, and people. During their analysis of alternatives on potential solutions, they discovered that the GEN 3 IA would satisfy more than 80 percent of their requirements. This led to the Range Management Tool (RMT) architecture shown in Figure 2.
As depicted in Figure 2, RMT is fueled by range (R), financial (S), logistics (L), organizational (A), and personnel (N) data drawn from the original authoritative sources. That raw data is then processed through an import protocol that gives it quality and structure before it’s loaded into the data warehouse. Once in the data warehouse, technologies such as DefenseReady and Microsoft SQL Server can be applied to extract, combine and present the data in a way that enables a common operational picture across the force.
In selecting this GEN 3 IA approach, the group is realizing the following benefits:
● Using the data warehouse helps normalize and standardize data across the enterprise
● Centralized data operations are more efficient and less costly, with higher data quality
● DefenseReady out-of-the-box solutions for business functions such as manpower and project management significantly reduces time to market for needed capabilities
● DefenseReady can be used to cross-check data from multiple sources
Success of GEN 3 IA and projects such as RMT hinges on dedication to six overall governing principles, outlined below:
- Information does not change in purpose, importance, or classification based on where it is or the technology that contains it
- Commercial-off-the-shelf software and out-of-the-box features is preferred over custom application development.
- Service-oriented architectures should be used when configuring or designing information systems.
- A simple and consistent technology framework and governance plan makes it easier for users and developers to conform to, train to, and promote better information handling and consumption habits.
- Creating and respecting authoritative data sources promote enterprise alignment and reduces data management overhead.
- People, processes and policies are essential to help encourage, and in some cases enforce, good governance.
GEN 3 IA is changing the way we do business. With it our customers can access, view and manipulate their data in ways they have never been able to do before. We continually discover new opportunities to use this technology to solve our business problems.
** = The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or the United States government.