Productivity and collaboration in defence

Tools to ensure strong communication standards are now widely available – so why aren't we all using them?

Add bookmark

Stuart Cotton

Consider this scenario: you’re involved in organizing a peace-keeping mission to a war-torn nation. It’s a multinational effort, so your leadership team will need to work closely with services from other countries. Coordination with third-sector organisations providing relief to civilians will also be required, as will integration with private-sector contractors handling elements like logistics and other mission-critical services. What’s more, you know this community of stakeholders will change and expand as the mission evolves.

You may be hoping that real-time data sharing and collaboration between all these parties can be achieved through an existing email system. But if that’s your plan, you may need to reconsider.

SEE ALSO: SMEs still face barriers to breaking into the defence industry

Why? The dynamic and fast-moving nature of today’s defence environment requires unprecedented levels of collaboration and new communication solutions to connect stakeholders, ranging from instant messaging and video conferencing platforms to more sophisticated tasking tools, and from shared workflows, workspaces and documents to action-logs, risk registers, and analysis and insight applications. Mission success depends on it, and traditional tools and technologies will no longer suffice. By applying the right capabilities, all these components can be integrated into a single service, delivering an intuitive, common-user experience that is protected by responsive and robust multi-level security standards.

Unfortunately, government agencies are often hampered by static email solutions and a lack of tools and processes to support effective collaboration. In the past, systems have been created and operated in heavily siloed ways, restricted to a specific mission or security level, and with little ability to communicate or cooperate outside a rigidly-defined group of users.

'It’s time for defence agencies to seize the opportunity to put their people first by connecting them securely where and when needed.'

When new communication solutions are proposed, the main resistance is usually focused on system security and secure access. Security is of course an issue – but new security technology is more and more addressing where the requirement is greatest, allowing a common, secure experience across multiple domains. While defence agencies increasingly use public cloud technologies and enterprise-type services, many highly sensitive defence activities require the highest-level of security protection. Today there exist several user-friendly cloud services that are protected by military-grade security to ensure data is highly accessible, but also highly protected.

Awareness of the benefits associated with increased collaboration is growing rapidly across the world. In the US, Accenture has worked with the Department of Defense to develop a ground-breaking Task Management Tool (TMT) that has helped improve control and efficiency within and between Commands and that the US Army is now deploying to help in its drive to become a paperless administration. The expertise in multi-level security that underpins the TMT can also help deliver improvements to traditional email-based collaboration systems in other areas of government.

So, what should defence and government agencies be doing differently to realise the full potential of today’s productivity and collaboration tools? In my view, four things:

• Fully understand your communities of interest and all stakeholders that you need to connect. First, focus on people rather than the technology tools you will connect them with. This will help clarify the user-base and use-cases to help define the best solution.

• Think of productivity and collaboration for the agency as a dynamic service. It should be able to adapt and flex with the changing needs of the organisation and its partners and shared mission.

• Invest in user training and security awareness. Phishing, confidence tricks and naïve users remain among the biggest security risks. Some users will also need to be coaxed away from their traditional reliance on email, spreadsheets and other more traditional communication and collaboration channels.

• Understand and communicate the business case for change. This means understanding factors like the costs of infrastructure and usage; the costs and risks associated with establishing secure communities; the anticipated productivity increases; the reduced risk and improved control that will accrue from digital collaboration; and the benefits that a convenient user-experience across different activities and security levels will have on personnel.

Ultimately, to achieve their missions, defence agencies and their partners need to work together and securely. Today's productivity and collaboration tools offer this ability at speed and across devices while delivering the highest security standards. The solutions to maximize productivity and collaboration are now proven and widely available. It’s time for defence agencies to seize the opportunity to put their people first by connecting them securely where and when needed.