Constantly advancing technology presents managers with a perpetual dilemma. New concepts and emerging technologies allow traditional functions to be carried out more effectively and efficiently. This continuous evolution of technology-enabled capability creates the opportunity to bring together valuable functions, processes and procedures which were not previously feasible, thus resulting in completely new operational capabilities that were not possible before. While the advancement of capability is compelling, managers are also vitally interested in making wise investments and sustaining the return of value from those investments over time.
Regardless of the relentless advance and evolution of technology, organizations cannot change their technical architecture and infrastructure continuously in an effort to keep up. Instead, as with any mission-critical investment strategy, organizations must plan their technology investments over time and bring them on line periodically in order to avoid the radical and disruptive impact of all-or-nothing conversions. So the question becomes: How do we reap the benefits of investments in current technology, while still allowing for periodic upgrades to more advanced capabilities, without having to relearn, retrain and start over?
The answer is simple in statement; yet complex in execution and fortunately already in operation. It is a platform approach that allows seamless integration of existing technology as well as a baseline from which to grow and integrate new and emerging technologies.
The challenges involved with adopting new technologies extend beyond scheduling. Advanced technologies can create organizational demands as well. One of those demands occurs when information becomes too plentiful. This overload invariably interferes with organizational process. For example, communities and stakeholders might know the information they need, but lack the means to pull it from the flood of data from which they have access to.
How does the right information get to the right stakeholders at the right time? How can these groups maintain situation awareness while they are drowning in information? How can they effectively communicate and collaborate across organizational boundaries? And when critical information is properly channeled, how can they be sure it is understandable and then prompts and supports an appropriate, effective response?
The answer to these questions requires an approach that adapts to the evolving technical, business, operational, and process landscapes. The answer requires the Mariner approach:
- Employ services-based technical standards for rapid systems integration.
- Employ a process-centric approach that allows stakeholders to share information and to collaborate efficiently and effectively.
- Recognize that the value of information degrades sharply and rapidly if not presented in the proper context.
- Incorporate governance and business process into the overall solution.
- Underscore design principles and foundations required for re-use, modularity, componentization, interoperability, and high performance.
- Recognize that difficult-to-use interfaces that are not intuitive will cause confusion at the precise moment when clarity is essential.
Context is King
The enormous volume of data generated by the systems and sensors of a single organization makes information management a major challenge. Giving that information contextual meaning, i.e. including the environment that surrounds it, is the key to providing true situation awareness. A threat in one context can be standard practice in another.
Adding to the problem is the fluid nature of situation awareness scenarios. The passage of time itself is constantly changing the context of the situation and the information related to it. It is not surprising that attempting to bring order to the information and make it relevant to the right user at the right time – providing the information in context – can stretch information systems to the breaking point.
CommandBridge creates a model of all information assets of an enterprise or agency and organizes them contextually. Information is ordered by contexts of community, role, mission, time, and/or geographic location. Through a combination of rule-based modeling structures and Mariner’s proprietary Dynamic Data Linking (DDL) technology, evolving situation data is immediately placed in context, constantly updated and presented as current information rather than delayed-history. This process cuts through the clutter by focusing on the relevancy of the data. This approach allows CommandBridge to reveal behavioral and activity trends, identify potential threats, and perform advanced operations such as information classification, analytics, anomaly detection, alerting, and summarization – all in real-time.
The Technology and Process Alignment
Any technology platform must be sufficiently flexible to allow the alignment of technology with the organization’s business processes. Automation coupled with manual overrides and human interaction controls is essential. Overall situation awareness is significantly enhanced when the manual workload of operators and response managers is removed, allowing them to focus on end-results and decision-making rather than process.
Using business rules and process activity modeling, CommandBridge can assess, define, recommend, or even govern behavior. High-performance rules and workflow engines drive process execution and resolution, reducing the time required for data processing and eliminating redundancies.
Collaborative Situation Awareness
When situation awareness is critical, information must be constantly and clearly shared. Communities and stakeholders need to distribute information internally and across organizational boundaries. How is collaborative situation awareness accomplished? The answer is multi-faceted and must consider the needs of the entire operational domain – geographically and inter-organizationally.
Using a role-based approach, rules and workflow modeling structures enable CommandBridge to push information to stakeholders within and across organizations while ensuring the security of the information. Shared information is stored in role-specific queues and takes a variety of forms, such as system alerts and notifications, e-mail based alerts, workflow acknowledgement requests, chat and instant messaging, situation reports, and event snapshots. In many cases, information can be shared directly from the user interface with a simple drag-and-drop.
The role-based approach ensures that stakeholders are able to communicate through a variety of means and maintain situation awareness throughout the organization and among organizations.
Visualized Situation Awareness
Simple and intuitive user interfaces are critical to the success of any security management platform. Users must be able to process whatever information a system generates and displays. Situation information needs to be displayed clearly and without ambiguity. The information must be easily recognized, understood, and ultimately, acted on. Mariner’s experience and client successes have demonstrated why visual user interfaces add tremendous value, but are only part of the solution.
Building on the concept of visualized situation awareness, Mariner incorporates the collective learning from its multiple system implementations to deliver CommandBridge visual information presentations which are based on sound human-factors and situation-awareness design principles. Using a Rich Internet Application (RIA) approach, the CommandBridge User Interface (UI) employs rich media and highly visual interface metaphors. The result focuses users on situation anomalies by providing what is important, to the right person, at the right time.