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10 reasons defense organizations need a unified communications strategy

Modern defense organizations are an ecosystem, complex environments widely dispersed, a fusion of technology, equipment and personnel. The popular view presents technology at the most cutting-edge. Air, land and maritime platforms accomplishing incredible feats of performance to deliver precise effects. Critical to the almost science fiction-like capability of modern weapons technology and engineering systems are the layers and pipelines of the communications architectures.

These architectures act as a nervous system to disperse precious information. They flow vertically through command layers and horizontally from base depots and strategic headquarters to the warrior in the front-line; logistics and intelligence data, administrative instructions and operational orders. Information which if disrupted could have Catastropehic consequences for operational success.

Communicate effectively — and securely

The importance of these communications networks is well understood by any field or incident commander. Without the ability to communicate and package data, situations cannot be understood, a response cannot be developed and required actions cannot be communicated. They lose. As an alternative proposition, commanders prefer to use the maxim: “He who thinks and decides first, wins”.

However, management and operation of the intricate web of communications systems is a challenge. They contain legacy systems, much of it brought into service before the majority of the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who have to operate it began their service. It is costly and difficult to maintain, does not integrate well and demands expensive bridging technologies to allow collaboration across systems. It is one of the first capabilities targeted by an enemy and the conflict spectrum has been extended to include cyber as the fifth domain of war.

Technology to level the battlefield

This acknowledgement of the threat emphasizes the vulnerability of communication systems to attack and disrupt. In a time of asymmetric warfare and terrorism, current defense sector technology competes with easily available and cheap commercial off-the-shelf technology such as the smartphone, laptop computer and commercial communication networks all designed to be global, cheap and readily acquired.

The essence of war is to think and act faster than your opponent. But when that opponent is a small group of individuals with smartphones and timing on their side just how do you do that? Commoditized technology has levelled the battlefield.

Unified communications (UC) creating a single communications platform offers one solution. New technologies, such as Single Information Environments (SIE) and VOIP have carried the concept of UC to a higher level.

UC can provide command, information and decision agility allowing the military to turn to meet the unexpected. The future operational environment promises increased complexity and includes a broader mission spectrum. UC represents a force multiplier, providing the capability to absorb increased uncertainty. It does so by allowing information, voice and data to be transferred with speed and flexibility through command nodes while maintaining resilience across systems. The effect is to improve situational awareness and allow decision making to accelerate.

10 reasons for UC in defense organizations

It begins with a strategy. Transitioning to UC requires an enterprise approach to develop the technological platform and create the shift in business behavior that will allow UC to deliver its potential as a force multiplier:

  • Defense organizations require communication capability that is fit for purpose and matched to the threats presented. The intention must be to maintain the battle-winning technological superiority over potential adversaries.
  • UC can deliver communications faster, seamlessly. By spanning command levels and distance, it can provide richness and granularity allowing an agile response to a crisis response situation. Highly available and secure networks can allow forces to be maneuvered at scale with increased options for deployment.
  • Within the operational planning cycle the ability to process information smarter and make decisions quicker increases operational tempo. Commanders at all levels can begin to “outthink” an opponent operating inside their decision cycle and conducting their own operations at pace.
  • UC increases the flexibility of communications and by extension the ability to organize and form a response. Device mobility removes access limitations. Command arrangements can be rapidly assembled anywhere with network access. This shifts the focus of managing communications from hardware infrastructure constraints to nimble service outcomes.
  • UC increases the range of capabilities available across and throughout the organization will increase. For example, the application of graphics and real-time video can provide recognized situation understanding – a resilient clear portal between tactical operations and senior command levels. This capability provides commanders with decision support tools, allowing rapid contextualization of situations and their commander’s intentions.
  • UC platforms will simplify training. The human element is gaining greater digital literacy and will respond faster to intuitive interfaces of UC which feels and acts familiar to the user experience of more universal technology.
  • Agile procurement will result in a more responsive development of follow-on technology. Embracing UC offers the potential to engage in the crowded digital marketplace to identify, procure, integrate, develop and maintain products faster. This ensures that defense systems remain at the forefront of technology development.
  • A UC platform is best placed to embrace and exploit rapidly emerging ICT trends, such as operation of cloud technology, device mobility, social data and the power of analytics. This value extends out of the tactical area. Defense operates a sizeable conventional business area managing personnel, logistics, training, to name some. A streamlined ICT approach provides the tools and conditions for improved ways of working across all defense business areas.
  • Delivering communications within a connected and integrated digitized environment will decrease the systems in service allowing an organization to benefit from platform economics. UC makes economic sense.
  • Finally, UC just provides better, smarter information which is sharper, more timely and accurate. It provides an extension of the decision action cycle not a hardware challenge to be overcome.

To realize these benefits the case for a UC strategy is compelling. Such a strategy will set the conditions to fully exploit the speed and performance of digital systems. Developing a UC platform presents a change management challenge, not least in the availability of suitably qualified and experienced people (SQEP) to implement change. External trusted business partners who understand intimately UC technology and its potential, can advise defense capability managers on how to define and shape requirements.

UC levels the battlefield. Download Defense Staff Mandate: Increased information capability to support operational effectiveness and discover how to implement a strategy that puts operational effectiveness first.

Head of Public Sector Marketing, Atos North America.

Posted in Unified Communications
2 comments on “10 reasons defense organizations need a unified communications strategy
  1. tony says:

    really interesting article

  2. Interesting, thanks for sharing