The Advantages of Automation

Time is Money”, it has never been truer for the military which simply cannot afford to waste time. The military is unique in its working and operations. It performs diverse roles during war and peace. It is also different from any enterprise in terms of size, security requirements, diversity of interconnected and loosely interdependent organizational units with multiple localized objectives and global scope, and requirements for agility in engagements and operations. The military is forced to carry out war operations as well as “operations other than war” in the current LIC environment.


Increased penetration of IT in every sphere of life necessitates similar or better capabilities in the professional arena in order to short-change the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop of opponents, thus turning risks into advantages and ambiguity into results. Automation of organizational workflows allows for faster execution of routine operations including communication, sparing time for operational priorities and providing capability to handle exceptions.


Technology provides transparency in daily engagements and equips the commanders with improved visibility. Reporting and analysis capabilities enable deeper understanding of overall or individual performance of both men and machines. Commanders can access performance metrics and analytical reports and use this information to work together to set or redesign strategy for an operational theatre.

Technology can enable productivity and financial transparency. This may negatively impact individuals and groups with vested interests leading to inertia in technology adoption and assimilation. Traditionally “vested interest” cultures have prospered because they have developed an isolated work culture and thereby can exert complete control over critical process and information flows. “Opening up” this isolated work culture to external scrutiny and oversight through automation is in direct conflict with the status quo of “vested interest” power structures. Therefore, instead of enabling personnel to become more productive, automation is seen as a threat to their traditional authority and job security.


It does not make sense to maintain paper-based files to keep track of information. With automation, the organisation has the latest and current information available with the ability to check previous communication and references. In the past, searching through files, file cabinets and where the information is placed within the file could take hours or even days, besides the routine challenges of space and associated hazards. With databases and role-based search facilities what used to take several hours or days can now be done instantly. Furthermore, previously a clerk had to compile the information for further analysis by officers and under commands who could often become the weakest and most vulnerable link in the information chain. 


Now with analysis dashboards, this information is part of daily work and is readily available at all times and anywhere to concerned actors. Role-based access makes it more secure as relevant information is only available to authorised personnel. Even an attempt to access secure contents by unauthorized personnel can be logged, highlighted and penalized.


Document storage and processing in “air-gapped” networks is secure. A security centric application design and “air-gapped” networks make it impossible for anyone to tamper documents, remove or add attachments, change comments etc. Integrity of data must be ensured by the custodian of such environment. 
The design and implementation of automation systems is a reflection of an organization's mission, structure, operational realities and constraints. The automation workflow system, in the order of priority, must satisfy the following requirements:


        •   Security. 
        •   User friendliness.
        •   Ease of use – fewer clicks, minimum scrolling.


 Availability of source code and intellectual     rights for further advancement.
      • Scalability and flexibility – ability to grow and change with future requirements.
Military organisation is decentralized and departmentalized with a hierarchical structure. Their automation systems have unique requirements and constraints. They require tools to interconnect departments with secure intercommunication and document workflows. Business operations tend to be similar between various military organizational components, however, requirements dictated by individual organizational unit, missions and environments tend to be different from each other. Data classification and tagging at the time of data entry is crucial to its security and capability to produce desired results. It is imperative that these unique requirements are understood, rationalized and validated. They should also be evaluated from environment and application security perspectives. Any requirement which compromises the security of the environment should not be considered. 

Technology is there to help. When designed and implemented properly, it can improve security, efficiency, productivity, cost savings etc. but it is imperative to to ensure that it is implemented professionally.


The recommended approach for delivering automation systems is to break them down into smaller, manageable and measurable work packages over time.
Traditionally the set of competencies required to design, develop and run a successful automation initiative have been in short supply. While knowledge and experience in various aspects of IT or military functional processes is helpful in general, unique challenges of automation system implementation demand a wider knowledge base including knowledge of best practices and industry conventions pertaining to automation of systems and processes. The team members involved in implementation need to possess detailed knowledge of business processes involved in automation as well as skill sets like business process re-engineering, knowledge of specific versions of selected technologies, software and hardware platforms and complexities inherent in implementation of automation systems in large public-sector organizations.
The advantages that can be gained by a successful implementation of an automation system are tremendous and may include:


          •   Security, paper files, files stored on local hard disks and moved via e-mails are insecure by design.
          •   Data integrity and a single version of the truth.
          •   Improved control over information.


Cost saving, whether in the form of time, paper, inventory etc.
Easier and secure information dissemination.
Search is restricted and based upon authority and role.


Productivity improvement. 
Visibility of relevant information for decision making.
Improved communication and automatic documentation and auditing of automated processes.
Reduced organizational operational risks.


Improved intelligence for Decision Support Systems.
Automation systems lead to a change in organizational operating processes also resulting in overall efficiencies. In some cases, the operating processes might be critical for achievement of organizational objectives. Organizational inertia in the form of individual resistance to process changes as well as retraining and change in internal organizational alignment contribute to the risk of failing automation.


Some of the key predictors of success of any automation based organizational intervention are:
Continuous involvement of top leadership. Top leadership should exercise its authority to define and/or re-engineer end-to-end processes impacted by work automation while being accountable for execution of and related outcomes of the same.


An integrated governance framework and body comprising representatives from all impacted stakeholders. They should be enabled and facilitated in the process of rapid decision making and held to the highest standards of accountability by regular measurement and reporting of outcome oriented key performance indicators (KPIs).
A clear mandate and definition of the problem to be solved through automation and a plan of action that focuses on the root cause of the problem as opposed to the symptoms. 
A work force possessing the requisite skill set as well as experience in defining and executing automation projects. 


An automation initiative needs to balance the above factors with organizational realities and constraints of design of the automation system in question to succeed. They lead to a change in organizational operating processes. This conversion has a far-reaching effect beyond the computer system and its users. In some cases, the operating processes might be critical for achievement of organizational objectives. Organizational inertia in the form of individual resistance to process changes as well as retraining and change in internal organizational alignment contribute to the risk of failing automation. 


Technology can enable productivity and financial transparency. This may negatively impact individuals and groups with vested interests leading to inertia in technology adoption and assimilation. Traditionally “vested interest” cultures have prospered because they have developed an isolated work culture and thereby can exert complete control over critical process and information flows. “Opening up” this isolated work culture to external scrutiny and oversight through automation is in direct conflict with the status quo of “vested interest” power structures. Therefore, instead of enabling personnel to become more productive, automation is seen as a threat to their traditional authority and job security.


In conclusion, technology is there to help. When designed and implemented properly, it can improve security, efficiency, productivity, cost savings etc. but it is imperative to ensure that it is implemented professionally.


The writer is an eminent IT expert who remained involved in articulation of various national level projects and the establishment of imperative national IT assets. He bears Honours in Applied and Information Science from Edith Cowan University, Western Australia.
E-mail: tm@techaccesspak.com

Comments



Note: No comments!


Leave a Reply

Success/Error Message Goes Here
Note: Please login your account and then leave comment!
TOP