Thanks for taking the time to speak with us James. Maybe you can start by telling our readers
about the important mission of JIEDDO?
JIEDDO was created in 2006 in response to the rapidly spreading use of
improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in theaters of battle in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Our mission is to attack the network, defeat the devices, and
train the force. So we’re focused on
preventing the creation of new IEDs, in addition to destroying existing IEDs
before they harm, our fighting forces, our allies or civilians.
What role does IT play in helping JIEDDO meet its mission goals?
Technology is absolutely essential to our mission - from big data analytics
that help us gather critical information vital to disrupting the IED production
network, to communications and collaboration tools that help our personnel
share threat information in real-time while on the battlefield. To keep up with
the evolving tactics of our enemies, we have to be agile, collaborative, and
secure. We have to learn faster than our enemies, and constantly be on the look
out for technologies that can provide us with an informational advantage. Then we need to deliver these emerging
capabilities to our personnel quickly enough to be effective. In IT, our mantra
is ABC: adopt, buy, and create if there are no other options. To execute this
strategy, we’ve taken a hard look at IT procurement and deployment best
practices and that weaves into the whole fabric of operations aimed at
delivering value. We’re in a challenging budget environment, and we’re seeking cost
effective ways to access the latest innovations, while working to consolidate
our IT infrastructure, improve security, and expand collaboration
opportunities. For example, on the innovation front, we’re exploring toolkits
to both enhance the realism of our training and simulation solutions and to
access low cost robotics capabilities all at a significantly reduced cost with
capabilities already familiar to our young servicemen and women.
What’s worked well, in terms of ensuring JIEDDO is getting the most for it’s IT
You can’t get to where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been, so as soon
as I arrived as the new CIO, we started by evaluating what we had in place
using proven techniques from other organizations. As a team working with our customers, we asked
some key questions. Where were we
spending our money? What solutions were helping us achieve our mission? What
solutions were siloed and unsupportive of cross-organizational
collaboration? We wanted to move toward
solving IT challenges holistically, at the highest levels of the organization. Opportunities to increase the ROI and have
the biggest impact on life-saving operations were the compasses to tell us
where to start first.
needed to collect high-quality IT business intelligence quickly. To understand exactly where we were, we
worked with our vendors on an IT licensing profile taking into account
the past and present status of our networks which helped us discover
opportunities for consolidation. That initial analysis gave us a
clearer view into the full range of capabilities that were present within our
existing infrastructure, enabling us to bring those solutions to bear on
current challenges and maximize their value. This really opened our eyes on the
procurement front as well – pointing to needed improvements that would have
enterprise-wide impact. As moved our IT strategy forward, we started by
evaluating what we currently own, to ensure we weren’t bringing in duplicative
technologies. This enabled us to be better managers of our desktops and our mobile
devices, while breaking down siloes, improving information sharing across the
organization, increasing security, and giving us better visibility into IT
asset management. More importantly it
allowed us to bring continual improvement to the foundational enterprise
infrastructure that other IT investments depended on.
What advice would you give other CIOs that are tackling these same challenges?
First and foremost, I would point to the advice of Sun Tzu to know your
enemies, or challenges, yourself and your environment. Many organizations are not willing to
have a candid and complete assessment of their operations, an assessment that
shows flaws as well as strengths. We started with a comprehensive set of
technical and business analytical processes.
These assessments are ongoing.
This continual learning process allows us to make facts-based decisions
on investments and cost reduction.
I recommend that CIOs continually hone the collaboration mechanisms and
relationships with all the players in their environment, to include internal
and external stakeholders, contractors, Federally Funded Research and
Development Corporations (FFRDCs), and even non-profit professional and
industry associations. This may require
changing some paradigms. Our problems
are too complex to be solved by a small set of intellects. For example, I have begun to actively use
social media, such as Linked In and Twitter to connect with a wider set of
professionals in addition to a structured approach to conferences and other
widely attended public forums.
leaders are all looking to become more efficient through the use of technology,
and from my experience, that process must include an understanding what you already
own. IT leaders must also give equal or greater attention to the human capital
they will need to harness to use that technology to maximum effect. Technology exists to empower people. Once you have a full picture into current
capabilities cyber and organic, it’s easier to eliminate waste and evolve
procurement processes and other business activities to support the
organization’s vision. In our case, our personnel now have access to a range of
new technologies, we feel more secure and efficient, and we’re saving money at
the same time.
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