Keeping the Wealth
Mapping Asset under management portfolios
GCC countries are investing substantial sums in military capabilities, procuring state-of-the-art equipment and enhancing training. These countries have some of the fastest growing defence budgets in the world.
As the GCC countries improve their military skills and capabilities, they must keep in mind that weaponry and tactics alone are not enough. A critical element in today's military transformation is the use of information technology. This has affected all aspects of defence, from the management of logistics to military operations. Indeed, one of the crucial aspects of mission success is “information superiority”.
“Information superiority” is the ability to meet the information requirements of your own forces faster and with greater accuracy and comprehensiveness than your adversary can. Despite the relatively recent introduction of digital technology to military operations, IT-enabled information superiority has already made a significant difference on the battlefield.
The question is how best to get there. In an effort to keep up with rapid changes in technology, some militaries are rushing to buy large amounts of hardware and software in the hope that they will amount to something. That is the easy and wrong approach. These organisations soon find themselves with multiple systems that do not connect to each other and are redundant in some areas. Such an approach wastes as much as 30% to 40% of total procurement spending, and an equal wastage of manpower (which is spent on
Militaries require an enterprise strategy that can guide the acquisition and management of the necessary software, hardware, and services. This involves taking a holistic view of information, and putting strategy at the forefront.
activities that could be more efficiently handled through automation).
Instead, militaries require an enterprise strategy that can guide the acquisition and management of the necessary software, hardware, and services. This involves taking a holistic view of information, and putting strategy at the forefront. Specifically, information superiority requires five imperatives:
The first is that information must be treated as a strategic asset. The starting point is a coherent and unifying information strategy, which connects directly to the military strategy. This puts information superiority at the level of other traditional capabilities, such as air defence, maritime control, and ground manoeuvre. For example, the strategy should include the armed forces' vision of information superiority, supporting roles and responsibilities, key objectives, and the road map to achieve them.
The second is that information must be centrally governed. A single leader must have direct responsibility over information. Typically, this is a chief information officer (CIO), who reports directly to the head of the armed forces. The CIO must have the authority to manage this vital asset, to make investment decisions, and to control technical standards and design. This requires a centralised approach with appropriate authority, policies, procedures, and controls.
The third is that culture is critical. Militaries need to shift from a “need to know” model, in which information is tightly controlled, to a “need to share” approach, which encourages information to be distributed to improve performance. A culture of sharing cannot be achieved solely by specialist IT groups or organisational structures, because it is more about mindset than personnel or positions. Instead, achieving this culture calls for a top-down change programme, including communication from leaders on which information sharing is important, and the right level of training for all personnel.
The fourth is that cyber security is vital. Just as the advantages of information superiority are considerable, so the threats from cyber security failure can be just as significant. It is not enough to acquire and utilise information; militaries must also protect against attempts by the enemy to attack, access, or exploit critical military information. The right cyber security approach covers the entire organisation – all physical assets – and all personnel.
The fifth is that integrated and agile technology is an essential foundation. The information and communications technology (ICT) system that undergirds the strategy should allow the military to gather and disseminate information securely, linking aircraft, ships, land platforms, and headquarters. In some cases, this poses a sizeable challenge, in that organisations cannot start with a blank slate; rather, they operate with existing systems that must be integrated with newer technology.
The changing nature of warfare and the rapid advances in IT have made information the critical factor in military performance. By starting with an overarching information strategy and centralising governance, armed forces will achieve information superiority. They will be far more efficient and effective in their procurement spending and manpower utilisation. Their systems will be more interoperable within their own military and with allied forces and they will be better equipped to successfully complete their mission.
BY ABDULKADER LAMAA and ANDREW SUDDARDS, Principal and Senior Associate respectively Strategy & (formerly Booz & Company)