Army lures people to portal

Army lures people to portal

Maj. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle, program executive officer for C3S, says instant messaging is a 'killer app that's greatly undervalued.'

Knowledge portal is a blend of job-related and personal-interest features

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff

The modern Army cannot survive without knowledge management technology, said Maj. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle, because 'we are so thin and move so fast.'

Speaking last month at the Lotus Global Government Forum in Washington, Boutelle described how, as program executive officer for command, control and communications systems, he is wooing Army users to the PEO C3S Knowledge Center portal on the Web. A public version of the site is at

The knowledge portal blends items of personal interest'such as promotion lists'with tactical, theater and strategic C3 information.

Boutelle said he tells Army personnel, 'Don't send us a letter or stop by; do it online' through the portal.

So far, he said, 'We have not broken the e-mail paradigm' to wean a majority of Army users from e-mail contacts over to groupware and real-time collaboration. About 20 percent to 30 percent of the users have tried out the new collaborative applications available through the portal, Boutelle said.

There's no safety net in real-time collaboration, he said, and the brass 'will be the first to tell you when you've failed.'

The growing body of Army knowledge is now available via classified paths as well as over the Non-Classified IP Router Network and the Secure IP Router Network, he said. Of the Army's 490,000 active-duty and 70,000 civilian personnel, about 93,000 use the knowledge portal's search engine, data warehouses and subject-matter experts.

Besides the knowledge channels, Boutelle said, there are the expected features of a major portal'top stories, news updates, alerts and travel information'plus 128-bit secure messaging and photos sent in daily by users, which he counts on to build an audience.

Reducing e-mail

When Boutelle first encountered instant messaging, he said, he thought it was 'a toy, but it can [reach] 500 or 600 people out of a unit of 2,000 around the world all at once. It's a killer app that's greatly undervalued. It greatly reduces e-mail and gets quick responses.'

Besides instant messaging services, the portal hosts virtual meetings, whiteboarding, videoconferencing, broadcast messaging and team rooms where project managers can work together. It also handles calendars and worldwide warranty and contract tracking.

Boutelle said Army users can turn to virtual private networks to share databases maintained by principal contractors TRW Inc., Computer Sciences Corp. and Raytheon Co.

'We have knowledge sharing 24-by-seven worldwide, but you have to scrub and purge' to keep the content fresh, he said. The Army portal has grown from 300 documents, 150 applications and 75 links two years ago to 15,000 documents, 600 apps and 2,000 links today.

'So far we're pleased with a Lotus Domino Server and Notes R5 infrastructure,' Boutelle said. 'It's interoperable with Unix and Microsoft Windows NT and multiple user interfaces.'

The portal uses Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server, Oracle Corp. databases, and Lotus Sametime collaboration and Domino.Doc management software.

Boutelle acknowledged that his push into leading-edge information management 'marginalizes a lot of staff,' especially older employees. 'You need to shift people, and it changes the organizational dynamics,' he said, but added, 'People will not stay with you unless you do this. To 21-year-olds, it's second nature.'

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