Army briefings get up to date

Instaknow software helps keep brass up to date on major programs, the Army's Emerson Keslar says.

Amry senior managers have always relied on briefings for updates on major programs.

But until recently the information in the presentations often was outdated by the time the briefings were made, said Emerson L. Keslar, CIO for the Information and Knowledge Management Office, a component of the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Tactical, based at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

'What we didn't have for a long time was good, strong information for our senior managers,' Keslar said. 'How they got their information was by briefing. What we were trying to do is say how do we get out of this briefing mentality?'

What the Army needed, he said, was 'real-time situational awareness of where all these programs were'a real-time program briefing.'

And they got it, about eight months ago, using wizard-based software that scours disparate databases and gives leaders automated feeds. The databases hold a variety of data, including program status, schedule, budget, risk assessment, planning and readiness information, officials said.

Instaknow Inc. of South Plainfield, N.J., designed the software to fit into PEO C3T's Executive Information Management System, Keslar said. Other contractors working with Instaknow to improve these processes were CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., Data Systems Analysts Inc. of Pennsauken, N.J., and Symbolic System Inc. of New Providence, N.J.

A program manager 'gets to see how much money is coming in and how much money is spent,' Keslar said. 'That information is all over the place in DOD and the Army. It's in 1,000 systems.'
The Executive Information Management System, developed by Symbolic System, gives executives access to internal data. And Instaknow's Active Collaborative Engine, Keslar said, goes into external sources, which represent roughly 80 percent of the sources from which Army program managers get their information. It also provides automated feeds from those external systems.

'This wizard allows you to go to all these different databases that you have access to,' Keslar said. 'This software application can go into databases, mainframes and Excel spreadsheets.' The Army struggled for almost two years to put something like this in place, said Paul Khandekar, chief executive officer for Instaknow.

'A person doesn't need to know anything about code or business logic,' Khandekar said of the wizard technology. 'It is a wizard that knows how to send information automatically. It automatically visits those fragmented systems.'

'Just like a human being can go to the Web on all of those sites to get the information, so can a wizard,' Khandekar added. 'We have an intelligent process that can visit data and present it in a nice manner.'

Horizontal fusion

Keslar said the software would also further the Defense Department's goal of horizontal fusion, in which data is integrated from multiple sources so users can make decisions quickly.

'Every once in a while, you see a technology where you have to roll your seat back and say 'Whoa!' ' Keslar said. 'I did that a few years ago when I saw instant messaging.'

Keslar added that he did it again when Instaknow officials came and demonstrated the software. 'Instaknow is a good horizontal-fusion technology,' he said.

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