The Army learns to share

How do you get thousands of disparate and highly disciplined
personnel to start sharing what they know? That’s the
behavioral change the Army is trying to engineer in its ranks.
“We want to create a culture of collaboration within the
Army. [It is] about connecting those who know with those who need
to know,” said Robert Neilson, knowledge management adviser
at the Army’s Governance, Acquisition and Chief Knowledge
Office. He spoke at the Digital Government conference for Knowledge
Management held last month in Washington.

In August, the Army issued a set of knowledge management
principles ( for the operational units to
consider and follow. Neilson authored the memo.

Although the service already has a wide number of collaboration
sites for individual projects — Microsoft SharePoint seems to
have become a popular repository in the Army — the
information generated by these projects rarely gets reused

Neilson noted that the Army Knowledge Online Web portal runs the
Autonomy search engine, which is good at sniffing out content in
many different forms. However, the search service can only access 5
percent to 10 percent of the electronic information within the
Army’s domain. The rest is locked behind firewalls and other
security measures.

“The object is to make stuff discoverable, no matter where
it is,” Neilson said.

What will help is standardized collaborative toolsets, Neilson
said. The Army Knowledge Online portal — which will soon
transform into the Defense Knowledge Online portal for all of the
Defense Department — has two options for setting up
collaborative sessions: Personnel could use IBM Lotus Sametime or
Adobe’s LiveConnect. “If people get used to using them
in garrison, back in the U.S., and then they are deployed, then
there is no learning curve. If everyone standardizes on them, then
everyone will know how they operate,” he said.
Neilson’s office also has the Defense Collaboration Online
toolset for meetings with the brass.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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