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CHIPS Articles: The Collaborative Community: Improving Marine Corps IT Health

The Collaborative Community: Improving Marine Corps IT Health
By Pete Gillis - April-June 2011
Ever had a problem and thought, "I'm not the first person to have this problem; someone must have the answer?" If you're like me, it happens pretty often, and it got me thinking. It has been written that the average knowledge worker generates 2 to 3 gigabytes of information annually. How much of that information can help in your work? How much of your 2 to 3 GB of data could help others?Collaboration and information sharing are necessary pillars for building a true community of professionals. By communicating through a variety of methods and platforms, we can help one another solve our problems and increase the value we provide to the enterprise.

Since 1990, the ability to collaborate and share information has changed radically. In the 1990s, your ability to collaborate was limited. An organization presented not just an administrative boundary, but also an informational one because you only had a telephone, and basic e-mail in some cases, for communication. You interacted only with people you knew, and that usually meant seniors, peers and subordinates within your organization. You had a computer, and you stored any content you created on your hard drive. Any value you generated (ideas, documents, etc.) was realized at the organizational level. As the Internet increased in popularity and reach, this paradigm started to change.

Information now flows across organizational boundaries. People you don't know are instantly accessible through blogs and discussion boards. Content that you create can be uploaded to SharePoint, posted on YouTube, and shared with others. Most importantly, there is the potential to realize the value you generate across the enterprise. Today's technology enables us to break down the barriers to information sharing and improve our "information health," a term the CIO Executive Board defines as the quality, trustworthiness, timeliness and ease of access to information.

In the Marine Corps information technology community, we want to realize value across the enterprise by improving our information health. How do we get there? I believe there are three environmental factors that influence this process. First, we have an occupationally diverse community. We have the information technology management series (2210), telecommunications personnel (0391), computer engineers (0854) and scientists (1550), computer operators (0332) and technicians (0335), as well as librarians, library technicians and the technical information services series (1412).

The wide array of occupations means a wide array of information and knowledge is generated. Some of this information will be series specific, but what remains to be determined is how much of that knowledge can transcend series boundaries. For example, DON librarians, who are part of the 1412 series, could be breaking new ground in information management. However, because we are not sharing knowledge across series boundaries, their expertise may be benefitting just a small slice of the Marine Corps community. In addition to a wide array of occupations, we have a geographically diverse community. From Okinawa to Europe, civilian IT professionals are individually generating 2 GB of information. This abundance of information was a barrier to improving information health. But today's technology allows a computer operator at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to get an answer to a question from an IT specialist in Pensacola, Fla.

The Marine Corps IT community is certainly not the only stakeholder (or potential stakeholder) in our information health or in the methods we will use to improve it. Other stakeholders might include Marine Corps organizations, such as Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Training and Education Command, or other Marine Corps communities of interest. Indeed, the list may include audiences external to the Marine Corps. As we move forward, we will want to carefully consider the effects of these environmental factors and leverage any strengths we identify.

The Marine Corps IT community is targeting a number of platforms to increase information health. First, we are increasing the size of our access list to the community's SharePoint site. By the end of this year, we hope to give virtually all community members access. Further, we need to better leverage the existing capabilities that SharePoint offers. Second, our public facing website (www.marines.mil/unit/hqmc/c4/itmcoi) will transfer to the Armed Forces Public Information Management System by this summer. The migration will allow us to completely update the format and page structure. Once the migration is complete, we will overhaul the content. Third, we debuted our community Facebook page (search for "Information Technology Management Community of Interest") and our Twitter account (http://twitter.com/USMC_ITMCOI) in January 2011. These platforms give us vehicles to pass information and also to engage in two-way dialogue. Finally, we're going to expand our presence on milSuite, the U.S. Army-sponsored collection of online tools that promotes workforce collaboration and secure information-sharing behind the Department of Defense firewall. MilSuite (https://www.milsuite.mil/) provides an array of tools that can facilitate knowledge sharing.

The Marine Corps IT community will reap tremendous benefits from improving our information health. In a fiscally restrictive environment, we need to be looking for ways to get more value from our resources. If we create an environment of information and knowledge sharing, we can save the time required to solve our problems, and time is money. Leveraging the technology at our disposal, we can break down barriers to information sharing and realize value at the enterprise level. In the future, this will be critical to maintaining a vibrant community and being "information healthy."

Pete Gillis is the community manager for the Marine Corps information technology management community of interest. Mr. Gillis works for the command, control, communications and computers department (C4), Headquarters Marine Corps.

TAGS: KM, Workforce
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