DOD and Social networking tools

From the Department of Navy CIO Blog

Of late, there is much discussion and much written about social networking tools such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook. In fact, many government agencies are deploying their own version of these tools to better facilitate information sharing within their communities.

The Intelligence Community, for one, developed Intellipedia, which is modeled after Wikipedia. The Defense Intelligence Agency recently deployed A-Space and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will launch Spacebook this spring. These applications are modeled after MySpace and Facebook. Additionally, our vaunted Department of the Navy Office of General Counsel has developed OGC Online to enable our attorneys to collaborate and tap into talent that was previously unknown.

So what is the real purpose of these tools? What are the benefits? What business problems do they solve? Ultimately, do these investments provide value? I believe they do.

Why do I say that? A few reasons: These tools are fundamental to collaboration. They have the potential to leverage the collective wisdom of this 750,000+ member Department. How many times do we seek someone with specific knowledge in order to complete a task or a project? Unfortunately, we do not always know where to begin that search because our visibility is limited.

These tools provide the basis for searching the intellectual capacity of our people and facilitate our ability to make connections to solve real problems. Many large companies have developed these tools, and they have provided a fundamental connection between previously unknown elements of the workforce. This has enabled better decision-making that reflects a broader perspective and results in more informed answers.

These tools enable problem solving across virtually any function or process we conduct ranging from acquisition, to legal, to contracting, to systems engineering. We are a very large enterprise and chances are that someone on our network can contribute. The challenge we have is linking the talent out there with the problems we are facing. These tools make it possible to do just that.

So, how much should the Department invest in these tools? Should we build the tools or buy them? I suspect that many of these tools already exist — already developed within the walls of the Department of Defense or by commercial industry — and can be leveraged Department-wide.

Whatever the case may be, I believe we need to make the modest investment and turn the capability loose. Additionally, our Millenials EXPECT these tools and our older workers can explore them and easily see the value. So what is keeping us from fully embracing the opportunities that exist?

What do you think?

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Dennis McDonald

I love this article and applaud this CIO’s vision. But in my experience the logic of these arguments can be lost due to old fashioned siloing and refusal to open up communication across traditional organizational and professional boundaries. Solving problems that require multidisciplinary approaches that stretch across research, engineering, and manufacturing communities, for example, requires that people allow a free flow of ideas and discussion. This is assuming that it is possible to overcome national security concerns, technical incompatibilities, and a lack of standardization in communication and networking protocols. Even when technical interoperability issues are solved, though, we still have to deal with bureaucratic intransigence. I suspect these factors are major drivers of the acceptance of such insecure and open public networks such as Facebook; they’re available, they’re easy to use, they’re inexpensive, and they work.