Cultural Change Poses Greatest Hurdle for JIE Implementation

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
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JIE leaders offer that the biggest impediment to its success is the cultural change the JIE is bringing to the Defense Department. DeVries describes the department as a very large organization with processes built into it over a long period of time for defining requirements and then coming up with a recommendation of how to meet those requirements. Traditionally, the focus has been on buying a system to satisfy those requirements, and the services often had their own unique needs and methods of operation. “That culture is changing, and now we have to get away from meeting requirements with systems and instead toward capabilities, which might be fulfilled by services, the changing of procedures or even capitalizing on what your neighbor has and scaling that up to use across a broader front,” DeVries says.

Gen. Bowman agrees that cultural difficulties are among the biggest hurdles to be overcome, and he cites the unwillingness of some to share the view of how the network is running. “We all know when it’s performing right or not right, but it would be nice to know when it’s looking like it’s going to go south and have people in different locations looking at it from their view.” Having this shared view would be the equivalent of having a group of sensors scattered across the enterprise providing updates.

Another flaw is the concept of network possession, which manifests itself in the control culture that afflicts many people and organizations. “We need to be able to share; we need to focus on whose core competency [something] is, and then let them do it,” Gen. Bowman states. “Senior leaders get it; it’s getting people to let go that is one of the biggest concerns.”

That effort can begin at the top. “We need to see a Joint Base Pentagon,” the general declares. “We don’t have it now. We have several help desks in the Pentagon, for example, and we need to collapse those and move them together.

“We’re all drawing services through the same pipes,” he continues. “Why wouldn’t we move our help desks and consolidate them?” He suggests the consolidated help desk could be run by the Information Technology Agency, which provides information transport for the Pentagon.

Gen. Hawkins takes a similar approach in suggesting that a major stumbling block to JIE implementation is “the box mentality within which we currently live.” The culture within the Defense Department is to control the different information technology devices—phones, desktops and laptops, for example. This desire for control is “an impediment to the successful and complete implementation” of the JIE, he charges. “We need to be able to get to cellphones, to mobile devices, that are not locked to a desk or credenza. We need to be able to move around and still be able to have access to our data and our information. “The laptop is to the JIE what the IBM Selectric typewriter was to the word processing area,” he analogizes. “We have to get away from what we would consider those old IBM Selectric typewriters on our desks.”

And, the department must be agile as it repurposes its work force. “As we embrace and exploit the technology that industry is going to bring, the work force that was trained in my time—and I go back to punch cards—needs to be repurposed and retrained for the current and future technology that is out there,” Gen. Hawkins states.

For more on the JIE, read "Joint Information Environment Logs Successes, Faces Snags."

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