The basic technique discussed in this article is the creation of information frameworks. This is not a new technique. It has long been used in managing information recorded on paper. Military examples of information frameworks include: the structure of annexes, appendixes, and tabs in the operations order; (2) the Naval Standard Subject Identification Codes (SSIC) system; (3) the SSIC-based file outlines maintained by units; and (4) the SSIC-based message routing guide created and maintained by commands.
The basic concept behind this approach to information management is that tracking individual pieces of information in a large, complex body of information requires a structure of well-identified categories that provides a specific place for every piece of relevant information. When a piece of information is generated, it is initially labeled with an appropriate standard name (or names). It is then placed in its correct location. The SSIC and the names of operation orders annexes, appendixes, and tabs provide structures of standard terms for first categorizing individual pieces of information and second for identifying the specific locations to place pieces of information. If an identified category has not been created for important information, the important information will never be captured.
When information is kept on paper, the paper is (1) placed in the appropriate file folder or (2) given an appropriate annex, appendix, or tab title and placed in an operations order. When information is in a computer file, it is given a file name and placed in an appropriate computer folder or directory.
Organizations that effectively exploit information must create information frameworks such as are described herein. It is possible to create an infinite number of different pieces of data about any object. Without creating and using a standard information framework, those creating information will often provide products of little or no use.
Impact of Computerization
Computerization has increased the importance of information management techniques described in this paper. Computer-based sensors can produce hundreds or thousands of pieces of data in less than a minute. No organization can afford to hire enough people to manually process and analyze this high volume of data. Rather, organizations use computer tools such as statistical programs, spreadsheets, and databases to analyze large quantities of data.
For these tools to be effective, the data names assigned by a computer-based sensor when it creates data must be the same names used by its supporting data analysis software. If a sensor is sending out data on a T72 tank (notice the lack of a hyphen or dash) and the data analysis software is set up for a T-72 tank (including the hyphen or dash), the T72 tank data may be unrecognized by the data analysis software.
Creating Useful Information
Information is valuable when used for making decisions. A piece of information has no value or importance by itself. The fact that a T-72 tank exists is useless. The fact that an enemy T-72 tank is at a particular road junction and moving towards friendly forces can be useful, however. Such information may indicate that the enemy is advancing - this information has great value. The information that the tank is moving towards friendly forces can be used to decide whether to warn front-line troops of a possible attack, fire artillery, or shift forces.
Because of the large amounts of data that either exist or can be created quickly, one of the primary aims of information management is to find or create those few (usually five to nine) pieces of information that are most important in a particular situation. In terms of Marine Corps information hierarchy, raw data must be processed to create, first, processed data (i.e., organized data) and then, second, knowledge. This knowledge is then converted into situational awareness by decision makers and becomes the basis for making decisions.
Useful information must be available in a timely manner. If important information is located somewhere in an information system but no one can easily access it when it is needed, the information is useless, and the information system has failed.
Thus, good information management provides decision makers and those who support them with the information they need when they need it for mission success. To provide quality information, data must be created using standard terminology, communicated, processed to locate and/or create the few important pieces of information, and finally presented to decision makers in a form they can easily understand.
Consequences of Increasing Volumes of Information
The ever-increasing volume of information that has come with the advent of computers has significant consequences for information management.
First, the capabilities that enabled increasing volumes of information have not increased the ability of people to understand more information. Because of this, every information management effort must address the reduction of large quantities of information to the five to nine pieces of information necessary for a decision maker.
Second, because ever-increasing information volume requires an ever-improving capability to reduce information to the few important pieces that a decision maker needs, data reduction capabilities must be continually improved through the better use of software. This will be possible only if information is properly formatted to facilitate the use of decision support software.
Third, because communications systems as well as people need to be protected from information overload, effective information management must include methods to minimize the transmission of information by facilitating the identification and transmission of only the information required by a recipient.
Fourth, it must be possible to distinguish information by its level of detail and intended user. Examples: general information intended for use by a force commander and detailed information intended and required for maintenance officers or fire support coordinators.
Need for Information Management Planning
As is true of many military tasks, preparation is essential for successful execution in information management. The need to identify information requirements for a specific military operation is well understood and widely practiced using, among other techniques, commanders' critical information requirements (CCIRs) and priority information requirements (PIRs). These requirements are identified during the planning for a particular operation.
The better use of computer networks requires that commands create and update information frameworks. These frameworks define the categories of information that may be needed. Defining categories of required information is not new. It is completed separately for publications, intelligence and general message traffic. However, for net-centric warfare to be an effective reality, the separate efforts that address different parts of a unit's information needs must be combined into a single effort. This is because net-centric warfare aims to unify separate bodies of information (often called “stove-piped systems”) into a single body of information. The key to this unification is a common set of terms that are used by all members of an organization when identifying, storing and retrieving information.