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  • Writer's pictureBent Ear Solutions

How Organizations Optimize Operations Using Situational Awareness

Mitigate risk, monitor events, and meet mission objectives using real-time insight

Every day more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated globally. To put that into perspective, think about this: 90% of the world's data has been created in the last two years. This increase can be demonstrated not only in the mobile devices used in daily lives but also in the rise of enterprise systems deployed by organizations in both the public and private sectors. Indeed, worldwide IT spending projected for 2019 was $3.7 trillion.

Yet even as the amount of data grows at an exponential rate, businesses and organizations struggle to make sense of the bits and bytes pouring into their systems. According to Forrester, 41% of business leaders find it extremely challenging to make sense of their data.

In 2020, organizations face many challenges that require data-driven insight. The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) can be felt around the world as leaders navigate a broad range of interrelated issues involving safety, operations, the marketplace, and communities.

The catalyst to overcoming these challenges involves gaining real-time situational awareness. Whether it’s a local government agency evaluating the impacts of interrupted traffic, an electric utility repairing infrastructure, a food distributor planning truck deliveries, or an unfolding emergency, organizations can effectively plan and respond using the right information presented in the right way to provide context and understanding. Without it, they suffer from either a data deluge that derails meeting mission objectives or, worse, they act using incomplete, outdated, or inaccurate information.

The advantages of real-time, mission-specific situational awareness

Situational awareness is often used to describe an individual, department, or organization’s ability to recognize that something occurred or is about to occur. It also encompasses the ability to comprehend the impact of the event, as well as the implications to the future state.

One framework to consider, presented by Dr. Mica Endsley, organizes situational awareness into three steps:

  • Level 1 - Perception: The recognition that something has occurred. This step includes the monitoring of multiple elements and signaling that a change has occurred based on various criteria.

  • Level 2 – Comprehension: What does the thing that happened mean? Gaining an understanding of the current situation through techniques such as pattern recognition, proximity analysis, interpretation, and examination.

  • Level 3 – Projection: The ability to project the evolving situation in the future. How will it affect the future state and the impact on operations?

Comprehensive situational awareness, viewed through this three-pronged approach, requires organizations to transform raw, dynamic data into actionable information. It also requires the capability to integrate, analyze, and visualize the appropriate data from multiple systems, streaming sensors, mobile devices, social media feeds, etc.

Perhaps the most foundational aspect of situational awareness involves developing the right set of mission-relevant displays throughout the organization. Many organizations have employed a Common Operating Picture or COP for situational awareness; a single view for the entire organization. One size does not fit all, however, and connecting all data feeds to one viewer simply recreates the original problem; an overabundance of data that obfuscates rather than clarifies.

The successful use of a Situational Awareness Viewer requires configuring the required data feeds necessary to answer specific mission questions without unnecessary data that overloads or confuses decision-makers. Multiple mission viewers can be deployed to support the various decisions that must be made to support critical operations. This is most effective when supported by a display plan with standard operating procedures outlining routine status reports, decision requirements, and timelines. This approach also minimizes the complexity of the application itself, as the viewer is not trying to serve the needs of multiple stakeholders with differing needs.

Effective mission-based Situational Awareness Viewers leverage geography as the framework to present information in a quickly understandable and intuitive context. Specifically, geospatial applications based on roles and incidents provide the best medium for sharing situational awareness and collaboration for decision support and coordinated action.

Developing and deploying situational awareness tailored solutions based on mission requirements may seem daunting. Similar to any other project, developing effective situational awareness capabilities requires leadership to establish a governance framework, develop techniques, and procedures that must form the foundation of any information-sharing program.

That’s where the right partner with technical and operations experience can pay dividends. Looking for consultants with deep experience in building mission-based situational awareness can help organizations initiate the methodology for governance, strategy development, technology optimization, and standard operating procedures.

Perhaps, most importantly, they should actively listen to your needs to develop solutions that address your unique challenges. Again, avoiding cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all methods, and solutions. The right partner can help, develop solutions that provide the right information, to the right person, at the right time, using proven methods and best practices for the most challenging circumstances.

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