Center for Strategic Decision Research


The New Technological Landscape and Its Effects on NATO

Mr. Jack Pellicci
Vice President, Oracle Corporation

I would like to share some insights with you today from the software or information management systems perspective on the current environment and future needs of the software industry. Leveraging information technology to the maximum extent possible in an era in which there is pressure to do everything better, faster, and less expensively is certainly a high priority with any alliance; it is a high priority for all the companies represented on this panel. Right now Oracle, which is a supplier to most of these companies and a subcontractor on many NATO and member-nations’ major projects, is implementing, with a major integrator, the financial systems for NATO, and we are working on a variety of command-and-control systems as a member of the team.


As we at Oracle look at today’s environment and analyze future requirements for the Alliance, we see four major trends that are shaping organization and enterprise development in both the public and private sectors.  

First, there is convergence, several types of convergence. Digital convergence brings together communications, computers, and content. And it does not matter what that content is: it can be business content, it can be educational content, it can be battlefield operational data or intelligence information. As long as the content is digitized, it does not matter. There is also network convergence, which brings together voice, data, and video. And, finally, there is appliance convergence, where a single device serves most individual needs. Many of you carry that device: the cellular telephone is morphing into that single device that will allow us, through the Internet, access to any information available.

The second trend is mass customization. In the Industrial Age, this was called mass production, but now it is called mass customization: the ability to leverage information technology to do one-to-one everything: one-to-one marketing, one-to-one governing, one-to-one learning, even one-to-one decision support.

The third trend is knowledge management. As data is collected and then analyzed, it is turned into more useful knowledge that can be managed and shared and re-used in new projects and new contingencies. A very popular term today is “data mining,” which enables the discovery of unsuspected information relationships, whether in industry or on the battlefield.

Finally, there is Internet computing, a new, network-based form of simplifying the approach to personal and organizational computing needs. We at Oracle like to say, “The Internet changes everything.” According to projections, there will be a billion people in the world using the Internet by 2002. The Internet is no longer a fringe tool or a fad; it truly enables the conversion of physical environments to electronic ones. It is affecting business, government, education, and military affairs dramatically, and has become a major catalyst for change both within NATO and between NATO and its many global business partners.


Internet computing’s impact on the Alliance is critical. As NATO undergoes changes to its traditional defense roles, and as its members—new and old—modernize, such computing is providing a tremendous opportunity to reduce cost, complexity, and risk. It is also providing a concomitant increase in flexibility and interoperability, and, with the proper attention and investment, the security necessary for any type of operation. In the information-management world, we are moving to one standard, and that standard is the Internet. I love the fact that there are so many standards, but I am happy to see that we are moving to just one.

Internet computing complements command-and-control systems and combat service-support systems. It is creating an entirely new model of service, one I like to refer to as the self-service model. This model empowers people, be they military leaders, civilian leaders, soldiers, sailors, airmen, or plain consumers or citizens, to do it themselves. I like that model. As people often say, “If you want to do it right, do it yourself.” Well, you can do it yourself today, and other people can do it themselves.


Another new model that is emerging today is the Net Generation. The Net Generation is very comfortable with this self-service model. This brings me to a very key point: we are undergoing a revolution in military affairs, including the re-invention of military forces within the Alliance. Along with this change, we must simultaneously address the rise of the Net Generation because it is populating our military forces and the companies that support them. This young generation comes with a very comfortable approach to Internet computing and expects to be able to use it wherever they go. Just ask me: one of my four children is a Major in Bosnia right now, and, while I manage to talk to him a little bit by phone, I talk to him via e-mail very frequently. It is very interesting to hear the perceptions of his high-tech evenings melded with his low-tech daily offerings.

My point is that there is a dynamic here that we all need to understand:  there is the possibility of a major gap between those coming into the forces and those leading them, and it must be addressed. As the Alliance and its business partners move forward in this era of Internet computing, of electronic business—or, as it is called, e-business, e-government, e-education—they are all placing a great premium on speed and connectivity, which are the king and queen of the business environment and, I would say, of the military environment.


With the half-life of technology approaching weeks, and with an Internet year now only a few months, we must review current processes and procedures and reinvent those that are keeping new information systems from reaching production or implementation in fewer than three years. We must also consider how to better leverage Internet computing for political-military decision making. Web-enabled advanced decision support, as it is referred to by some, provides a new capability for making better and faster decisions. Such support is based on the ability to manage all data types—transactional data, text, images from satellites, spatial data, voice, or video—in one single repository without the complexity that we are used to. This form of support also provides the ability to transmit data over secure wireless networks and turn it into useful information and knowledge within minutes, not hours or days.


As the new millennium approaches, NATO and its industry partners must certainly leverage the power of information technology and manage the accelerating pace of technological change. This is no easy task. NATO must also consider new metrics for success when dealing with information management and the implementation of information technology into existing systems. Two metrics that are emerging are RROI—Rapid Return on Information—and CSS—Customer Self-Satisfaction. It is no longer enough to measure just customer satisfaction; we must determine how we have helped the customer or the citizen or the soldier/seaman/airman to satisfy him- or herself. Those who have recognized these points, whether they are in NATO or industry, are ahead of the game.

Internet computing is about making the most of both relationships and knowledge within organizations, as well as linking organizations and their leaders to those they lead and to their customers, partners, and suppliers. As the Net Generation grows, it is also about meeting the needs of those who will become the Alliance’s future leaders. It is something these men and women expect, and something they deserve.


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