Military teams increasingly rely on real-time information and analysis for make-or-break decisions in the battlespace. If data can’t be accessed and shared the moment it’s needed, the result can be inaccurate decisions and wrong actions.

But warfighters don’t operate in a vacuum. They need to coordinate their decisions and actions with other personnel. Stakeholders at the mission, enterprise, and tactical levels all require unified visibility and understanding for missions to achieve battlespace dominance.

That’s why teams require an effective collaboration platform. In the past, military organizations might have had concerns about security, scalability, and ease of use. But the technology exists today to transform military operations with safe, robust, and truly transformative mission collaboration.

Unifying datasets

To deliver value, a collaboration platform needs to unify mission, enterprise, and tactical data. Let’s use Air Mobility Command of the U.S. Air Force as an example.

At the mission level, AMC uses the Global Decision Support System (GDSS) to help aircrews plan and execute missions such as strategic airlifts and aerial refueling. At the enterprise level, the command uses the Interactive Mission Record to package information for specific missions. And at the tactical level, warfighters rely on phone, radio, and instant-message communication to exchange data, make fast decisions, and take action.

These datasets typically remain largely separate, and that can work fine with a normal operating tempo. But in a contested environment or in contingency operations, situations change fast, and siloed data is ineffective. The only way to maintain decision quality and achieve tactical advantage is by unifying these datasets to achieve a common operating picture. That’s the power of a collaboration platform.

Addressing collaboration reluctance

Yet users of mission, enterprise, and tactical data rely on different tools to access and share information. Mission and enterprise users, for instance, are accustomed to DoD365, the military’s implementation of traditional email and productivity software. But email and productivity suites were designed three decades ago. They don’t move at the speed of today’s operations.

For the modern warfighter at the tactical edge, a mobile phone is almost an extension of their body. Real-time chat isn’t just how these users communicate; it’s also how they organize and process information. But tools such as WhatsApp and Signal are designed for one-to-one exchanges. They’re not consolidated in a centralized location, nor are they archived for later analysis.

A collaboration platform brings all these resources together. It replaces limited point-to-point communication with a unified mission channel. As a result, mission and enterprise users can communicate directly with the tactical edge to plan, make decisions, and solve problems in real time.

Just as important, a collaboration platform can combine data streams in a secure way. An effective platform can be dropped into an existing secure cloud environment. It can function in the military’s air-gapped networks, with role-based access at the edge compliant with DoD Impact Level 4 (IL4).

Of course, security also depends on personnel training. Organizations should think of mobile devices as weapons systems. Just as warfighters are trained how to properly use service pistols, for instance, they should also be trained in the safe handling of mobile devices. That includes security protocols such as apps they can use and data they can download and share.

Enhancing the decision advantage

Military organizations should look for a collaboration solution available as a centralized platform hosted in either an on-premises datacenter or a private cloud. The solution should comply with military requirements for communications security and operate at military scale. It should enable data to be stored within the organization, and it should allow collaborative communication to be archived for after-action reviews.

Collaboration platforms of this caliber have been tested and are being used by military innovation hubs such as the Air Force’s Platform One. They’ve also been proven in real-world missions. For example, during Operation Allies Refuge – the largest noncombatant evacuation in American history – Air Mobility Command relied on just such a collaboration platform for tactical communications to enhance decision advantage.

Mission, enterprise, and tactical data can no longer exist in silos. Users of data at all three levels require unified understanding of mission operations to be effective. By centralizing technology tools, data, and communication, a collaboration platform provides the holistic context that enables teams to maintain decision quality and achieve tactical advantage.

Barry Duplantis is vice president and general manager of North America Public Sector for Mattermost, an open-source, self-hostable online chat service with file sharing, search and integration services.

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