Faced with the task of logistics support of the Army worldwide - "from tanks to toothbrushes," as officials put it - officials of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) in Alexandria, Va., needed a flexible software environment than would meet changing requirements without burdening the existing system.
The 80,000 personnel scattered around 350 sites in 40 states and seven foreign countries needed software that would accommodate a mixture of data types: alphanumeric, graphics-intensive, and video. Yet the organization could ill afford a comparable mixture of applications software.
The solution was a "groupware" approach using Lotus Notes from Lotus Development Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., that would enable the Army to put together special teams to handle logistics support for high-priority missions such as a flood evacuation in the Midwest or a recurrence of something like the Persian Gulf War.
Ed Jarrel, who until recently was director of information management at AMC, was determined to use a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) approach, but it had to meet the Army`s needs. "We are aware that COTS deployment represents a false economy if the impact on performance eclipses the cost savings," he says.
What he got with COTS is what Jarrel calls "continual prototyping" in which experts tailor the groupware for the function. "That means building environments that may well be thrown away once a project has been finished," adds Dave Barrett, director of government marketing at Lotus.
Barrett defines the concept this way: "Groupware is not a subset or adjunct to the operating system. It is an all-encompassing, function-driven data processing environment, and organizations will harness different operating systems to fulfill different functions within the groupware-enabled enterprise.
"We are aware that the value of data is not intrinsic, but applied," adds Jarrel. "The importance of the ability to manage access to information, delivering it to the user in a logical, presentable, and organized format cannot be overstated." -J.R.
For more information, phone Lotus Development Corp. at 617-577-8500.