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Information Operations: The Fifth Dimension of Warfare

The US Military recognizes at least five dimensions of warfare for which it is responsible:

  1. Land
  2. Sea
  3. Air
  4. Space
  5. Information
The fifth dimension, information, has direct relevance to enterprise mobility and mobile strategies. In the military conference I spoke at last week, the other speakers taught me the importance of dominating the fifth dimension. It is a compettive battlefield (market) and dominance is required.

In an article I read this morning titled, Information Operations: The Fifth Dimension of Warfare, by General Ronald R. Fogleman, Air Force chief of staff, he relates the following, "[In the past] the Ninth Tactical Air Force required two to three days to combine information and combat firepower to do the job they had to do. Today we synchronize forces in hours if not minutes. With our information operations we dramatically reduce the time required to detect and to destroy a target." That is a fifth dimension competitive advantage.

Here is another excerpt from the article, "[Winston] Churchill is quoted saying, 'In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.'" The Allies viewed their strategy for the use of information as the cornerstone of their success.

Another point made by General Foleman is that it is important to recognize information has a shelf life and if you can't use it in a timely manner, the information is wasted. Let me provide an example. If you have a service technician that finished a job early, but reports it only at the end of the work shift, that information is wasted. No work schedule optimization can be instigated at the end of the shift. That information had a shelf life that came and went.

Information advantages enabled by mobile technologies and communication are incredibly powerful. Historically, [military] commanders have been constrained by their ability to service and understand markets. Today things are different. Mobile technologies, real time information, Big Data, and business analytics enable managers to visualize remote and distant events in real time. This same information advantage concept allows companies to expand their markets and geographic reach. In my workshops I call this "force projection" - another term I stole from military jargon.

With the emergence of social media, there are even more new real time information based environments to be concerned with. I read this comment the other day by Zach Hofer-Shall, a social intelligence analyst at Forrester Research, "Deriving predictive marketing decisions from social analytics is not the same as social media monitoring. Most companies remain stuck reactively monitoring what happened yesterday." My first thought was he sounds like a social media snob, but then I understood what he was saying (I never claimed to be fast). He is saying there are ways of utilizing information that can predict events in the future, and this predictive capability is not just reviewing old information. It is a different way of using data that can potentially provide another information advantage. Wow!

Mobile technologies can provide information advantages if the rest of your IT and management environment can support the process, analysis and utilization of real time information.

Mobile technologies are enablers, but there are most often significant change management issues to deal with in the companies I have worked with. There is usually work to be done to ensure systems can support the "real time enterprise model" and that we can transform our decision making and management processes to utilize real time information as a competitive advantage.
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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for SMAC, Cognizant
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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.