produce the exact effects the organization needs. To meet this need, we will modify our organizations to take full advantage of mission and information expertise.

When most people hear the phrase “system integration,” they think of technical issues, such as machine compatibility and achieving common operating environments. From this computer-centric perspective, two systems are integrated if they are electronically linked and can communicate with each other. However, the Y2K experience demonstrated that cross-functional ICT challenges, particularly those involving the interpretation and use of data and information, cannot be defined solely or even primarily in terms of technology. Like Y2K, current ICT management challenges such as system integration, information assurance, security, and life-cycle management cannot be met on purely technical grounds. Because ICT is pervasive, yet personalized; affects everyone, yet has no single owner; and is intimately tied to organizational missions, broad-based ICT issues inevitably generate tensions across various organizational boundaries. Y2K was a warning that technical solutions to broad-based ICT problems that fail to consider these tensions are unlikely to succeed.

Under the added strain of Y2K, the impact of cross-organizational tensions on Air Force ICT policy and practice became increasingly evident. While the tensions and related issues were exacerbated by Y2K, they are a fact of organizational life even during periods of business as usual. In most cases, these tensions represent competing yet mutually desirable “goods” (for example, additional functionality versus tighter security), each of which needs appropriate representation within the organization. For this reason, attempts to solve these problems by eliminating the tensions that caused them are generally unrealistic and even undesirable. One-dimensional cures aimed at establishing enterprise-wide ICT uniformity can be worse than the problem. Rather than seeking to eliminate ICT tensions, management strategies and tactics need to carefully consider and appropriately balance these dynamic multidimensional demands. Such strategies and tactics must be based on an enterprise-wide view of the varied ways that information is used to achieve organizational goals.

The remainder of this chapter explores specific organizational lessons of the Air Force Y2K experience that clarify and expand on the art of managing integrated ICT systems. These lessons are discussed under the following general headings:

3.1 Balance Central Management and Local Execution

3.2 Consider Evolution of the Problem over Time

3.3 Clarify Ownership and Responsibility

3.4 Consider the Impact of Local Diversity

3.5 Consider the Role of Local Autonomy

3.6 Build Trust Between Local Administrators and Central Managers

3.7 Strengthen Horizontal Relationships across the Organization

3.8 Overcome Funding Disincentives to Working across Organizational Boundaries

3.9 Clarify the Appropriate Level of Central Guidance and the Role of Central Administrators

3.10 Address Cross-boundary Issues in Life-Cycle Management of Systems

3.11 Tackle the Huge Informational Effort Needed to Support Management of Integrated Systems

3.12 Address Issues of Organizational Culture

3.13 Empower Permanent Organizational Entities Focused on Cross-boundary Issues

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement