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People and Technology in the Workplace The Forest Service Information System CHARLES R. HARTGRAVES The Forest Service is the largest agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, its offices widely dispersed and frequently located in remote, sparsely populated regions. Increasingly, the work of Forest Service employees is information intensive. To enable its employees to perform their work more effectively, the agency is implementing a nationwide information processing system that provides advanced computer-based tools. Although many other organizations, in both the public and the private sectors, are also incorporating electronic tools into white collar work, the Forest Service implementation is notable—even unprecedented—in several respects. The system is very large (one of the largest in the country to date) and complex. It serves a great variety of users by integrating many functions within a single operating environment. This case study describes the origins and implementation of the Forest Service information processing system and explores the information environment that shapes its present and future use. THE ORGANIZATION The Forest Service employs 29,000 full-time people, as well as 10,000 skilled temporaries who join the Forest Service during the summer months, to manage the nation's land and natural resources. Forest Service employees include about 5,500 foresters; 1,600 biologists, soil scientists, geologists, and other scientists; and 1,400 engineers. These employees operate from 653 district offices, 123
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People and Technology in the Workplace supervisors' offices, 9 regional offices, 9 research stations, 78 research project locations, 1 state and private area office, and the national office in Washington, D.C. What makes the Forest Service truly unique is that all employees and offices are tied into a comprehensive information management network. That network includes more than 900 computers and 18,000 terminals distributed over 45 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The Forest Service provides national forestry leadership and manages all National Forest System land, about 191 million acres of public lands (consisting of 156 National Forests, 19 National Grasslands, and 16 Land Utilization Projects). Its activities reflect diversified resource management activities, ranging from timber sales, fish and wildlife habitat improvement, recreation site management, land boundaries identification, to road and trail development and fire fighting, to name but a few (see Table 1). Forest Service programs, policies, and activities reflect both environmental protection and public needs, which are identified through public involvement. The guiding principle for use of the National Forest System land is ''the greatest good to the greatest number in the long run." Because the Forest Service is highly decentralized, most day-to-day decisions are made at the local level. The Forest Service co-operates with the states and territories, local governments, forest industries, and private landowners to promote good forestry practices on nonfederal forest lands and to increase efficient wood use. Most technical and financial assistance is provided through state forestry organizations for a mix of projects, such as controlling tree diseases, producing improved seedlings, reducing soil erosion, planting trees to conserve energy, and protecting against fire. The Forest Service research organization provides national forest and rangeland research leadership. Forest Service researchers study the biological, physical, and social sciences, often cooperating with forestry schools and agricultural experiment stations. This research includes such activities as developing disease-resistant seedlings, mapping lightning fires, acid rain research, controlling forest pests, and improving wood processing efficiencies. Research results are made available through publications, films, workshops, computer programs, and other methods. The Forest Service represents the United States in most world forestry matters, providing technical assistance to other countries through cooperation with the Department of State and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Forest Service also participates in human resource and community assis-
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People and Technology in the Workplace TABLE 1 Forest Service Vital Statistics, 1989 Financial Ledger Receipts $1.84 billion Expenditures $3.19 billion Permanent full-time employees 30,500 Size and Scope National Forest System 191 million acres National Forest System lands burned 0.4 million acres Wilderness 32.5 million acres Road system 360,000 miles Trail system 108,381 miles Wildlife and fish habitat improvements 462,701 acres National Wild and Scenic Rivers System 3,338 miles National Scenic Byways 2,937 miles Reforestation 475.9 thousand acres Watershed improvements 39,190 acres Timber harvested 12.0 billion board feet Human Resources; Communities Served Human resource programs 95,608 persons served Recreation use 252.5 million visitor-days Timber sold 8.4 billion board feet Grazing permits administered 11,983 Livestock grazing 9.6 million animal unit months Insect and disease suppression 1.1 million acres Mineral cases processed 29,152 Research publications 2,078 Woodland owners assisted 153,855 tance programs to help improve living conditions in rural areas of the United States. Since the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, the Forest Service has participated in many human resource programs aimed at putting people to work and improving living conditions in rural areas. Currently it operates Job Corps Centers to teach skills to uneducated young people. EVOLUTION OF THE FOREST SERVICE INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT Like many other large organizations, the Forest Service started using computers in the 1960s. These decentralized computers were located and used in several large regional offices. Remote data communications were nonexistent. The computers were used primarily for routine number-crunching applications such as ac-
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People and Technology in the Workplace counting and engineering. The systems were very "unfriendly," and few employees knew how to operate them. In the early 1970s, large mainframe computers and remote processing came on the scene when the Department of Agriculture established the Fort Collins Computer Center (FCCC). The Forest Service used this centralized computer system as well as some outside time-share facilities over the next 10 years to support a number of national business, engineering, and resource management applications. Remote access to FCCC was through "dumb terminals" and a low-speed data communication network. The applications were run mostly by trained specialists. Although word processing technology began to appear late in this period, typewriters, calculators, and telephones were still the predominate office tools. It soon became apparent that there was a need for computer capability where the work was getting done. In 1971 a technical team wrote a long-term strategic document entitled "Blueprint for Action," which called for a national distributed computer system. This was followed in 1975 by a similar report written by the Systems Development Action Planning Team. This high-level management team, headed by a regional forester, and the subsequent report it produced, reinforced the idea of a distributed computer system. Based on the recommendations of this report, the Forest Service had conducted a National Facilities Needs Analysis, comparing Forest Service requirements with the computer industry's ability to meet them. The Forest Service had decided early on not to think in terms of designing a custom system, but to look at what kind of technology the industry had available to fill its needs. From this analysis of needs, the Forest Service learned how to state its needs in terms of functionality and technology. SYSTEMATIC APPROACH TO AUTOMATION With so much at stake, both financially and technically, the Forest Service refused to award a contract without ensuring that the vendor could fulfill it. In 1981 the Forest Service sent out a formal request for proposal (RFP) for a nationwide computer system, based on 32-bit technology and consisting of more than 900 general-purpose computers. These systems would be used for everything from collecting public comments on conservation issues to keeping track of the people and material needed to fight forest fires. The systems had to perform electronic mail, data base man-
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People and Technology in the Workplace agement, office automation tasks, and data entry, storage, and retrieval. Moreover, they had to be reliable enough for use on the forest level, where most of the resource management takes place. The Forest Service provided the vendors with a comprehensive set of technical specifications based on the needs analysis and also provided functional specifications that were the result of actual workload measurements in the local offices. Based on those measurements, the Forest Service developed a series of benchmark procedures. Once a vendor passed the technical evaluation, the Forest Service visited the vendor and ran the benchmarks on several configurations of equipment. The Forest Service then dismantled the hardware to make sure it was configured as bid. As the vendor selection process became clearer, so did the Forest Service's vision of what it wanted. Originally, the goal was to make computer power available to any field office that requested it. As time went on, it was decided to mandate a system for each of the field offices. Eventually, the Forest Service reached the point of wanting to move from paper to an electronic-based organization. After a thorough examination that covered the capabilities, vendors, and costs of the various systems, the Forest Service chose Data General. When this decision had been made and accepted, the real work of implementing the largest nationwide distributed information network began. As the time came to put the plan into action, the agency continued methodically. The first six months were spent working with Data General representatives preparing and establishing key standards and policy decisions. These included everything from site preparation requirements to administrative responsibilities. Small teams were formed to help install the systems and train system managers, who would in turn train their people. At the same time, one ECLIPSE MV/4000 system and two MV/8000 systems were set up as test sites in offices in Washington, D.C.; Missoula, Montana; and Berkeley, California. Based on experience gained in these sites, the Forest Service established operational guidelines to take advantage of the system's ability to store and retrieve data and to communicate it from one user to another almost instantaneously. The first few systems were installed in September 1983. In January 1984 Data General began shipping systems to the rest of the Forest Service at a rate of seven a week and continued for almost three years. Installing more than 900 computers throughout the National Forest System was not without mishap. One Data General computer fell off a ferry and is currently resting—or rusting—at the
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People and Technology in the Workplace bottom of a lake. Another time, a Data General systems engineer, en route one night to install a system, drove into a herd of buffalo. Fortunately, he survived but his car did not. Despite these delays, the process went smoothly. In a 1986 independent report, the Rand Institute for Research on Interactive Systems noted that the implementation, installation, and initial training stage ''appears remarkably successful; it has proceeded according to schedule, the systems have been reliable and use is high." THE FOREST-LEVEL INFORMATION PROCESSING SYSTEM Currently, the Forest Service distributed processing system uses more than 900 Data General ECLIPSE MV/Family superminicomputers and 18,000 terminals. The systems communicate with each other and with IBM mainframes located in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Unisys mainframes in the Fort Collins Computer Center in Colorado, over a Telenet X.25 public data network. The Forest Service also has more than 700 Data General/One portable laptop computers to extend its in-house data collection capability into the field. At the forest and district levels, the Data General systems are used to perform a variety of tasks. They help rangers generate memos and letters, produce reports, prepare budgets, manage office services, update mailing lists, and process forms and permits. These systems also help rangers perform engineering studies of roads and facilities, maintain fire-control records, conduct environmental-impact studies, track timber appraisals, and print contracts. One silviculture specialist uses the Data General system to prepare reports on various stands of timber. Simply by changing the dates, locations, and figures, a 4-hour job was done in 30 minutes. From the district to the national offices, the systems are called on to perform information collection and administrative tasks. In many cases, the software for these applications was available "off-the-shelf." CEO, Data General's office automation software, is especially useful. In other cases, field and district personnel write their own programs using Data General's Command Line Interpreter and PROXI fourth-generation programming language. Yet no matter what each system is used for, or where, the purpose is the same: to automate the collection, analysis, and exchange of information. The Forest Service tried to develop an understanding of information sharing and to turn all its offices into a single community of users.
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People and Technology in the Workplace THE $120 MILLION INVESTMENT THAT SHOULD SAVE FIVE TIMES WHAT IT COST Forest Service executives believed that switching from a paper-based operation to an electronic one would save money, but could not predict the amount. To find out, Labat-Anderson Incorporated, of Arlington, Virginia, and MetaResource Project of Santa Fe, New Mexico, were hired to perform an economic-benefit analysis. As part of the analysis, they surveyed 12 National Forest rangers and office personnel using the system and quantitatively calculated the financial benefit to the Forest Service. The results were impressive. The analysis showed a 30 percent increase in productivity during the first 24 months, with almost a half-million hours saved. The time saved was reallocated to accomplish more work, improve resource management, organizational management, and public contact. Over the past eight years, the Forest Service has been forced to undergo a staffing reduction. However, in 1987, it still managed to increase productivity by 17 percent with 25 percent fewer people. In dollars and cents, the study showed that the total value of the time saved reached $339 million in fiscal year 1987 alone. Based on these figures, the Forest Service is predicting a cost-benefit ratio of 5 to 1 for the life of the contract. In other words, the Forest Service saves $500 for every $100 spent. Where did that cost savings come from? The electronic mail capabilities of CEO is one source. Using CEO, national headquarters can distribute letters and other information to any of its more than 800 offices in seconds. To prove how fast it is, a director in Washington can use CEO to send a letter to a forest supervisor, then try to call the supervisor over the phone. Nine times out of ten, the director will receive a note back on CEO before reaching the supervisor by phone. In 1987 the Forest Service saved more than $1.5 million in mail costs in the national office itself. There are several other areas where the savings have been just as dramatic. Before the system was installed, the Forest Service communicated between local terminals and its Fort Collins Computer Center over dedicated lines. After installation, these communications were handled by the Telenet public data network. The telecommunications savings: $200,000 per month. Another example of cost savings relates to time and attendance reporting for payroll purposes. Before the distributed information system was installed, each of the 30,000 Forest Service employees filled out time and attendance reports; every two weeks, 30,000
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People and Technology in the Workplace time sheets poured into the National Financial Center in New Orleans. About 1,000 people were required to process the paperwork, using optical character recognition readers to scan the time sheets. The error rate hovered around 30 percent. Once the system was installed, time and attendance reporting was done electronically. As a direct result, the Forest Service cut its costs for paper, postage, and handling by $3.5 million a year, or $300,000 every four weeks. In addition, the error rate dropped to less than 5 percent and is expected to continue to decrease. There have been other benefits as well. Since the entire organization transacts much of its business electronically, the frustration of "telephone tag" has virtually been eliminated. Managers are also spending more of their time in running projects and less in handling paperwork. The staff role has also changed. Instead of typing and filing, clerical personnel have become systems administrators who spend time managing file space requirements and making sure documents are routed efficiently. This has resulted in a definite increase in agency esprit de corps and productivity. THE FUTURE: MAKING AN EFFICIENT AND COST-EFFECTIVE NETWORK EVEN MORE SO Currently, the Forest Service is upgrading many of the systems in the local offices. When the systems were first installed, there was initial reluctance to use them. But once managers and other staff members found how productive they could be, they quickly put more applications on the system until they outgrew them. In addition to upgrading the systems, the Forest Service is also upgrading its field service capability. Originally, Data General worked with the Forest Service to provide installation, training, and field service. Now, as the result of a cooperative training program between Data General field service and the Forest Service personnel, Forest Service technicians have taken over many of the basic maintenance and repair services. They are also performing low-end upgrades and installations. This innovative program has served to lower maintenance costs and provide faster turnaround. In the 1980s the information industry has shifted its attention away from helping to make administrative duties more cost-effective, toward helping executives, managers, and professionals—the "knowledge workers"—to achieve their business objectives. This important trend signifies a transition from the "computer era" to the "information era." It signifies a shift away from an emphasis
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People and Technology in the Workplace on the "cost-displacement" benefits of automation and toward "value-added" benefits. Cost-displacement benefits occur when an organization uses automation to perform a task more efficiently—produce the same output with less input. Value-added benefits are realized when automated information systems help an organization make better decisions and more effectively accomplish its mission. The value-added focus should lead us away from replacing people with computers, and toward giving people the tools needed to produce better business results. Value-added benefits can easily exceed those resulting from increased efficiency. A manager with better information may earn his or her salary in five minutes with a single critical insight or decision. Perhaps more important, better decisions by executives, managers, and professionals have greater leverage on the success of the organization. The forest Service believes that providing its "knowledge workers" with quality management information represents a significant opportunity to improve the agency's performance. In summary, the nationwide distributed information network has made a tremendous difference in service to the public, and the Forest Service has learned how to manage information. In its mainframe days, the agency's appetite for equipment was insatiable, but it still was not getting the performance it required. Now the Forest Service has put itself in a position where it is doing more than it originally planned and is doing it better. LESSONS LEARNED IN SYSTEM DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION The Forest Service recognized early on that it was not so much a particular technology that was needed as it was a set of integrated technologies. Those technologies must aid in organizing, manipulating, and communicating a large amount of data about resources, people, money, and other things. Much of that data is corporate, that is, it is data shared by people for various purposes to help meet the mission of the Forest Service. What they are striving to do is to transform the data processing environment, much as CEO made it possible to transform office functions. That implies a new order of business, a change in roles and priorities; it implies an environment in which all Forest Service employees can participate productively in the full range of collecting, managing, and sharing data related to their work. This is not just a Forest Service undertaking, of course, nor is it one unique to Data
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People and Technology in the Workplace General's line of products. It simply reflects the current state of the industry. The challenge is to get from "here" to "there" in a fast-changing world with some kind of order. Data and information in the Forest Service are distributed over four levels of the organization (headquarters, regions, national forests, and ranger districts); and over three levels of architecture (mainframes, minicomputers, and work stations). The Data General system forms the backbone of this architecture at some 800 offices. Two Department of Agriculture mainframes are used for centralized accounting and personnel (on IBM machines at the National Finance Center) and for very large resource data bases and linear programming models (on Unisys machines at the Fort Collins Computer Center). Intelligent work stations will further disperse computing power in the not too distant future. With the implementation of distributed processing in the Forest Service, a number of principles or axioms have been developed to provide the framework for the orderly design and integration of this new technology into the organization. The major principles are as follows: One community of users at each line office One information structure and interface at each line office Personal identity and accountability at all times when using information and technology Effective audit trail for interactive events Carefully constructed set of standards for information structure and the human interface Orderly framework for access to, and dissemination of, information in the interoffice environment By focusing on these principles, the Forest Service has successfully implemented state-of-the-art information processing throughout the National Forest System. Forest Service managers at all levels have quickly integrated the tools of automation into their day-to-day business. The current goals of Forest Service information system include developing a commonality of purpose, information-responsive organization, effective use of scarce knowledge, and the implementation of standards for information structure and the human interface. One Community of Users at Each Line Office The Forest Service's distributed processing system was designed to match the structure of the organization. The goal has been to
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People and Technology in the Workplace fit the information technology to the work of the organization so that the technology does not constrain the ability of units of the organization to carry out their assigned missions. The basic structure of the Forest Service is a line organization. The agency's internal structure has evolved over the past 80 years and continues to grow daily as it responds to new needs. The distributed processing technology will be adapted to the changing organization, rather than changing the organization to fit the existing technology. Each line office is structured as a working unit to carry out its defined mission. Available human, financial, and information resources are used in the most effective way possible. As a participant in the distributed processing system, each line office has one set of priorities, one set of information structures, and one set of users. If the structure or mission of the line office changes, the technology support should be changed to match it. For example, for shared services between some of the research stations and regional offices, the technology should match this organizational approach. One Information Structure and Interface at Each Line Office Organization of information through the distributed processing system permits the Forest Service to achieve its goal of having a single source that can locate any information needed within each office. Through implementation of information management standards, the Forest Service staff can index and classify the information needed to run an office to minimize duplication, inconsistency, and related problems. Although the official records process creates a central repository of administrative and management information in each office, it does not account for electronic storage of information (e.g., in computer files or on tape) and informal knowledge held by individuals. The goal of the distributed processing system is to unify these three sources and make them accessible. PERSONAL IDENTITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY The Forest Service is dedicated to securing the integrity of the information in the distributed processing system. The implementation of the distributed processing system drastically altered the configuration of the information processing environment from a
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People and Technology in the Workplace small technical user community to a large-scale, end-user environment. Whereas in the past, trained data processing professionals handled information security on a routine and interpersonal basis, now many novice computer users work at distributed locations with no training in safeguarding information. Under the circumstances, it is surprising that the Forest Service has had so few security problems. However, one incident several years ago highlighted the need for personal accountability, improved software and procedures, and training for security. An unauthorized individual gained access to a Forest Service system and then obtained further information on how to misrepresent himself as other valid users. As a result of this security breach, the Forest Service has established user-name conventions and standards that do the following: Require unique personal identity at all times when using the system Require an individual to be a member of one and only one office Assign information management roles to individuals, not functions Link logs and other audit trails to individual actions, not functions Prohibit transferring personal identity between individuals for any reason Effective Audit Trail for Interactive Events A key feature of the distributed processing system is a comprehensive audit trail that will ensure integrity and responsibility for actions. Each computer in the distributed network has a system log that has been designed to keep track of events by individuals, leaving an electronic record and other evidence of each individual's actions and allowing the events to be reconstructed. To ensure the integrity of the system, this logging function must be maintained in each office. On occasion Forest Service offices have turned off the logging function because they thought it made their data processing less efficient, not realizing the security consequences of doing so. The Forest Service has stepped up a training and awareness program, emphasizing the importance of the audit trail as an element of the data security system.
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People and Technology in the Workplace Standards for Information Structure and the Human Interface With the implementation of the distributed processing system, the Forest Service has created a set of standards for organizing information within the system. Two goals of the standards are (1) to ensure an efficient means of navigating through the system to find a specific ''information object," such as a spreadsheet, data base, data file, or document; and (2) to ensure that information in all Forest Service offices is organized similarly. In this way technical support can be provided from the central office, and personnel transfers will not require a complete retraining in use of the information system at each office. The Forest Service uses a two-level organizational structure for large collections of information objects, employing the familiar office terminology of filing cabinets for names in the electronic filing system. The first level of classification is a "cabinet," of which there are three kinds: Public—information that may be made available to all users in the office. Staff or group—information that may be made available to a subset of local users in an office, generally by staff organization. Personal—information that is generally available only to an individual in an office, but may be made available to a limited set of others. The second level of classification is a three-tier filing hierarchy, known as "drawers," "folders," and "objects" (or files). This allows a set of drawers to organize information in a level, and then to subdivide drawers further into a set of folders, in which the actual information files reside. Framework for Information Access and Dissemination The Forest Service's distributed processing system is truly a network that facilitates interoffice transfer of information, thus improving speed and ease of information communication throughout the National Forest System. It ensures that more up-to-date management information is available, and it improves the agency's ability to function as a single unit rather than a geographically diverse group of offices. In an organization as highly decentralized (both organizationally and geographically) as the Forest Ser-
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People and Technology in the Workplace vice, the benefits of this capability are far reaching, as are the costs in terms of organizational change. Naming conventions were used to identify each office in the network, consistent with the organizational structure and, where possible, the hierarchical office relationships. One information structure (and usually only one computer) exists at each line office, although there are provisions for more than one physical computer at each office. The creation, management, and maintenance of information in this structure have presented a variety of challenges to the Forest Service, as they require placing functions in each office that have no precedents in the Forest Service. The distributed processing system provides four interoffice communication capabilities: (1) mailing of documents from one individual to another anywhere in the network; (2) accessing a "home" office from another office in the network; (3) retrieving information objects between offices; and (4) using information held by one office without duplicating that information on another office system. Although these capabilities created exciting new opportunities, they also brought problems common to every distributed network, such as managing simultaneous updates of information and ensuring data integrity while allowing access to the data from outside the office. It is the goal of the Forest Service to provide careful guidance for the management of the processes of interoffice communication to maintain the integrity of the information while taking advantage of the tremendous capabilities of information dissemination and sharing offered by the technology. Trends Shaping the Forest Service Information Environment There is a saying, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." A focused and well understood vision serves as a common goal for the organization to move toward. One way to develop a vision of the future is to examine some key trends that will influence it. Certainly it will not be possible to address all of the trends that will affect the Forest Service. However, there are known or reasonably predictable movements, shifts, or changes in the Forest Service operating environment that are relevant to its future information environment. Some of these trends reflect forces in the external business world while others relate to forces inside the organization. Because these trends have implications for the Forest Service information environment, they help the agency to formulate principles to ad-
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People and Technology in the Workplace here to as it develops strategies to meet the challenges of the future. Trends—The Significant Shaping Forces The following trends or forces will ultimately affect the characteristics of the Forest Service's future information environment. They are discussed in no particular order of importance. Forest Service personnel will increasingly use computers as everyday tools to do their work—just like telephones, calculators, and typewriters in the past. Employees in all aspects of the organization will use computers to access the information they need to do their work. The computing skills of agency employees will continue to increase, and they will expect to have a wide variety of the "right" tools available to meet their needs. The Forest Service will increasingly tap the "intelligence" of its professionals through the use of task groups, and the ability to network geographically dispersed specialists. Such task groups will be used increasingly to address management issues. Often, these teams will be assembled from selected individuals who are brought together from geographically dispersed locations, as well as from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds. The duration of these teams will range from days to months, and they will need to function as cohesive groups both at designated meeting sites and from geographically dispersed locations. Commonly used data will increasingly be shared between public agencies and private organizations. The amount of program coordination, cooperative efforts, and information sharing between both public and private organizations will continue to increase. Effective computing networks of shared, commonly used information will emerge. The roles of some organizations will change to reflect their responsibility to provide quality source data to be shared in this networked information environment. The public will increasingly demand more and better "consumer/user" information about the National Forest System. The public will want to know how the management of the national forests will affect their personal lives, and they will want to know more about how to use and enjoy these public resources. By the year 2000, it is projected that 60 percent of the homes in the United States will have personal computers. There will be a more than commensurate growth in the public use of data communication networks and the public will interact directly with the federal government through electronic media. A few examples of the
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People and Technology in the Workplace types of requests that the Forest Service's future information environment will need to support include the following: The casual forest visitor who needs information on recreation opportunities. The local timber industry representative who wants to see where future timber sales are located. A landowner whose property is adjacent to the national forest and who wants to see where future land exchanges are planned. The public will increasingly be involved, both directly and indirectly, in influencing the Forest Service's management decisions and will demand to know more about the agency's business. Individuals and special interest groups will become more sophisticated in examining alternative ways to manage the national forests, communicating their desires, and influencing, if not helping to make, management decisions. There will continue to be a great deal of political oversight of Forest Service programs. The issues surrounding the management of the National Forest System will be dynamic and complex. The agency's overseers will become more sophisticated in their use of computer information systems to do their jobs. They will expect to have direct electronic access to program monitoring information, and they will expect timely, consistent, and accurate responses to questions. Information technology will continue to evolve and improve rapidly. There are many complex technological options from which to choose. The Forest Service will likely have to operate with lower budgets and a smaller work force, but without commensurate reductions in the overall quantity or quality of expected outputs. Investments in information technology will be constrained by budget—there will be more competition for scarce dollars to accomplish the Forest Service's program of work. Implications—Refining a Vision of the Future Some of the implications of the trends shaping the Forest Service's information environment are unique. Others are more general and pertain to more than one trend. The following summary of these implications is grouped into the three major components of the information environment: information, technology, and management.
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People and Technology in the Workplace Information The future information environment will provide the information needed to accomplish the Forest Service mission. This information will be relevant and needed by the agency to meet its mission; be organized in some easy-to-understand structure so that users will know where to find it; be referenced using a language of standard terms, definitions, and codes so that internal and external users will be able to understand, use, and share it; be documented and referenced in a data dictionary or atlas; be accurate, consistent, and timely; and be secure. Technology The future information environment will provide users with ''one-stop-shopping" for information by means of technology that is integrated, easy-to-use, and provides the state-of-the-art information delivery capabilities needed to help the Forest Service accomplish its mission. The information delivery system technology will support all essential information in an integrated, uniform; consistent electronic environment throughout the agency; be conveniently accessible to agency employees and the public; be easy to use by agency employees and the public; support a group working environment both at designated meeting sites and from dispersed geographic locations; support a mobile work force; be compatible with national and international industry standards; be state of the art and responsive; and provide a wide variety of "generalist" and "specialist" tools from which to choose. Management The future information environment will be managed so that it continues to help the Forest Service achieve its mission. The agency's management will ensure the integrity and security of the information environment by developing policies and procedures that describe the roles
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People and Technology in the Workplace and responsibilities of individuals and organizations to access, use, and update information; ensure that the work force has the skills needed to help manage the information environment, focus on the high pay-off value-added opportunities, and make complex, high-risk decisions; manage the change to minimize the potential instability and tension that can result from a rapidly evolving technological environment; and manage for the "best" combination of organizational structure and information environment needed to accomplish the agency's mission efficiently and effectively. CONCLUSION This vision of the future information environment is a goal that the Forest Service will continue to strive for. It is critical for the Forest Service to understand the longer-term goal so that it can make better short-term decisions. Information is critical to success and managing information is an important aspect of the agency's business. The big payoff to office automation is the ability to distribute relevant, accurate, consistent, and timely information throughout the organization. The agency must focus on managing information also because it is expensive. The investments the Forest Service will make in information will far exceed any investments it makes in the technological components of its information environment. The key to maximizing value-added benefits is putting the right tools and the right information in the hands of the user. The "knowledge workers" in the Forest Service must have direct access to the information they need to do their work. They should not have to "filter" their requests through a technically oriented information broker. There is another important ingredient in the value-added approach. Users must be able to explore and experiment with new tools. The users of the information are best qualified to design systems and new procedures that fit both their needs and the needs of the organization. Instead of automating existing processes, the agency must allow the processes to change with the injection of new tools and better information. The Forest Service needs to focus not so much on the ''technology as acquired" as on the "technology as needed." Finally, information environments have a significant influence on the structure and behavior of an organization. The technologies coming on-line will support the flexibility and responsiveness of a
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People and Technology in the Workplace decentralized organization, as well as the integration and control of a centralized organization. The technology is providing management with the opportunities to blend the best combinations of organizational structures and information environment to achieve its objectives. The vision of the future shows where the agency wants to go; strategies describe how it plans to get there. The Forest Service is not finished in describing its desired future information environment. In fact, the vision is not a fixed target. The principles on which it is built are relatively stable, but the characteristics of the future information environment will need to be responsive to changes in the internal and external forces that affect the operating environment. The agency also cannot expect to reach its ultimate goal with one giant leap; it will get there with many well thought out steps. With each step the Forest Service will learn from past successes and failures. It will reevaluate and solidify the principles that guide it. It will need to reevaluate and take advantage of new technological opportunities. It should get closer to the goal of creating an information environment that delivers the quality management information needed to achieve the Forest Service mission—Caring for the land and serving people. NOTES ECLIPSE, ECLIPSE MV/4000, CEO, DATA GENERAL/ONE and PROXI are registered trademarks of the Data General Corporation. TELENET is a registered trademark of U.S. Sprint Corporation.
Representative terms from entire chapter: