Organizations can easily spend millions on critical information infrastructure hardware and facilities. Using this investment to its full potential keeps the organization responsive to its duty. It is also crucial that the important functions driving this investment are ensured to be effective, regardless of that expensive physical infrastructure’s availability.
To deal with a situation where a team’s physical facilities and hardware are compromised, a flexible layer of powerful software is necessary. This ensures uptime when teams are forced to work remotely, with little or no access to expensive facilities and hardware.
Uptime and Extreme Remote Collaboration
Until recently, most organizations have prepared, provisioned, and implemented solutions that account for the loss-of-use for one or two facilities or services. An example is primary and backup control rooms with appropriate physical distancing, network provisioning, and operational procedures and processes to move between locations. It is harder to find guidance, software, and solutions for the loss of all physical facilities used by employees and personnel.
In our current reality, this challenge translates into an entire nation’s workforce doing their best to work from home, often with their personal devices. This would not have been possible for Critical Information Operations even a decade ago. Home consumer network access and hardware processing power lacked the speed, power, security, and connectivity enabled by the hardware-based solutions that only feasible in a physical facility. Today, software is smart enough, and consumer-grade devices and access are robust enough, to empower a distributed team’s full effectiveness.
Cutting the Cord
Practices like security and physical asset monitoring are by nature, very hardware-dependent. Physical cameras see things that have to be displayed on physical displays, often in control rooms full of people, workstations, and more displays. Monitoring systems, made of software, also communicate via display hardware in places where people are gathered to function as a team. Digital information assets, communications, geographic information—all of it ultimately requires display hardware for humans to use it while managing a critical environment.
First, our collective remote challenge in managing these systems often centers on how to ensure group access to visual information. It must be within a context that ensures the information’s relevance is clear to all team members interacting with it.
A second challenge, whether teams are in-facility or remote, is how efficiently software helps sift through the tremendous volume of all the information. All of the information, visual or otherwise, flows into the Critical Information network every second—a challenge heightened by the remote-work paradigm.
Solving these huge challenges for remote teams within a software platform that can also manage critical information inside physical facilities, will empower critical operations to stay effective, flexible, resilient, and efficient.
Can You See Me Now?
Addressing the first main challenge—it’s helpful to organize everything by type and format in a place where it’s accessible by users without a physical connection. Web pages, application interfaces, and workspaces, entire desktop screens, live IP cameras and recorded video content, mobile device screens, and streaming video: anything one can see and access digitally and relevant to the Critical Operation deserves to be accessible within a team’s collaborative environment.
In the past, it was good enough to collect this visual content and show it on a relatively static video wall or make it accessible to a hardwired co-located team. Purely hardware-dependent solutions could work in that old model. However, rather than giving teams the flexibility to operate as they see fit and providing the most efficient distribution of organization without losing access to critical information, it was jamming them into inflexible boxes.
Nowadays, this information must flow securely and effortlessly between facilities and individuals interacting in an unlimited number of locations on a variety of devices. Software like WebEx, Zoom, MS Teams (and formerly Skype), Google Hangouts and Chat, Google Docs, MS SharePoint, and others partially accomplish this goal. They lack always-accessible persistent-state visual dashboards, multi-tasking team capabilities, and most importantly, they don’t catalog and connect to the required visual sources noted above as a library for always-on collaboration.
Video chat: yes; document management: yes; anything else: not a chance.
New software platforms for critical operations, specifically tailored to manage libraries of live visual information, empower teams to create unlimited, sharable virtual window spaces of custom-curated visual sources. Making these visual collaboration spaces available in real-time to anyone using the platform anywhere, without specialized hardware, enables entire distributed remote and local teams to maintain instant situational awareness, with clear visual context, at a moment’s notice.
Proactive Responsiveness is the New Norm
The gushing firehose of information available to critical information teams is not a new challenge. However, it’s more apparent amongst a suddenly-remote workforce, sometimes struggling to stay on top of information that was once easily seen in person at a physical facility, and easily communicated between team members in the same room.
As physical proximity becomes a challenge, software can augment team awareness by doing what software does best: watching processes and systems for anomalous incidents that require instant escalation. This allows teams to make decisions and act in a timely fashion. Additionally, the software can collect the related visual content already housed within the platform’s library of information sources and organize it into a complete common operating picture. It can automatically share with and alert the relevant remote team members.
This cloud-enabled, next-level connectivity and dashboard automation around critical functions is a very recent feature of critical operations software. It unwires teams from the limitations of outmoded systems.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Workplaces and physical constraints will continue to be complicated for a while. Also, this will not be the last time humanity struggles through a challenge that separates us physically, and strains systems not built for such a test.
Now is the time to assess the core functions of critical teams and organizations, and evaluate solutions and services which best prepare each of us to see, share, and respond effectively to the next challenge.
Contact Activu for a demonstration of our platform for remote collaboration, and the Control Rooms of the Future.