Will cloud replace the conference room?

Today we continue our conversation with John Saaty, CEO of Decision Lens.

They do a lot of work with the federal government in the cloud, and Saaty tells Fed Cloud Blog about how they’re helping the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) do its job.

JS: We’ve been working with NAVSEA for quite awhile. The big challenge in large organizations like NAVSEA is — how do you set priorities and use those priorities in terms of what you’re trying to do to guide investments and actions, whether its in new ships or new weapons technologies or what have you.

There are organizations called PEOs — Program Executive Offices — and they report to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, so it’s actually a strategic reporting position . . . [and] they work with all the different naval organizations, such as NAVSEA, to help them prioritize and allocate resources to the highest value investments and activities that the Navy can be doing.

There’s one of them called PEO IWS — Integrated Warfare Systems, and another called PEO LMW — Litoral Mining Warfare. The Integrated Warfare Systems Group is going through an organizational performance assessment . . . to figure out, across the organization, how to improve competencies. Based on the results of this, they’re going to evaluate the low-performing areas of the organization so that management can target areas to work and improve the way that NAVSEA and the Navy are operating.

So, they’re using Decision Lens to evaluate all the different areas of the organization and steer resources to those areas that have the biggest gap between where they want to be and where they are right now. . . . We work in a variety of areas and now we’re actually moving into what’s called the NAVSEA Engineering Group. These are the guys that design and build the ships, and they’re looking at Decision Lens for that.

FCB: Comprehensive decision making is kind of a new way of doing business. Is this something that’s going to be done more and more in the cloud? Are people, maybe 10 years from now, even going to have meetings in offices?

JS: I don’t think so. That’s where this whole thing is going.

In fact, the irony is, four or five years ago, we had a group of experts tell us that we really should hire meeting rooms in different cities around the country to bring people together for this collaborative decision making. We looked at them and said, ‘I don’t think so’.

The best way to do it is to actually provide software platforms that enable people to collaborate, whether they’re using desktop devices, mobile devices or what have you.

We actually have a new version of our platform coming out designed so that somebody could literally be at the airport on their blackberry participating in one of these sessions, alongside somebody in a meeting room with three other people, next to somebody who’s using a computer on the web.

It’s all collaboratively enabled by the cloud.

FCB: In terms of security, you said somebody could be in an airport participating or what have you. Is that something that would ever be available for, say, the military? I know you were describing a lot of the work you do with the Navy and weapons systems, but, obviously, if you’re in an airport, you don’t want someone hacking into your blackberry.

JS: That’s true, but it depends on the nature of the decision. I think people assume that everything that has to do with the military is completely highly classified . . . and that’s really not true. There are a lot of things that they’re working on — operational things — that aren’t necessarily that classified. In the more classified ones, especially in the Intelligence Community, I don’t think you’re going to see that.

But, again, there are new devices, like what President Obama uses, that are a secure mobile device that are using communication protocols and things like that to ensure that nobody’s going to be able to hack into them. I think we’ll see more sophistication on that front in the future, but right now some organizations are a little bit more wary and risk adverse, and some are a bit more cutting edge.

FCB: Anything else you’d like to add?

JS: I think that, related to cloud computing, there has been too much reliance on data to somehow guide what people are doing.

There’s massive data repositories in the cloud.

There’s the ability to evaluate the data through intelligence systems and people are, in a lot of cases, waiting to see if some answer is going to surface out of this data. In some cases, it does, but our belief at Decision Lens is that you really need to combine the experience, the expertise, the judgement of the people involved in the organizations with the data to provide directionality.

Decision Lens combines both these qualitative assessments by people with quantitative assessments, and I think the neat thing about the cloud is you’re going to see more and more collaborative type tools that bring the human element into the decision making. . . . Humans and technology need to be interacting. Data is not the answer to everything in every case.

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