The X's And O's Of Intelligent Defense Forces

Matthias Ledwon

The proliferation of social media and the hundreds, if not thousands, of social channels have led to tracking our daily interactions, including when buying a product or a service. A positive or negative experience can have an immediate impact on an organization’s brand and is driving the importance of how organizations consider measuring customer experience.

In 2017, a major U.S. airline lost $1.4 billion in value overnight after a passenger’s negative experience went viral on social media. Understandably, organizations want to have their finger on the pulse of how their products or services are received by the public so they can quickly react to address issues before they negatively impact their bottom line. The notion that experience matters is not just growing within the commercial sector, but it is also a consideration for public sector organizations as well. In today’s terms, we call this experience data (X-data), which can be gathered via a myriad of social listening tools as well as standard surveys.

In the defense sector, organizations regularly conduct their own surveys to assess a variety of topics, like the morale of the troops and their families. But oftentimes, the surveys are forms-based and don’t provide the opportunity to gain immediate insights to take quick action. From a defense readiness perspective, the ability to measure a unit’s readiness is directly correlated to operational data (or O-data) specific to personnel, training, medical/dental, capacities and capabilities, equipping, sustaining, and installations, and when aggregated, they represent overall unit readiness. Is a weapon system fully, partially, or non-mission capable? Is a soldier or group of soldiers trained, certified, medically deployable, etc.?

Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “An army’s effectiveness depends on its size, training, experience, and morale, and morale is worth more than any of the other factors combined.” Both unit readiness and troop morale surveys provide military leadership with important data points for their decision-making process. But still today, military leaders often lack real-time insights and do not have an integrated picture of a unit’s readiness and troop morale. What if we could present unit morale in conjunction with unit readiness – would additional insights impact which unit would be tasked with what mission?

If we were to compare two units, one might have a slightly higher operational unit level readiness than the other (O-data). But X-data insights from both units could indicate that the commander would be best served by choosing the unit with the lower operational readiness but higher morale. The insights from the X-data could expose weaknesses in areas that are difficult to measure today – perhaps trust in leadership and/or effectiveness of the training received – which could ultimately impact mission outcomes. So, wouldn’t it be better to assess both X- and O-data insights to enable our military commanders to make better-informed decisions?

An “intelligent defense force” that can do exactly that in an integrated way will be a game changer for our military commanders in the future. Imagine the ability to leverage both X- and O-data gathered from sensors on weapon systems and soldiers flowing immediately up the echelons and providing real-time insights and allowing predictive analytics. Picture the status of all classes of supply available at any time and combined with training status and the other data required to comprise real-time readiness insights at any level. Thes factors will enable our military leaders with new and innovative ways to measure overall readiness before making mission-critical deployment decisions.

For more on emerging technology in the defense industry, see “A Soldier’s Load: Machine Learning In Defense And Other Industries.”


Matthias Ledwon

About Matthias Ledwon

Matthias Ledwon is an Enterprise Transformation Lead at SAP America IVA, focusing on the Defense Industry. Over the past 20 years, he has supported business transformations with SAP solutions in various industries. Matthias is a graduate of the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg (Germany) and lives with this family in the Washington, D.C. area.