Sunday, July 6, 2014

Just sprinkle some technology on it!

Mobile computing is awesome.  I've used my cell phone to do all sorts of things, from banking and learning foreign languages to checking email and reading my latest news feed.  The MCPON is also looking to tap into this trend and has talked about getting a tablet for every Sailor:

If I had to pick how to roll out a massive tablet purchase, I'd do the following:

- Declare an intention.  Why are we doing this?  There needs to be a clear and concise "mission statement" for giving every Sailor a tablet.  For example, I would say "The Navy is leveraging tablet technology by issuing a tablet to every Sailor.  Our main goal is to make mandatory training easier to achieve, improve maintenance practices, and compensate for the lack of computers in a shipboard environment."  Done!  Now everyone knows WHY we are doing this and a few things of HOW we are doing it.

- Get three big wins.  Tablets could do all sorts of things, but by focusing too big too soon you are likely doomed to fail.  Start simple and spend most of your effort ensuring you get three big wins.  I would pick annual mandatory training, maintenance and CAC-enabled mail.

-- For CAC-email, ensure you can read your CAC on the tablet and that you can easily get to your NMCI or DISA email.
-- For training, build an application to pull training based on your profile so that you can review it even without an internet connection.  Make all Navy-based mandatory training sync with the application.
-- For maintenance, ensure you can electronically complete an MRC and sync it to the 3M database.  Provide a way to record and show video of maintenance on the tablet.  Put in a feedback feature so the shipyard gets feedback quickly on maintenance practices, and include the ability to send video in the feedback.

- Provide dedicated support.  There needs to be a help desk to call when these things break.  Ensure it is 24/7 and that the number is very obvious (print it on the tablet if needed).  The longer a tablet stays broken, the higher the chance of it disappearing or not being used ever again.

- Reevaluate in six months.  If you have 3 big wins, you'll need 6 months to work out bugs.  At the end of 6 months is when you pick another 1-3 items and start to expand.  Personally I'd like to see Intelink make a series of apps for the tablet to help people use their services.

Now, that's what I'd want to do.  However, I predict we will "sprinkle some technology on the problem" and get results like this:

- We'll buy a lot of tablets for incoming Sailors (but not current Sailors).
- They'll come pre-loaded with some useful stuff.
- There will be NO help desk support, nor will we train our ITs on how to use them.
- We'll have some pockets of excellence where individual commands do a great job using them, but Navy-wide it'll be mediocre at best.
- We'll quietly give up on the idea in a year.