IV. Knowledge development
Processes and information that support decision-making already exist within NATO. The problem is that this “information” or isolated knowledge often resides in the heads and offices of subject matter experts across (and external to) the organization; it is not fused, de-conflicted, or shared, at least not in a formal, well-established manner nor is it often available in an electronically retrievable format. Therefore, there is a need to “connect” or fuse existing information, and the processes that are used to develop it, so that the decision-maker is presented with a clear holistic understanding, as early as possible in the decision making process.
Knowledge development (KD) is a continuous iterative process carried out at strategic, operational and tactical levels to provide the decision maker with a comprehensive understanding of complex environments, including behavior, relationships and interactions between systems and (non-military) actors.
A knowledge development process covers the collection, analysis, access and transfer of basic data to more usable information, information to awareness and awareness to understanding. This contributes to preparation for and execution of missions by providing higher level of awareness and understanding for decision making in response to indications and warning of an emerging security problem as well as during the planning, execution and assessment of operations.
The challenge of KD is to make the relevant information available on time in a form that can be analysed and distributed in near real time and to develop a level of shared understanding that supports timely and effective decision making.
Knowledge development including all source intelligence is essential to an effective understanding of the civil environment. CIMIC personnel should use KD to create, refine and execute the best CIMIC activities synchronized within the operational (physical, information and cognitive) environment.
Understanding the civil environment
The civil environment is described as the political, economic, social ethnographic, cultural, infrastructure and information elements of the people with whom a military force of government operates. For CIMIC a deep understanding of the civil environment is crucial for conducting CIMIC activities, liaison and engagement. The commander requires a comprehensive picture of the civil environment for mission planning and execution because, for example even an unintended violation of the (local) traditions and customs can lead to a loss of support of the population and the trust of non-military actors. In turn this can lead to the military forces losing their legitimacy, which would seriously undermine the mission.
The knowledge development process overview
Iterative in nature, knowledge development is defined as a process that includes collecting and analyzing, and integrating isolated data into useable bodies of knowledge, and making that knowledge available so that it can be shared. A simple overview of the KD process is shown in the picture.
The KD concept identifies three key steps in the KD process:
Collection. This involves the acquisition of information by various staffs, sensors and units. KD is driven by information and knowledge requirements relating to potential areas of strategic interest prior to a crisis or by commander’s critical information requirements (CCIRs) in established areas of operation.
Analysis. The purpose of analysis is to put information into context and then draw conclusions, deductions or implications. Analysis is required to provide products for assessment, planning and execution. Analysis in support of a requirement can be accomplished by a variety of techniques or approaches.
Access. Once knowledge has been developed it must be stored and “transferred” to decision makers and users in a timely manner. This will require tools and procedures to either ‘push’ knowledge to the user, or allow the user to ‘pull’ knowledge depending on the situation and operational requirement to ensure appropriate knowledge transfer.
Introduced and developed as part of KD, systems analysis is an integral part of the KD process. To summarize, systems analysis is an analytical process that can be employed to holistically examine adversaries, potential adversaries, nonaligned, and friendly nations or entities. Systems analysis integrates the analyses of study areas, such as the political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information (PMESII) domains. Systems analysis is a continuous, iterative and collaborative process that should be conducted in close co-operation with internal/external subject matter experts (SMEs), GOs, and NGOs, as required. It is successfully utilized in both the civilian and military communities and has proven to be particularly useful in analyzing and understanding problems in complex operational environments.
Elements of KD and systems analysis thinking are already supporting existing operations and missions, with positive feedback to indicate these decision-support capabilities should be implemented in a more formal and coherent manner. While considered the key enabler for the operations planning process and with the importance of KD to the execution and assessment of NATO operations, the implementation of KD, including systems analysis capabilities, could also be considered a critical stand-alone capability.
Information knowledge management
The KD process is supported by the information / knowledge management (IKM) process which supports the information, intelligence and KD requirements of the entire organization. KD not only uses IKM for the development of knowledge, it also is critical to the third KD step of making knowledge accessible. It is important to note, however, that KD and IKM are not the same. KD is the process that develops knowledge to support decision making whereas IKM manages the provision of that knowledge across an organization.
KD is driven by information and knowledge requirements relating to potential areas of interest prior to a crisis or by CCIRs in established areas of operation. The primary purpose of KD is to support subsequent decision making in response to indications and warning of an emerging security problem as well as during the planning, execution and assessment of operations.