Executive Strategies Document Management Magazine


The Integrated Digital Environment in the United States Air Force

By Herbert F. Schantz


All Information presented in this Report is believed to be accurate.  However, the Information has Not Been Verified or Confirmed with Client Studies.  This Report should Not Be Copied, Reproduced, or Transferred to a Third Party Without The Written Consent of HLS Associates.
The projections, reports, and forecasts in this Report contain “forward looking information” (as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995) which involve risks and uncertainties.  Actual future results and trends may differ materially from current day assumptions depending on many variables including the impact of competitive products and pricing, the market strength of the document imaging industry, technological evolutions, and new and emerging technologies.
(1)           Essays by Dr. K. Megill, “The Integrated Digital Environment (IDE)”, 1998.
(2)    “The Integrated Digital Environment (IDE) (The Electronic Super Highway of the Twenty
               First Century), 15 January 1999
(3)    “What’s New…The Integrated Digital Environment (IDE)-(The Electronic Super Highway
               For The Twenty First Century), Jan99/IDE-What’s New
(4)    “USAF Encourages An Integrated Digital Environment (IDE) To Increase Productivity of
               Business Processes”, HLS Associates, May 1999
Today, the information manager, business manager, and CIO’s in both the public and private sectors are faced with a challenging dilemma, namely producing more work, with fewer people, and with limited resources.  To this end, many managers and users are investigating the application of digital and imaging technologies to address these issues.   To this end, the USAF is addressing these issues thorough the use of The Integrated Digital Environment (IDE), the IDE will; (1) increase access to required data, (2) increase the productivity of the work process, and (3) increase effectiveness of knowledge management, at a lower cost.
This situation is a challenge for the managers and commanders in the USAF.  To address this multi-tiered problem, the SAF/AG gave this assignment to Col. Terrance Balven, the commander of the Headquarters Information Planning and Policy Offices (HIIPPO).  For this program Col. Balven has selected a dedicated team of USAF and industry professionals lead by Dr Ken Megill, and Col. Harry Pape (USAF-Res).  This group, named the INTEGRATED DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT TEAM, is assigned to work with key offices within the USAF and support them in their endeavors to create and implement an integrated digital environment.  An environment where access replaces reporting and digital knowledge replaces paper information.
The Integrated Digital Environment does not require a common set of databases.  It is based on the principle of making information in one location readily available to others, who have a need to know.  The originator or creator of the information is the “owner and keeper” of the data.  “Keepers” are responsible for maintaining information in a current, accurate, and useable state, which meets the business standards and guidelines of their operation.  In The Integrated Digital Environment, Immediate Access replaces copying and reporting.  An effective Integrated Digital Environment requires unlimited connectivity and information sharing.  This often requires a change in current practices and culture.
The Integrated Digital Environment, is an “Electronic Super Highway”; a dynamic information environment that effectively supports business activities and provides immediate access to required information.  An Integrated Digital Environment is characterized by:
      Immediate Access
      Information Sharing
      Corporate Memory
      Tools (IT enablers, such as OCR, Networking, Workflow, Data Mining, and Image
An Integrated Digital Environment is a super set of an Information Domain.  This is an organized body (set) of information or knowledge that provides solutions to users.  An Information Domain can be any medium; paper, microfilm, or digital.  There are advantages and disadvantages to all three media.  However, it’s the desire of the USAF that most of the Information Domain in the next millennium be digital and the environment be integrated.  However, changes in culture will need to be effected before this is a reality.  At the operations and command level, this will entail a change in human culture, in addition to the required changes in the work processes.
To help support the changes in the culture as well as remove impediments to implementation is an assignment that Col. Balven has assigned to the USAF Integrated Digital Environment Team.  A team, which is located at many sites nationwide.  To direct and coordinate the activities of the team, the USAF has created a dynamic and interactive digital workspace and forum for the team on the Internet.  Members of the team use this collaborative workspace to communicate and work on assignments interactively in a controlled digital environment.  Thus, it can be said that the team practices what it preaches: i.e. Identify the work and then apply applicable digital technologies to address, integrate, and resolve issues (impediments) while increasing the productivity of the operation by streamlining the work processes and helping reshape the related cultures.  This USAF initiative is in the early stages. So far the results are impressive.  The potential benefit to the Service is very great.  The catalyst to make this happen is “change”.  It is change, which must be effected and managed to obtain the technological benefits available.  That is what HIPPO is all about.  It is the designated agent for “change”.
Herb Schantz is the founder and president of HLS Associates International headquartered in Sterling, Virginia.  HLS Associates is a 12 year old internationally acclaimed professional consulting practice focused primarily on the application of Imaging (OCR) and Information Technologies to automate Business Work Processes, in Form Processing, Data Capture, and Document Management Applications in the Integrated Digital Environment.
Herb is a Director and officer of TAWPI.  He is the President and a Director of the TAWPI Washington, DC Chapter.  He is the Chairman of the TAWPI Exposition in 1997 and 1998.  Herb is also a member of AIIM and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Capitol Chapter. He is a Chair of the Data Capture Section on the Conference Committee for AIIM/98 in Anaheim and AIIM/99 in Atlanta. In 1993, he was elected into the TAWPI Hall of Fame in 1994. Mr Schantz can be contacted at 703-444-7037.