While the U.S. Coast Guard is well known for its daring sea rescues, it’s less known for its progressive business model and innovative approach to data and document management. As the largest landowner agency in the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard focuses as much on protecting and managing its shore facilities asset data as it does on protecting our shores.
Over the last several years, leveraging data for smarter decision-making, has been a key civil engineering program goal and the major focus of the Coast Guard Logistics and Geospatial Integration Center (LoGIC). Says Paul Herold, Director of the LoGIC, “Leveraging metadata and data is critical for organizational effectiveness and understanding your business model. It’s not sexy, exciting stuff; it’s more about how am I going to get more output while balancing shrinking resources or justifying existing resources and describing their impact to mission success.”
As the LoGIC director, Herold recognized the importance of managing and controlling documents for the support of the Coast Guard’s $7.6 billion shore plants that consist of more than 8,700 buildings and 15,000 structures spread across 1800 sites. In 1998, he implemented a commercial document management solution, Adept document management & workflow. By managing documents, Adept enabled him to quickly realize substantial cost benefits and a fast return on his investment. For example, the organization saved tens of thousands of dollars on printing and mailing costs and reclaimed office space by eliminating a print room.
But Herold’s data management mission went far beyond engineering. “While we realized great cost savings and efficiencies there, all along we’ve been building towards a system that can extend beyond the engineering department and help us manage data throughout the organization.”
The Coast Guard’s Shore Facility Capital Assets Management (SFCAM) program was one of the initial steps to making data available throughout the organization. One of the keys to sharing data was to first get the data into Adept, where it could be queried by all levels of authorized users. Adept became the central warehouse for facilities asset data, “Our business model is really changing under SFCAM,” states Herold. “We’re able to see and share more data to get better answers to where we are heading.”
Now, not only has the data vision moved beyond the LoGIC, it is moving beyond the Coast Guard to improve the management efficiency of the 22 agencies of the Department of Homeland Security. “You can’t share data when you don’t know what you have. Not effectively,” emphasizes Herold.
“A lot of what we’re doing is big pushes to get more data into Adept. Because if we have it in Adept, then we know that we have pockets of metadata to help share and retrieve this organization information. And with Adept’s open architecture, we can easily share the information back out to other systems.”
Commercial business can learn from the Coast Guard’s business practices. There’s a need to know the information sources you use daily and then make that data more readily available to the people who need it. There are also ways to combine multiple platforms of data such as financial, project and work order management systems to gain a broader picture of the organization. Says Herold, “These disparate systems can be truly blended together to give you different information that you may or may not have been able to achieve in the past. Or, different views of what’s happening across your organization. Anybody can leverage the ability to go across platforms. We’ve actually broken barriers between many Coast Guard traditionally stand-alone systems. Adept’s open architecture has helped in achieving this goal.”
On its way to achieving its long time vision of a ‘SIM City’ or ‘SIM Coast Guard’ type environment, the LoGIC is in the process of expanding its data management to include geospatial data and satellite imagery. Its new web-based capital asset management portal is geo-centric, and has map navigation as well as traditional hierarchical navigation.
Concludes Herold, “Most importantly, the portal lets you look up information and documents in multiple ways: graphically using the geospatial imagery, traditional keyword search, and related project or site information available through the cataloged metadata. It expands the ability as well as the exploitation of the data we’re currently managing and plan to add to the Adept system.”