Solve the Future, not the Past – Challenges to Procure for Enterprise Situational Awareness

Two fundamental challenges for technology procurements in general, and specifically toward enterprise situational awareness involves time and process. First, procurement cycles are lengthy. Secondly, procurements are often driven from a vertical enterprise perspective. Combined, it increases the risk of procuring outdated and stovepiped solutions that address the past.

The procurement process is there for a reason, to ensure taxpayer or a company’s money is spent wisely and according to established rules. However, it is not uncommon that several years pass from the start of a procurement until a capability reaches actual users. Additionally, there is a structural challenge present as most organizations are vertical in nature. The vertical perspective is noticeable in how most functions, systems, data access, promotions, and budgets are set.

However, organizations are increasingly challenged by rapidly emerging dynamic cross-boundary and horizontally aimed threats and risks that requires enterprise situational awareness and collaborative decision-making to be effective.

An innovative market does exist with software and services to provide such capabilities. The challenge is the vendor community providing horizontally focused solutions for enterprises that are used to procure vertically.

Improve where you can, procure when you must

Procurement processes will not be changed overnight, but steps are available to better inform future procurements. An advantage is that these knowledge building steps can be used to immediately improve organizational performance.

First, formulate and regularly review outcomes the organization aims to achieve. Identify decisions, processes, and information necessary to reach results. It may be that performance can be improved by minor process changes or a new information sharing agreement to fuse new data sources.

Secondly, systematically capture lessons from events impacting your organization, but also your peers, to gather evidence-based insights of areas that need improvement. Ensure that exercises involve elements of over-the-horizon challenges that stretches the imagination and informs future needs assessments.

Thirdly, create an inventory of systems within the enterprise and make sure those systems or services are used to their full potential. Capabilities are often procured for a vertical purpose, perhaps enterprise applications are available.

Fourthly, utilize request for information (RFI) processes to keep up to date on what industry can supply. Describe challenges and desired outcomes but be less instructive on the how to trigger industry creativity. Ask for demonstrations, as seeing and hearing, what is possible adds additional insights. Involve academic Centers of Excellence to learn what potential capabilities are in the innovation pipeline.

Confronting the Vertical norm

A structural challenge for horizontal solutions, such as situational awareness platforms, is the tradition and norm of vertically tilted processes for decision-making, budgeting, and procurements.

Providing enterprise situational awareness, internal and external, requires fusion of systems, data, and information from all corners of an organization, not just within a single function, system, or business area.

A key step to create organizational awareness of the traps of the vertical norm is to provide clear examples of how cross organizational collaboration contributes to reaching desired outcomes more efficiently and effectively.

Use pilots and projects to build insights of the value-add of horizontal situational awareness. One example is a project on real-time enterprise status dashboards. Such dashboards will tie together data and information from multiple business areas with value for both operational and strategic users. Such projects have the benefit of establishing networks between people in the organization.

For procurement processes that involves horizontal capabilities bring together all relevant stakeholders from the beginning. Involvement and engagement from all stakeholders will make future planning, requirements validation, configuration, and deployment phases much more efficient.


The ability to manage, adapt to and thrive in a future filled with cross-cutting threats, risks and opportunities will in part depend on successfully having enterprise situational awareness and utilizing collaborative decision-making.

The ability to work together should also be applied to shaping requirements, guiding procurements, and deploying needed capabilities.