Team Environment Analysis and Modeling (TEAM) is a suite of tools for collaborative modeling and analysis of complex environments and courses of action (COAs). It enables organizations to understand, analyze, and track inter-related political, military, economic, social, and technological factors to help them determine how best to influence their environment and achieve their objectives. Using TEAM, groups of users can organize raw information and build models of actors and their relationships. The system can also help them organize information about relevant states of the world including trends, potential evolutions, and actors’ desires. Finally, TEAM supports modeling of possible COAs intended to influence affairs and achieve the organization’s goals.
For instance, a government interagency team responsible for tracking affairs in the Horn of Africa would need to monitor players, issues, and activities across at least four war-torn countries. Relevant information about political, military, economic, and social systems can be found in diplomatic cables, news reports, academic writings, or major products from other agencies and organizations such as the UN, World Bank, or various NGOs. Normally, each member of the distributed team might build and maintain their own inventory of sources and modeled entities, perhaps sharing extracts in a wiki like Intellipedia. Using TEAM, collaborative groups can store, structure, search, review, revise, and visualize complex information. They can explore inter-relationships among selected subsets of entities and arrive at team conclusions about likely futures, organizational goals, and plausible courses of action. Finally they can assemble textual and graphic presentations of their conclusions that maintain links back to the supporting information.
Action-oriented collaborative research groups need more than a shared storage space for information—more than a growing pile of freeform web pages. Yet they need to maintain the flexibility to follow problems where they lead while applying critical and creative analysis. So they need something much less structured than a database. It is challenging to build software that can support tasks that are so conceptual without inhibiting or slowing down the individual and group thought process.
The TEAM Approach
TEAM provides enhanced wiki tools and an integrated content management system (CMS) to enable collaboration, organize work, and preserve a complete record of team activity. It uses semi-structured knowledge models and integrated diagramming tools to guide analysts through their creative work without overly constraining them. The system suggests the kinds of information that are likely to be relevant, and makes it easy to enter, structure, visualize, and share that information, without dictating rigid formats or processes. TEAM augments basic web page viewing/editing and document storage/retrieval in several ways:
TEAM’s automated information extraction and linkage technology analyzes documents in the TEAM CMS and suggests wiki pages worth creating or expanding. The CMS and wiki together keep pieces of information tied to underlying sources, support textual search, and ensure information is never lost.
A useful selection of wiki page types are pre-defined for environment and COA model elements such as actors, relationships, interests, and actions. These can be broken into independently editable sub-pages capturing different aspects of, or perspectives on, the element. Pages also carry structure, such as lists of related elements; for instance, each wiki page for an actor provides grouped sets of hyperlinks organizing access to the actor’s relationships, interests, and actions. Model categories can be extended to store custom information on old or new wiki page types. To help support the overall research and analysis process, specialized types of wiki pages capture knowledge gaps and related research tasks which can be tracked and managed by the system.
Integrated Diagramming Tools
To make the overall content of the wiki more comprehensible and accessible, wiki pages can share data with application-specific diagramming tools such as Actor/Relationship diagrams. Such diagrams help visualize important relationships, issues, or events in a complex environment. Resulting diagrams can be embedded in other wiki pages that capture situation summaries or conclusions.
In summary, TEAM helps organizations:
• Ingest, manage, and analyze large volumes of information organized by a CMS and structured wiki, supported by automated content analysis and linking tools.
• Collaborate by sharing information across CMS, wiki, and diagramming tools, leveraging standard wiki features such as page-centric discussion threads and version control.
• Organize and visualize significant knowledge and findings using custom diagramming tools.
• Track unknowns and assumptions using wiki pages and reports that highlight knowledge gaps.
• Expedite production of polished analysis products by exporting to PDF, Word, and PowerPoint.
• Provide a persistent and usable organizational memory of the rationale underlying decisions.
TEAM Components and Capabilities
Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system (CMS) ensures that the team keeps track of source documents and information products. TEAM tracks analysis inputs and outputs as the first and last steps of detailed decision-making rationale. Rationale capture helps teams stay productive on long-term projects, makes it easier for members to roll on and off the team, and enables organizational learning. TEAM’s CMS provides standard text search and versioning capabilities, and it adds several advanced features. Entity extraction algorithms identify potential actors of interest in source documents; this speeds construction of corresponding model elements. Quotation identification algorithms find block quoted text in wiki pages and then insert automatic source citations to enable track and revisit reasons for beliefs.
Collaborative rich-text/media wiki
A collaborative rich-text/media wiki enables team members to carry out research and create presentation products in parallel. The wiki supports asynchronous and distributed collaboration by providing access control, document versioning, and change notification. To support vetted analysis methodologies, TEAM’s wiki provides pre-defined page types and automated inter-page linkages for many pre-defined conceptual categories and products. Without straightjacketing analysts, TEAM provides useful guidance on the kinds of objects to be studied, the sorts of information and relationships that might be important about those objects, and ways to organize that information using web pages, sections, and hyperlinks.
TEAM’s Wiki Showing an Inventory of Actor Pages
Diagramming tools enable team members to rapidly create visualizations that support analysis and presentation. This extensible set of diagramming tools and the wiki are integrated in the sense that they operate over shared data. For instance, in Actor/Relationship diagrams, node icons are hyperlinked to Actor pages and link lines hyperlink to Relationship pages in the wiki. Editing properties of diagram elements can result in changes to structured fields of underlying wiki pages (and vice-versa). Diagrams can also be imported as graphical elements (pictures/maps) in wiki pages; those graphic elements are updated semi-automatically to reflect changes to the diagram, even after their initial import. The ability to diagram selected wiki content allows users to better organize and visualize information in application-specific ways. It supports development of presentation products that preserve links for drilldown to underlying information and rationale.
Knowledge tracking enable users to flag important knowledge gaps, highlight assumptions, and post requests for information (RFIs). These notes appear at the top of model element wiki pages and in summary reports. Organizations can track the status of RFIs and assumptions more effectively, so they can manage the research process and revise their knowledge base more efficiently and reliably.
TEAM’s Diagramming Tool Showing a Contextualized Actor/Relationship Diagram
Lessons Learned Data Management and Dissemination
Lessons learned data management and dissemination helps users to store hard-won lessons and disseminate them over the web. Lessons can be stored as documents in the CMS or as pages in the wiki. They can be labeled using tags drawn from a user-defined set of taxonomies; hyperlinks provide easy access to all lessons associated with any tag. Advanced search capabilities support lesson retrieval based on (partial) match over sets of user-chosen tags. Finally, lessons can also be retrieved based on full text search. Organizations can benefit from their accumulated experience, and users can find guidance using a variety of structured and free-form retrieval techniques.
Information Product Export
Information product export can turn wiki pages into PDFs or HTML pages, which can be read and edited by MS Word; sets of diagrams from the coupled diagramming tools can be exported as PowerPoint files and refined. Thus materials developed in TEAM can serve as the basis for reports and briefings. The resulting documents can be disseminated to those without access to the TEAM web server. For those with access, exported documents can maintain hyperlinks back into the TEAM database allowing drill-down into underlying rationale to support arguments and conclusions.
TEAM (1) manages large volumes of information so users never lose track of important items; (2) enables collaboration for teams that may be physically distributed and subject to frequent staff rotation; (3) highlights unknowns and assumptions, and facilitates processing of requests for information; (4) enables organization and visualization of selected model elements; (5) expedites production of required presentation products; and (6) provides a persistent and usable corporate memory for the rationale underlying analyses and recommended courses of action.
System Extensibility and Customization
TEAM’s underlying architecture and tools make it easy to create knowledge management systems that support other kinds of group analysis and planning tasks. For example, TEAM wiki pages and data objects can be extended and customized to manage development projects by tracking funding sources, contractors, government oversight organizations, lifecycle processes, and dependencies on other projects. Application-specific diagram editors require development effort, but TEAM’s framework provides basic mechanisms for object management, such as loading, linking, locking, and persistence.
Development History and Status
The TEAM system was originally developed to support new US Army and Joint approaches to campaign design, an analysis method that produces a well-framed problem and conceptual approach for solving the problem in complex environments. Campaign design requires planners to engage in extended (though time-pressured) critical and creative thinking in order to understand the operational environment, uncover the underlying logic of ill-structured problems, and identify potential solutions.
TEAM is currently under development. US CENTCOM has successfully pilot- tested a prototype version of TEAM and designers at other major commands are interested in participating in field trials. A pilot implementation to support knowledge management by National Guard organizations is currently under way. Additional work on managing and exploiting lessons learned is pending.
This material is based upon work supported by Stottler Henke Associates, Inc. under Contract No. W15P7T-10-C-B020.
Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government.