The Astronauts were running out of air.
The crew of Apollo 13 had seen crisis after crisis, and now this. After surviving an oxygen tank explosion as they had neared the moon, the crew had been forced to abandon their mission, taking refuge in the Lunar Module for their journey home. While this made sense at the time, it quickly created another problem.
The Lunar Module (or LEM) was designed to only house 2 astronauts, for a limited amount of time. It now had 3, on a much longer journey home than anticipated. There simply wasn’t enough oxygen on board. As the three men sat in the module, it was quickly filling with dangerous levels of Carbon Dioxide. If nothing was done, the entire crew would asphyxiate long before they reached Earth.
Gene Kranz, who was in flight command for this mission, knew what to do. Immediately, he ordered his team to find a copy of every piece of equipment that existed in the module with the astronauts. Minutes later, this was done, with a bunch of haphazard items assembled on a meeting room desk.
His instructions were simple – the engineers had to, using only the items on the desk, find out a way to build a carbon dioxide scrubber, and attach it to the module’s filtration system. The engineers not only had to do this as quickly as possible, they also had to create a simple set of instructions for the astronauts to follow. If they took too long, the astronauts would die.
Thankfully, we know how this story ends. The astronauts got home safely, thanks to the ingenuity of Mission Control and NASA engineers. However, this story very easily could have ended in catastrophe.
We can imagine a different scenario – one where the teams were less integrated in their knowledge. They knew what data they had, and where it was stored. This meant that when the emergency arose, it didn’t take hours, or even days, for the team to assemble replicas of what was in the LEM. Had they been forced to slowly, painstakingly, assemble the various people who knew, separately, what was stored where in the LEM, the Astronauts on board would have surely perished.
What the Apollo 13 example tells us, albeit in a particularly dramatic fashion, is the importance of having an integrated source of knowledge. While most businesses will never have to deal with a crisis as life-threatening as that of Apollo 13, the principle still applies; You need to know what you have at your disposal, to effectively leverage it.
In the pre-digital era, being integrated meant producing and digesting huge volumes of documentation. In the digital era, the volume of information that exists is simply too vast for this to work.
Organisations simply cannot afford to continually try and re-organise their data across disparate systems. The only long-term solution to effective data management is data integration.
This means having a single, unified system which connects any old databases or legacy estates in a high-speed, secure and simple way. One such solution is the Appian Platform. psKINETIC have been doing this kind of integration work for over a decade.
And integration isn’t simply about crisis management, it’s also the key for long term success – and this is fast being recognised by leaders in industry. For instance, George Marcotte, MD at Accenture’s Applied Accenture division has recently stated in a piece in WIRED “the pace of advancement is driven by your ability to test products at speed”, elaborating that “internally, there’s a bunch of data that firms have that’s trapped in soloed databases… you may think you’re a certain kind type of business, but in reality, you’re also in the data business”.
Having organised data is the precursor to insight, which is necessary to stay ahead of the competition – whether your businesses serves customers or other businesses.
Gene Kranz had a simple motto during his time at NASA; Failure is Not an Option. These legendary words have echoed throughout generations of Astronauts and engineers since.
To say these words means to take every action possible to avoid failure – to completely eliminate it as any possibility. Doing so requires, at a base level, extreme organisation of your most precious asset – data.
Without data integration, not only does failure become an option, but success becomes ever less so.
If you seek to rocket your organisation to the next level, please contact psKINETIC for a consultation. By uniting your data, we can give you the means to effectively leverage your data in ways that were previously impossible.
AUTHOR: Jack Lawrence | Digital Consultant | psKINETIC
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