Majs. John Foster and Antonio Bisbal of the Maneuver Support Battle Lab received the quarterly, Army Futures Command Hammer Award today for their creation of the Analytics User Interface Model — an Excel-based platform which they said gives decision makers real-time answers to descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytical questions: what has happened, what could happen and what should happen?
The award is given to Soldiers who make significant contributions to the modernization enterprise, affecting the entire Army.
According to its developers, AUIM is a “living” document, meaning that it pulls information — details like troop fatigue, ammo levels, casualties in battle — from many different Army sources constantly, and then paints a picture with that data on its interactive dashboard, giving commanders both a bird’s eye view of the battlefield and a forecast for the future.
“Like for football, how do I optimize my play calling or third-down conversions,” Foster said, likening the program to the big game last weekend. “Based off of historical data and playing against that team and their set of defense, how do we know ‘We have a 90 percent chance if we run this play on third down and five (yards)?’”
Col. Bob Davel, director of the Capabilities Development Integration Directorate, continued the analogy.
“In this series of downs, they’re going to be in this defense, so (AUIM) allows me to make an offensive call real-time,” he said. “What these guys built is basically (football analytics) on steroids for the Army. It takes all these different variables that these two are talking about, and it allows us to take readiness, logistics, and it feeds real-time, and then it provides some predictive analysis.”
Bisbal explained the value behind predictive and prescriptive analytics — or in other words, the ability to see possible future outcomes and suggest certain corrective actions to win a battle.
“The power of forecasting,” he said. “If … I am doing (something), and the forecast can tell me if I continue doing it, I’m not going to accomplish that mission, then that is a very powerful tool.”
The developers said AUIM instantly does the work that would normally take months.
Foster said that prior to the AUIM, analytics teams at Army Futures Command would wait weeks before receiving data for their report from the simulators, and then that report, once they were done, would go to a senior leader for decision.
According to Bisbal, AUIM’s real-time updating of data allows decision makers in the Army to act based on data more quickly.
“For the first time, what happened is the Battle Lab has a group of people who are simulators and a group of people who are analysts that do the math,” he said. “Usually, in the past, they have them work separately. We (brought) the power of both together. We were able to create some breakthroughs in order to understand the environment more quickly.”
But how do commanders interact with the program?
Bisbal said they can view and push buttons to adjust the AUIM through a dashboard, displaying data in digestible form like graphs. Davel likened the interface to stock data on financial news TV shows since it updates in real time.
In a series of firsts, this was the first time a group won the award (as opposed to an individual), and a first time win for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence.
Foster and Bisbal credited their entire team.
“We had the right talent at the right time to do this,” Foster said. “There’s a huge team behind us, and that’s why I’m proud to receive this because it represents not us, but what we do here.”
Davel praised Foster and Bisbal for developing something that could impact the entire Army.
“These two, their specialties are the science that allows commanders to exercise the art of warfare,” Davel said. “The impact of this will be long and lasting for the Army because it helps us in real time make decisions based upon good, solid data.”