Critical Infrastructure

The Power of Sensemaking Ops Hubs: Turning Chaos Into Clarity

Marcus Ng

Vice President/Head, Home Team and Critical Information Infrastructure, Mission Software and Services, Digital Systems, ST Engineering

In high-traffic, high-stress environments such as hospitals and airports, a delayed or misinformed response to an urgent situation can lead to dire consequences, even death.

Timely and accurate responses, on the other hand, not only avert disasters and resolve bottlenecks, but also reap positive results such as cost savings from optimised traffic or patient flow.

With such high stakes, critical operations centres need a master key that can unlock actionable insights needed to respond to a constant bombardment of challenges and data. That key is sensemaking.

The journey to clarity

The concept of “sensemaking” in organisational studies was introduced in the 1970s by American organisational theorist Karl Weick1. He explored how humans tried to make sense of their organisations and environments by pulling together disparate data and views to attain greater clarity.

Fast-forward to today, and technological advances are generating massive volumes of data and creating cutting-edge tools that help humans make sense of information in ways Mr Weick may never have dreamed of.

Tech-empowered sensemaking

Sensemaking can be defined as the orchestration of data from sensors, systems, platforms, processes and people to connect and make sense of the data.

With AI-enabled sensors, cloud computing, data and video analytics, and advanced wireless networks like 5G, organisations now have powerful tools to elevate sensemaking to a whole new level.

For critical operations, this capability enhances their situational awareness and actionable intelligence – insights fused from multiple sources that enable fast, sharp decision-making and outcomes.

Enabling hospitals to work more efficiently

Sensemaking is already transforming hospitals. Typical operational challenges include labour and bed crunch, as well as long patient waiting times that can cost a hospital US$1.7 million a year on average2.

Hospital Operations Centre (HOC) tackles these problems – and more – by unifying actionable analytics with streamlined workflow to maximise capacity utilisation for hospitals.

Its features include Patient Flow Management, which offers an integrated status display of beds, staff and patients, as well as analytics to help staff track capacity and spot bottlenecks.

The HOC also connects disparate silos into a single streamlined process to reduce patient waiting times and lead to faster bed turnaround times.

One significant impact is on bed allocation: resources are streamlined to a ratio of just three staff to 1,600 beds3 with care delivery support process optimised using smart technology and sensors.

On top of that, with machine learning, HOC can predict Emergency department attendance with up to 83% accuracy3, allowing pre-emptive measures to be implemented.

Taking airport efficiency to new heights

Another field where sensemaking makes an impact are airports. Here, stakeholders are under tremendous pressure to decipher layers of information in real time. What they need is a single source of truth, where airport, flight and passenger data can be shared timely in a collaborative environment.

This is exactly what an Airport Operations Centre System (AOCS) provides.

The AOCS is a command, control and collaborative platform provides airport stakeholders with a one-glance visualisation of the airport operations at any point in time. It offers the most up-to-date situation of flights, passengers and bags, as well as intelligent decision tools so stakeholders can operate efficiently, anticipate issues and mitigate them using actionable intelligence.

The AOCS’ tools include predictive analytics utilising Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) models, which are embedded in operational systems for accurate forecasting.

With the efficient use of airport resources, fuel savings of more than US$1,300 and reduced carbon footprint of more than 9,500kg are achieved per day4.

Robust demand

Technologies like cloud computing have made it even easier for organisations to deploy sensemaking applications, scale their resources according to operational demands, and ensure data security.

With more organisations recognising the importance and benefits of sensemaking and actionable intelligence, ST Engineering has delivered more than 10 real-time Ops Hubs to clients in Asia.

To cater to growing demand, the group will be launching an “AGIL Ops Hub” platform, which accelerates the transformation of current operations into a Sensemaking Ops Hub.

Making sense of the future

The post-pandemic world continues to be fraught with uncertainty and complexity. Organisations will also grapple with even more overwhelming data, as new sources of data such as the Internet of Things become mainstream.

Still, such a prospect need not be daunting for organisations empowered with sensemaking operation hubs. Instead, they can embrace mission-critical tasks that offer fresh opportunities to glean actionable intelligence and prove their mettle as sensemakers of the future.

1 The Handbook for Teaching Leadership. “Sensemaking, Framing and Acting in the Unknown”, by Ancona, Deborah, MIT-Sloan School of Management. 42924_1.pdf (

2 Deloitte 2020 Global Health Care Outlook



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