Defence lessons database turns off users

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Defence lessons database turns off users
Two defence staff.

System falls into disuse.

A Department of Defence database designed to capture lessons learned from operations was abandoned by users who set up their own systems to replace it, according to a recent Audit report.

The ADF Activity Analysis Data System's (ADFAADS) was defeated by a "cultural bias" within Defence, the auditor found.

Information became fragmented as users slowly abandoned the system. The Australian Army, for example, chose to develop its own knowledge repository using a Wiki.

The Department told the auditor that since vendor support had ceased, it would build a new repository to replace ADFAADS.

The ADFAADS was built by Thales Australia in 1999 and ran on a Lotus Notes platform.

Although the auditor found the structure and design of the system conformed to 'best practice' for incident management systems, users found some features of the system difficult to use.

In addition, Defence staff turnover meant that many were attempting to use ADFAADS with little support and training. Ultimately it was not perceived as ‘user‐friendly’, the auditor found.

Convoluted search and business rules turned some users against the system.

An automatically-generated email was sent to 'action officers' listing outstanding issues in the system. At the time of audit, the email spanned 99 pages and was often disregarded, meaning no action was taken to clear the backlog.

It was common for issues to be sent on blindly as ‘resolved’ by frontline staff to clear them off ADFAADS, even though they remain unresolved, according to the auditor.

Apart from a single directive issued by Defence in 2007, use of the database was not enforced and there were no sanctions against staff who avoided or misused it.

Lessons learned?

The auditor recommended Defence establish a clear role and scope for future operational knowledge management repositories, and develop a clear plan for capturing and migrating relevant existing information.

Defence agreed, noting that the work was being coordinated under the leadership of the Vice Chief of the Defence Force through the Joint Capability Coordination Division and the Joint Capability Coordination Committee.

A “Joint Lessons and Evaluation Working Group” was preparing a “user requirement” for an enterprise system to share lessons, as part Defence's Strategic Reform Program initiative.

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