Defence eyes KM to battle overload

Warfare and knowledge management are a match made in heaven as Australia's Defence Force looks to implement a system the US Navy successfully trialled in its Pacific Fleet, Computerworld has learnt.

"The Australian forces are a long way behind the US in freeing up people from administration and back-office duties to participate in war fighting [using knowledge management]," Steward Lamond, partner of the defence industry group at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said.

The ADF was unable to implement such a system before the East Timor operations, which would have assisted in communications and coordination, Lamond said.

PwC is assisting both ADF and Pacific Fleet of the US Navy to automate managerial and administrative processes and give its staff ubiquitous access to information needed for operations.

"The US Navy had spent $US50 million on IT infrastructure, but was not getting any benefits out of the technology," said Alexander Henry, management consulting services at PwC.

He said it is a dilemma facing most organisations -- deriving value from existing infrastructure without spending money on new technology. "We achieved this with the US Navy's Pacific Fleet using the Web," he said.

Henry estimates the US Navy will see a return through to 2005, of $US100 million from the first phase which included building a Web site to automate functions such as task and approval management. Freeing up the daily tidal wave of information was a tangible benefit, Henry said.

"Previously when e-mail came, there was information overload," he said. The widespread use of e-mail quickly tied up staff time and IT resources such as bandwidth, leading PwC to install a Web-based whiteboard for broadcast messaging.

"Bandwidth is an incredibly important resource, as everything is delivered via satellite onto the ships," Henry said.

"But we still had to overturn the existing culture to get staff to post broadcasts to the intranet," he said.

Lamond expects similar hurdles when PwC rolls out the system to ADF's staff in about six months.

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