Defence forces march on with outsourced IT upgrade

1 Sep 2004

The Department of Defence is to spend more than €200,000 to upgrade its personnel management system. The new IT system has been developed by the technology consultancy Version 1 and is now in a pilot testing phase.

The project, which went to a competitive tender, was to extend the functions of the Department’s existing system by adding several new human resources modules covering Leave, Time and Attendance, Range Practice, Medicals, Unit Returns and Overseas applications.

Over the past number of years the Department had developed its own specialised personnel system, which caters for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. This time it chose to outsource the development – to buy rather than build – in order to make better use of its resources as it did not have the range of skills to run the entire project internally.

Version 1 was responsible for the development, unit testing and integration of the new designed modules. The new system was developed using Oracle Forms and Oracle Reports running on Oracle 9iAS. The application database was Oracle 8i. The project was rolled out to all units within the defence forces, covering approximately 10,000 personnel. The forces will handle all technical support for the new modules once the project is fully live.

From a strategic point of view, the project will also allow the defence forces to change its administration from being a high-level function to one that is carried out by individual units in the Army, Air Corps or Navy. Each unit contains 10 to 15 personnel.

The modules have been designed to allow information to be entered by non-administrative staff, ie soldiers, quickly and easily while conforming to the ways data had been entered into the system before. The new system also offers a centralised view of information about defence personnel.

Explaining the new system, Ken MacMahon, principal consultant with Version 1, said: “It replaces paper forms with an IT system which can give a full picture of a soldier for attendance, leave, weapons fired, qualifications and applications for overseas posting. It allows for storing additional information that previously would have been in paper form.”

Using rapid application development (RAD) principles, Version 1 built the modules in close collaboration with all levels of the defence forces. The project also had an extensive user acceptance test element. The Version 1 team met defence representatives weekly or fortnightly, developing the system on the fly. “We matched what they wanted,” said MacMahon. “It was an inclusive process rather than one man telling us what was needed. It required a lot of flexibility from ourselves and from them.”

By Gordon Smith

Captain Mark Staunton (centre) is flanked by John Mullen and Ken MacMahon of Version 1