In a military community, particularly a medical military community, the use and need for groupware is commonplace. On a daily basis, we use interoffice programs like Microsoft Outlook for not only its e-mail function, but its calendar function and task manager. We also use other Office products like PowerPoint and Excel to generate informational presentations and reports that get disseminated through our e-mail. Without these programs, we would be lost, if not severely hindered, in our daily operations.
There are several other programs that are used on a daily basis that can be deemed as groupware with some being specific to the medical community, such as our electronic medical record, formerly named the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application, now only referred to as AHLTA and our electronic training record named AFTR which stands for Air Force Training Record.
As far as implementing groupware in our organization being more trouble than it’s worth, these two programs would definitely fit into the category. Since they were implemented with minimal training ahead of time, it took some people several months just to grasp the basic usefulness let alone the overall intention; not to mention, that, on a daily basis, one of our core shared programs goes down, and productivity along with it.
Case in point, our AFTR program tracks and facilitates documentation on all of the enlisted force training as it pertains to their career field such as medical technician or aircraft mechanic. We have a saying in the service, if training wasn’t documented, it wasn’t done. With that being said, what we used to use was the old pencil to paper method, with a myriad of papers kept in a 6 part training folder.
That was the normal operating procedure since 1947, but with the advent and implementation of the electronic training record in 2008, it’s been an uphill battle to maintain proper documentation due to various reasons such as down servers, loss of internet connection, lack of knowledge of the computer program as well as the training program itself. As the AFTR can be considered groupware, I stand strong in saying that it is definitely more trouble that it is worth at this time.
Even though this is the age of computers and electronic devices such as smart phones and more people are becoming computer savvy, to completely change from the written documentation to an electronic method with only a short time to become fully acclimated; we were given one year to master the program and completely switch over, I believe they set the bar too high. Since September 2008, the initiation date of AFTR, we are still reeling from the change, and we (Air Force members) are still trying to master the program with all its faults and hiccups.
Interesting enough, as I am writing this paper on my work computer, I received a pop-up message that “Microsoft Outlook has lost connection to the exchange”. This being a common issue we have here, and since we use e-mail for 90% of our communication, so when the network goes down or the Internet service fails, you cannot perform any of your typical business functions.
Not all is bad as it pertains to groupware, by all means; the general idea is to have all parties involved collaborate from one source to enhance productivity from anywhere there is a computer. This is a novel idea and has its positives, when all is working and all the bugs have been worked out.