Helpdesk call volumes, skill shortages hit project

Helpdesk call volumes, skill shortages hit project

Less than a year after signing a five-year, $200 million outsourcing deal with the KAZ Group, the Department of Defence has admitted it is experiencing network performance problems and service delivery "challenges".

The deal, which was inked with KAZ last year for IT and network support services, covers 90,000 desktops across 325 Defence sites in Australia as well as 24x7 support for its restricted and secret, IP-based, wide area networks.

While the department was unwilling to provide full details of the network support problems, a Defence spokesperson admitted the organization has been "inconvenienced" and is working to "address the underlying issues as quickly as possible".

The spokesperson said service delivery challenges with Telstra's ICT and IP services subsidiary have occurred due to "a sustained period of heightened Defence operational tempo" and network performance impacting a major transition to a new standard operating environment (SOE) for Defence networks.

As a result, KAZ has been forced to introduce "remediation" initiatives to stem the high volume of calls to the service desk. Compounding the problem is a skills shortage.

"[There are] difficulties being experienced by Defence and its industry partners securing and retaining ICT professionals," the spokesperson said.

The SOE upgrade project aims to standardize and simplify Defence's network and applications and to improve stability and performance. This includes an upgrade from Windows NT to Windows XP and Server 2003.

According to a Defence employee, who requested anonymity, KAZ has dropped the ball when it comes to support levels.

"It has been 10 months now since they took over and things have gotten progressively worse," he said.

Complaints include a 45-minute wait to get through to the helpdesk, "constant" outages, and an average of about 15 days to get something fixed.

"I work in Defence and I am telling you that things are absolutely abysmal when it comes to computer support; I am quite sure anyone that you talk to at Defence would agree with me," he said.

While not blaming KAZ for the network problems, the Defence spokesperson said a number of "short-term" remediation initiatives have begun, including the formation of teams to work with "providers and subject-matter experts" to identify the cause of high call volumes to the service desk.

The department has been forced to expand its service desk capabilities to meet the demands of users as a result of the high volume of service calls.

"Performance has already improved and Defence expects to return to 'business as usual' for service standards by September," the spokesperson said, adding that KAZ has been cooperative in addressing the "extreme" demands of this period delivering the level of expertise expected under the contract.

Kaz was asked to comment on this story, but declined.

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