Web helps ease AF workload

Web helps ease AF workload

Survey team uses forms tool for questionnaire to assess staff perceptions

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff


The Air Force Chief of Staff Survey asks personnel to give their geographic locations but does not collect personal identification.



By conducting its biennial personnel survey via the Web, the Air Force has cut the workload for information technology staffs at its bases worldwide.

A six-member team used a beta version of InterForm99, an application development tool from Raosoft Inc. of Seattle, to organize the 1999 Air Force Chief of Staff Survey, said Capt. Scott Hopkins, the survey team leader.

InterForm99's wizard features build survey questions without the need for coding in Hypertext Markup Language, said Hopkins, who works at the Air Force Center for Quality and Management Innovation at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

A previous Chief of Staff Survey, created in 1997 from an amalgamation of prior assessments, went out to Air Force users via LAN and floppy disks, Hopkins said. The questionnaire software had to be loaded onto every server in the Air Force'and some bases have more than 100 servers.

No question

'The Web architecture drastically eliminated the need for the local people to place software on the servers,' Hopkins said.

The 1999 survey asked 121 questions, roughly half of which addressed the Air Force's organizational climate and half the quality of life for employees.

The climate-related issues included supervision, leadership, recognition, flexibility, resources and job fulfillment, Hopkins said. The quality-of-life quiz asked about worker satisfaction with military housing, educational opportunities and other benefits.

Between Sept. 30 and Nov. 12, Hopkins said, everyone who works full time for the Air Force'both active-duty military and civilian personnel'could fill out the questionnaire. Nearly 190,000, or 35 percent to 40 percent of those eligible, responded to the 1999 survey, Hopkins said.

The survey site, at csafsurvey.randolph.af.mil, first asked each participant to make up a unique user identification and password. That way, respondents could take a break and come back to the questionnaire later.

Next, the survey showed a world map where respondents could click on their duty locations. Within the United States, they could drill down to states, locations within states and names of service organizations. The Air Force team had the option of creating office symbols for organizations with more than 120 employees.

The survey randomly rotated the main portions of the quiz so that some respondents answered the organizational-climate questions first and others the quality-of-life questions first. That increased the statistical reliability of the data by reducing respondents' potential fatigue, Hopkins said.

Answer this

The survey team placed only one question on each screen so participants did not have to scroll through a long page. 'That was for people who may not be familiar with computers,' Hopkins said. 'We tried to make it visually oriented.'

Answering a question in full took respondents to the next question screen, Hopkins said.

Many of the questions required an answer on a 1-to-6 scale, with 1 representing 'strongly agree' and 6 denoting 'strongly disagree.' Some questions asked people to 'check all that apply'; others sought nu-meric answers. Many of the forms had space for individual comments.

Hopkins and his team copied a version of the Chief of Staff Survey onto a few floppy disks, but the survey had to be installed manually only at sites with connectivity problems. Hopkins said only 3 percent of the responses came from non-Web sources.

To analyze the data, Hopkins' staff used automated routines that Raosoft built for them. The team finished the analysis in less than two months so that the chief of staff, Gen. Michael Ryan, could be briefed on the servicewide results by late this month, Hopkins said. The generals who lead major commands will get their briefing early next month.

The team later will disseminate about 10,000 organizational-climate reports to leaders of smaller Air Force units. Commanders will get data on their employees' responses, and personnel staff at the Pentagon will get the quality-of-life responses.

The Air Force questionnaire ran off a server under Microsoft Windows NT at Randolph Air Force Base, Hopkins said. Raw results amounted to a few gigabytes, including individual comments.

It took the survey team about six weeks to set up the Web questionnaire using the Raosoft app development tool, Hopkins said.

Because the team members were beta users of InterForm99, the software incorporates some of their requirements and recommendations, especially on interface issues, Hopkins said.

The commercial Interform99 is scheduled for release late next month at a list price of $20,000 per developer seat, Raosoft officials said.

'You don't have to be an expert to use it,' Hopkins said. 'It's a power tool for power users.'

The chief of staff's office began using Raosoft MS-DOS software for surveys in 1994.

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