BIS1001 Foundations of Information Systems - Case Study Assignment

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Assessment 4: Case Study

Due date: Week 12
Group/individual: Group
Word count /Time provided: 3000 Words
Weighting: 30%
Unit Learning Outcomes: ULO3, ULO4, ULO5

Assessment Details:

The case study will assess your knowledge of key content areas in information systems. For successful completion of the case study, you are required to study the material provided (lecture slides, tutorials, and reading materials), engage in the unit’s activities and the discussion forums). The prescribed textbook is the primary reference, along with the recommended reading material. By completing this assessment successfully, you will be able to identify key aspects of information systems. This will help in achieving ULO3, ULO4, and ULO5.

Case Study

The NASA Knowledge Map

The NASA Knowledge Map At 11:38 a.m. on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle orbiter Challenger launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Less than a second later, gray smoke streamed out from a hot flare burning in the rocket motor. The flare ignited liquid hydrogen and nitrogen inside the fuel tank, which exploded 73 seconds after liftoff. The Challenger was torn apart, and all seven astronauts were killed. In the days and weeks following the disaster, it became clear that two O-ring seals within the rocket booster had failed. Engineers working for the space agency had warned of just such a failure. In particular, they had expressed concerns that the O-ring seals could fail when outside temperatures dropped below 53 degrees Fahrenheit. On the morning of January 28, the temperature was 36 degrees. The launch pad was covered with solid ice. In response to the Challenger disaster, NASA established the Program and Project Initiative whose purpose was to improve individual competency for NASA employees — and to prevent another catastrophe. The Challenger, however, was followed by the failure of three expensive Mars missions. The software system used for the Mars Climate Orbiter mission erred when one part of the software used pound- force units to calculate thrust, whereas another part used the newton metric unit. Less than a month later, the Mars Polar Lander crashed into the surface of the planet at too high velocity — triggering the failure of a concurrent mission, the Mars Deep Space 2 probes. A review of the Deep Space 2 mission revealed that NASA engineers had decided to skip a complete system impact test in order to meet the project ’ s tight deadline. In the wake of these failures, NASA sought to improve communication and collaboration among teams. Yet in 2003, a large piece of insulation foam broke off from the Columbia space shuttle during launch, creating a hole in its wing, ultimately causing a catastrophic breach of the shuttle during reentry; again, all seven astronauts on board were killed.

These terrible losses brought about a fundamental change in NASA ’ s approach to knowledge management. In 1976, NASA had created the Office of the Chief Engineer (OCE), which was initially staffed by only one employee whose job was to offer advice and expertise on NASA ’ s administration. In response to the Challenger disaster, NASA established the Academy of

Project/Program and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) as a resource for developing NASA ’ s technical staff. In 2004, the agency moved APPEL to the OCE in order to promote talent development through the analysis of lessons learned and through knowledge capture — the codification of knowledge. The purpose was to improve not only individual but also team performance and to overcome the

disconnect between the different engineering and decision-making teams across the huge organization. The overarching goal was to create an organization that learns from its mistakes. APPEL emphasized not only technical training curriculum but also the sharing of practitioner experience, storytelling, and reflective activities. In 2012, NASA furthered this initiative and established the role of chief knowledge officer whose mission is to capture implicit and explicit knowledge. Today, the agency has an extensive knowledge management system called NASA Knowledge Map, which is a tool that helps employees navigate the enormous collection of knowledge within NASA. The map encompasses six major categories: (1) Case Studies and Publications, (2) Face-to-Face Knowledge Services, (3) Online Tools, (4) Knowledge Networks, (5) Lessons Learned and Knowledge Processes, and (6) Search/Tag/Taxonomy Tools. Fifteen organizations within NASA contribute to Case Studies and Publications. The Goddard Space Flight Center, for example, publishes studies that range from analysis of the Challenger disaster to an analysis of a protest submitted by a NASA contractor who lost a follow-up contract. The latter case may not seem critical, but in one such case, the Office of Inspector General had to launch a formal investigation that cost NASA time, money, and energy. This case study was then integrated into the APPEL curriculum with the goal of avoiding the mistakes that led to the protest. The Johnson Space Center issues oral history transcripts, as well as newsletters, case studies, and reports. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory publishes conference papers and a Flight Anatomy wiki that tracks prelaunch and in-flight anomalies. Face-to-face knowledge Services comprise programs that are conducted in person at many locations, including, for example, workshops presented by the NASA Engineering and Safety Center. Within the Online Tools category are video libraries, portals, document repositories, and synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and sharing sites. Some of these tools are quite sophisticated. For example, Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) deploys a GroupSystems Think Tank decision support tool to improve group decision making. The Knowledge Networks category includes information about formal and informal communities of practice, mass collaborative activities, and methods for locating and accessing experts, and group workspaces for projects such as static code analysis. Twenty organizations within NASA contribute data to the Lessons Learned and Knowledge Processes databases, which capture and store knowledge, lessons learned, and best practices. These include, for example, HEO ’ s knowledgebased risks library with

topics covering project management, design and development, systems engineering, and integration and testing. HEO also sponsors lessons-learned workshops and forums on topics such as solar array deployment, shuttle transition and retirement, system safety, and risk management. Finally, the system ’ s Search/Tag/Taxonomy Tools allow individuals to access organization-specific sites as well as the abundance of materials offered through the five other KM programs. This final category

within the KM system may be the most important, as NASA ’ s own inspector general issued a report indicating that the tremendous wealth of KM resources is still significantly underutilized. For instance, NASA managers rarely consult the Lessons Learned Information System (LLIS) despite NASA requirements that they do so. The Glenn Research Center received $470,000 over two years to support LLIS activities, but contributed only five reports to the system during that time. Moreover, the inspector general concluded that inconsistent policy direction, disparate KM project development, and insufficient coordination marginalize the system. NASA is clearly at the bleeding edge of large-scale KM system development, creating the tools of the future. APPEL and other NASA teams are able to make use of some amazing tools that are being developed within the agency. It may be, however, that NASA ’ s KM system suffers from the same disjointed development and communication barriers that led to the space shuttle disasters and the failures of the Mars missions. Yet, it is vital that NASA learn to make use of its state-of-the-art KM system as the success of every

NASA mission requires that thousands of employees are able to make the most of NASA ’ s vast collection of knowledge.


Stair, RM & Reynolds, GW 2018, Fundamentals of information systems, 9th edn, Cengage Learning, Massachusetts.


You are required to answer the following questions:

  1. Write a short summary on the different types of KM systems and identify which type of KM system NASA has implemented.
  2. What are some of the common challenges and solutions faced by organisations implementing KM systems? What recommendations would you have for NASA to address the challenges it
  3. What recommendations would you have for NASA to ensure that adequate knowledge is being captured by employees across the organisation?
  4. Write a short summary of the knowledge management process. What recommendations would you have for NASA to ensure that different types of knowledge are assessed adequately.

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