Why am I not surprised?

I’ve never dealt with the Army’s in house portal to its intranet, AKO (Army Knowledge Online). They rolled that out a few years after I left. But I’ve dealt with similar interfaces I the business world. Some were good, some were bad. But I’m not at all surprised that the average user finds the Army version a clumsy interface.

Soldiers hate AKO. That was clear when Army Times asked users of Army Knowledge Online what they think about the Web portal.

Their frustration was evident in more than 70 e-mails from Army active-duty, civilian and retired users.

The most common complaints:

• AKO is frustratingly slow.

• It has a cluttered interface.

• Its security features are too cumbersome.

• Its search engine is useless.

For many, that adds up to a decision to avoid AKO whenever possible.

Launched in 2001, AKO is the secure gateway for soldiers to access e-mail, file storage, instant messaging and other collaboration tools. It boasts more than 2.33 million unclassified users and more than 123,000 classified users, including active duty, National Guard, Reserve, civilians, contractors, family members and retirees, as well as 350,000 users through the Defense Department’s Defense Knowledge Online, which it hosts.

The system has an annual budget of $67 million and is operated by a team of some 20,000 employees — larger than an Army division.

What do you think? I know a lot of you readers use AKO. And you Navy types feel free to discuss the wonder of NKO.

9 thoughts on “Why am I not surprised?”

  1. Had to use it when I was still in DEP, most annoying thing I’ve had to use. Then they updated it and it got even worse. Thank God I don’t have to touch it again.

  2. It was mandatory to check into it, part of the stuff for Future Soldier training and I’m a bit compulsive about checking email and such on a regular basis. There were periodic emails reminding about my upcoming ship date and making sure I was hitting preparatory milestones, some sort of Cyberwarriors group thing as well that I think tried to arrange online forums and group IM sessions for folks in my MOS (35W). Tried to peruse somewhat the AKO message boards, but the system would hang up after a couple of pages and they had formatted the individual threads so that the most recent post was the first one displayed. When the whole point was to look at the original post in a thread with quite a number of replies, that made it effectively useless. To be fair, that may have been an artifact of using Safari. I keep Firefox on my system just to deal with the occasional job application website that doesn’t work right with Safari.

    1. I think some introductory online stuff for DEP’ers could be a good idea. Like, who to salute, and when, and some customs and courtesy. It gives them a little info, and keeps them engaged while they are in DEP.

  3. I could probably write a book about AKO. There are some things AKO does very well. Other parts that are simply bad practice. Arguably the solution does what it is supposed to do. But as with any other working “solution,” the “pile on” effect strains and weights the system down. Many of my customers ask for a “system like AKO, but not AKO.” I think that best sums up the experience.

  4. The search engine sucks mightily. If you don’t already know the location of something on AKO good luck finding it. I particularly enjoy having to re-set my password what seems like every other week…and of course your password can’t be the same as any of your last 10 passwords so come up with a good system for remembering/updating your password, your going to need it.

  5. I *#!@@ hate AKO with a passion. It is absolutely user unfriendly. Every time I deploy I invariably can get on any website but AKO when ostensibly it is the system of choice for deployed soldiers. And they are only making it worse. For the last couple of months they have been offering a new format for e-mail, and as of today it will be the default if you don’t specifically opt for maintaining the old system. They put a survey up asking what people thought and it is running 70% in favor of the old version. Not only do they require a password change (every 150 days) but they ask “knowledge-based” security questions every time you log on. EVERY TIME you log on! As if someone can hack past the monstrosity of a password you had to establish in the first place.

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