Case Study: Hierarchical Task Analysis in Complex Ship Design


CMC Electronics is a world leader in the design, manufacture, sales, and support of high-technology electronic products for the aviation and global positioning markets. Formerly known as Canadian Marconi Company, CMC Electronics has been designing and building innovative communication and electronics systems since 1903 (


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In a project for Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), CMC applied their extensive experience of Human Systems Integration to analyze the Canadian Halifax Frigate Command and Control System. Unique aspects of the project includes: a trial of Hierarchical Goal Analysis (HGA) as an approach to complex systems analysis, an export of the associated task data to create Operational Sequence Diagrams (OSDs), and an export to the Integrated Performance Modelling Environment (IPME from Macro Analysis & Design) for workload analyses.

TaskArchitect was used as the central tool for the capture of the data and as a conduit to the other analysis tools. The TaskArchitect Team provided on-site support to the CMC team in order to assist with the application of TaskArchitect within the project. This included assistance in the development of the data structure to support the Hierarchical Goal Analysis, customized reports to clearly show the structure of the data collected (Perceptual Control Theory Control Loops), and export of the data to both the Linux based IPME Tool and FORTRAN based OSD drawing tool.

TaskArchitect was chosen as the data collection tool for the project because of the ease of configuring it to new analysis methods, the speed of data entry and data display, and the flexibility of output formats. The wide range of outputs helped with Subject Matter Expert Reviews and review of the project progress by the project sponsors. The ease of learning to use TaskArchitect meant that at times the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) could re-work the data in TaskArchitect to show the required changes. Because of these benefits it has become the central repository for the data, with easy export to IPME and CMC’s in-house OSD drawing tool. The export of Hierarchical Task Analysis data directly to IMPE, including perceptual and cognitive aspects of the tasks allowed the task networks to be automatically generated—saving time and increasing the ease of re-working the data set. Export of the data to CMS’s OSD drawing tool meant that SMEs could review the data in Operational Sequence Diagrams, and then, on the fly, the Hierarchical Goal Analysis data could be re-worked and re-presented for further review.

TaskArchitect’s rapid data entry and display, compared to the tools previously used (ACCESS and Excel) reduced the project timelines substantially and allowed the team to produce powerful reports and diagrams that they could not have contemplated trying to produce before. By enabling the easy movement of data between other tools during and after the reviews, TaskArchitect has helped CMC and DRDC to create a very powerful tool suite.