Over the moon for NASA outsource initiative

There’s more to NASA then flying shuttles to outer space.

In fact, there’s a whole lot going on behind the scenes now thatthe rocket scientists are simplifying their IT infrastructuremanagement, including the outsourcing of desktop services.

Darryl A. Smith, deputy program manager for the OutsourcingDesktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN), said that they chose tooutsource because they wanted to share the risk from the governmentto the outsourcer.

“We didn’t want to be burdened with the responsibility ofmaintaining IT infrastructure,” said Smith via satellite to an ITACoutsourcing conference in Toronto on April 12. “And it allowed usto focus more on our core mission activities.”

Smith said something that organizations should consider whenlooking to outsource is to increase the need for system and productinteroperability across enterprises.

“One of the things we wanted to streamline was the ability forour programs and projects within our organizations to read andutilize documents anywhere within the organization,” he said. “Thatis essentially ensuring business functionality.”

Microsoft also believes stabilizing business functionality isits outsourcing objective, according to Jeff Chia, seniortechnologist, Ontario Public Sector with Microsoft Canada.

“The key really is to take advantage of the latest technologythat makes sense for your industry,” said Chia. “You really need toknow what your core business is, and focus on that.”

NASA’s process did have a little turbulence because they had aninsufficient change management strategy, according to Smith.

“We really underestimated how much of a culture shock moving tothis outsource vehicle would be,” he said. “And NASA’s a largelycontracted environment.”

It was really challenging to change to a more precise andcontained environment, he said.

“There was no agency-wide ODIN implementation policy; nogovernance model whatsoever and that proved problematic early inthe development of the program,” Smith said. “It was one of thethings we were able to overcome.”

He added that NASA is one of the few government agencies thatreally took the plunge earlier on, in the late 70s and early 80s,in contracting out a lot of their services.

Tarwinder Labana, IT global consultant, managed desktop serviceswith Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co., said that businesses need tounderstand what their internal drivers are that are causing them tooutsource.

“When you understand, and you invest the time up front in thosebusiness drivers and requirements, only then can you actuallyarchitect solutions that fit into the client’s needs,” saidLabana.

“It’s also important to have strong relationships between thecontractor and the client, this is one of the lessons learned fromODIN,” said Smith. “We transformed our relationship between ourcontractor and NASA from adversarial to collaborative.”

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