Plagued by slow and costly IT system development, the Director of my agency implemented a new vision and strategy. The goal was the speed of deployment was more important than a perfect solution. My agency was mandated to follow the director’s precept, what would simply be known as his ‘ABC’.
The ‘ABC’ stood for adopt-before-we-buy and buy-before-we-create. In a nutshell, if another DoD organization has developed or acquired a capability that fits or close to fitting a need we have, my agency would adopt it. If adoption was not available, the agency would procure a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solution. If all else fails, would we then hire contractors to perform developmental work.
The director’s vision was accepted with open arms throughout the agency, everyone from the ground-up agreed that change in our business processes needed to occur for the better. My program management office (PMO) alone has three ‘ABC’ initiatives, two were successful, one failed, and that would stem from my branch. We needed to deliver an enterprise portal for the DoD, that was remedied by simply adopting and relabeling the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) portal to Defense Knowledge Online (DKO). DoD needed an enterprise collaboration suite, that was achieved by purchasing Adobe Connect.
Unlike the two successful systems from my PMO wherein the requirements were succinct, our branch was not. The Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) branch, consisted of five distinct system managed by five separate individuals under five different contracts, lead by a GS-15/O-6. The SOA systems were all infrastructure level enterprise system such as: a system that provides security for other system, a system that facilitates discoverability of other system, a system that monitors health of other system. In short, they were not tangible assets, like chat clients, which can be physically access by a user, SOA ran behind the scenes. To compound it further, SOA was a fairly new concept of doing business in the IT world, with no general consensus on what SOA specifically encompasses. The notion, systems are now viewed as entities that provided value added services to the enterprise: security service, discovery service, mediation service, etc.
To uphold the Director’s vision of an agile system deployment for SOA, our PMO awarded a firm-fixed price + incentives contract valued in excess of $58 million for 2 base years in 2006. The contractor’s tasks were to deploy an “out-of-the-box” SOA solution to replace our 5 legacy SOA systems by leveraging BEA Aqualogic COTS products. They were also responsible for the operational and maintenance cost of the entire SOA system. The term “Manage Service Provider” was coined; it was a complete hands-off approach by the government.
Six-months into the project, it was plagued with issues from all levels. The contractors did not have people with proper clearance level to work at the Defense Enterprise...