CSC brings commercial world to government

Computer Sciences Corp., recently plagued by problems on high-profile contracts, is undertaking two new initiatives to strengthen its federal government division.

The government integrator is creating the Center for Excellence and the Federal Consulting Practice. Company officials are just getting the two programs under way in an effort to better focus CSC officials on core businesses. Officials say the programs are not a response to recent problems.

Officials from the Center for Excellence will draw on experiences with the Army's Logistics Modernization Program, which became operational last year.

Chris Colen, a CSC vice president who served as program director on the Army project, is in charge of the center's creation. The idea, he said, is to meld technological expertise with an understanding of business needs and the logistics of undertaking a sweeping modernization program.

Transformation projects are more complicated than they may seem, and managers without transformation experience can spend unnecessary time reinventing what others have already done, he said.

"People come up through the corporation, they're exposed to a number of programs in their area of expertise and then they're confronted with one of these transformation programs," Colen said. "At first they think, 'Yeah, I can do this,' but then they're confronted with things they've never seen." The center will also help CSC's customers think in long-range terms, he said. "A lot of people make decisions on the front end without thinking about the long-term implications," he said. "This is very, very hard work, and a lot of people underestimate the level of effort and the drain on the enterprise itself."

The Center for Excellence will launch with a fourfold focus on program management, solution architecture, data architecture and end-to-end services, he said.

"Those are the areas where we feel the most value is, and that's where the towers are going to be," Colen said. "We're starting with a group of people who have tremendous expertise in those areas."

CSC has had difficulty recently on major transformation programs with the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, but Joe Kehoe, CSC vice president and leader of the new Federal Consulting Practice, said the initiatives are not related to those stumbles.

"This is a response to where CSC thinks the federal market is going," Kehoe said. "The days of buying pure technology are over. What we are going to begin to see technology do is to simply be an enabler of process change and not an end in itself."

The new consulting practice is made up of employees formerly on CSC's commercial side, Kehoe said, and is expected to grow rapidly through more transfers from the commercial side, outside hires and possibly acquisitions. Currently numbering about 250 employees, the practice will double in size each year to about 2,000 people in 2007, Kehoe said.

"I see the government where the private sector was 10 years ago," Kehoe said. "They're coming to the realization that they can't do everything themselves." As agencies try to implement more commercial off-the-shelf software products, they are increasingly in need of consulting services, Kehoe said.

Other consultants said that CSC's new programs should be welcome in the market. "The feds have an announced interest in commercial best practices," said Phil Kiviat, of Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates Inc. "They've been saying that for a long time."

Other companies are initiating similar programs, said Chip Mather, senior vice president at Acquisition Solutions Inc. They reflect the government's changing emphasis from buying compliance with regulations and toward buying results.

Industry has to be prepared to deal with the change, he said. Too often, contractors assume an agency is paying lip service to the concept of performance-based contracting, Mather said. And they respond by saying "wink wink, nudge nudge, what do you really want?"

In the old days, companies succeeded by delivering a prescribed technology implementation, regardless of whether or not it fulfilled the agency's needs, Mather said. Now the onus is increasingly on the contractor to develop a successful solution.

The commercial side of the integrator's business is generally more experienced at working on those terms, he said. "They get it."

RELATEDLINKS

"IRS: Modernization funds won€t be wasted" [FCW.com, April 7, 2004]

"FBI reworks Trilogy contracts" [FCW.com, March 23, 2004]

"Taking stock at CSC" [Federal Computer Week, Dec. 1, 2003]

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