Users getting comfortable with NMCI

Navy NMCI Web site

Perception does not always match reality, at least according to the latest user satisfaction numbers for the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

EDS, the Plano, Texas, company responsible for building and running NMCI, said users are increasingly comfortable with the network, a claim they assert is backed up by results from the most recent user satisfaction survey.

The results of the survey, which was issued in the spring, show that more people are satisfied with the services EDS provides. EDS' survey, which is required as part of the NMCI contract, showed a nine-point increase in the overall user satisfaction rate and a four-point increase in the satisfaction level of users with help-desk support.

NMCI is the Navy's massive initiative to create a single enterprise network across some 400 shore-based sites. EDS owns and operates the network. The contract requires user satisfaction surveys as a way to assess the network's performance.

According to EDS' data, the overall user satisfaction rate was 69 percent among those surveyed for the quarter that ended in March, a nine-point spike from the last survey, conducted in December. That number still falls well below the 85 percent satisfaction rate EDS needs to achieve to receive financial incentives built into the contract.

Navy officials see the customer satisfaction incentive as an innovative provision of the performance-based contract because it will encourage the NMCI Information Strike Force, the EDS-led group of vendors setting up the network, to focus on a key measurement: How satisfied are the people who use the NMCI infrastructure?

Navy Capt. Chris Christopher, NMCI's deputy director for future operations, said officials expected a large portion of the user population to be unhappy at first.

Gartner Inc. officials say "early customer satisfaction in seat management contracts sees a precipitous fall," Christopher said. "Then, later, you get a more accurate measure. We have a moving mass of new users who are almost going to be, by definition, not happy."

An NMCI spokesman said the survey is routinely sent to 6,000 to 8,000 users, but it is not mandatory for them to participate, and only 1,500 to 2,000 surveys are returned. Ed Schmitz, who is responsible for customer satisfaction surveys at the NMCI office, said the surveys are only sent out to users who have been on the system for 45 days or more and to the same commands each time so that trend data can be tracked.

"No one here has ever seen such a survey of any kind," said a Navy civilian who works in Southern California and asked to remain anonymous. "I wish they would [send one here]. I have yet to talk to anyone on the phone who could handle my problems. We are just living with what we have because we have no choice. What they have is better than no computer at all."

EDS stands to reap significant financial rewards if 85 percent or more of NMCI users report that they are satisfied with such items as help-desk responsiveness and network performance.

When the company meets its service-level agreements, it could earn an additional $25, $50 or $100 per seat, depending on what level of customer satisfaction is attained. When the contract is over and about 360,000 seats have been transitioned to NMCI, customer satisfaction incentives could be worth as much as $36 million per quarter, or $144 million per year. The customer satisfaction incentive is above and beyond the $8.8 billion base value for the 10-year contract.

EDS officials changed the survey questions at the end of last year, claiming questions on the old survey allowed for interpretation by the users and did not provide the hard data the company needed to improve its performance. For instance, a question asked: Do you feel that the Information Strike Force provides dependable services? The new one reads: Do you have the hardware you need to complete your job?

"We conducted focus groups and interviewed them to determine how we might use the questions to address" specific problems, said Tim Thomas, an EDS official.

The original survey, according to Schmitz, was based on contract language but didn't provide information on which EDS and the NMCI director's office could act on the findings.

"We changed many of the questions," he said. "Some address EDS' performance and the performance of the program in general. We started the process last year."

EDS and Navy officials said that by mid-May, almost 180,000 seats had been transitioned to the new network. The company has assumed responsibility for more than 300,000 seats to date.

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Navy Marine Corps Intranet satisfaction surveys

Number of NMCI users (as of May 18) — 179,629

Number of users when transitions are finished — about 360,000

Number of surveys sent out — 6,000 to 8,000

Number returned — 1,500 to 2,000

Number of surveys sent out per year — 4

March 2004 user satisfaction — 69 percent

March 2003 user satisfaction — 54 percent

Incentives EDS could earn at 85 percent user satisfaction —

$25 per seat per quarter or $36 million per year

Incentives EDS could earn at 100 percent user satisfaction —

$100 per seat per quarter, or $144 million per year

Source: EDS

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