Better to outsource?

If installing a desktop management system seems too daunting for your agency,

what about farming out the task?

When deciding whether to outsource this kind of operation, one of the

most important factors is your staffing situation. "If I'm short on resources,

is this the kind of thing that I want my people doing?" said Phil Kiviat,

president of the Kiviat Group, an information technology consulting firm.

The answer to that question was a resounding "no" for Pat Schambach,

chief information officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

His bureau decided to outsource software distribution and management as

part of a larger seat management contract, in which a contractor is responsible

for maintaining the bureau's desktop computers.

He noted that even without the seat management arrangement, he would

probably have an outside contractor install and operate the Tivoli Systems

Inc. product that manages his desktop environment. "This is not a tool that

you just put up and run," he said. "It's a long, involved process to get

it functioning correctly, and the No. 1 advantage that a contractor brings

is the expertise to install and use that tool."

Mark Haggerty, program manager of the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative

for NASA (ODIN) contract, which also provides seat management, agreed. "It

takes a lot of training and expertise to get your staff familiar with the

product and well enough versed to implement it, especially if your enterprise

isn't ready for it," he said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration currently handles desktop management

in house using the Tivoli product, but officials there are evaluating outsourcing

the task as part of a seat management contract. Francois Abi-Najm, director

of the enterprise management group program at DEA, said that having the

system in house gives him more control and more immediate access to system

information, but other than that he sees no reason why the system couldn't

be handled by a vendor.

Kiviat said there are some reasons favoring in-house staff running the

desktop management systems. "Maybe if you had a very large organization

and lots of resources, then it might be just a marginal task that gets picked

up along the way," he said. "But I don't know many federal agencies that

have a lot of resources nowadays. It really comes down to personal preference

and comfort level."

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