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."