Letter to the editor

Several points are expressed about the government's negative opinion of outsourcing and lack of skill at contract management in a conversation between Steve Kelman and an "IT industry insider" in Kelman's March 4 column, "The Enron effect."

My impression is that the remedies offered by Kelman are based on a perspective that obviously ended with his federal position in 1997, and that he is certainly out of the loop.

As a quality manager for one of the biggest contractors to government, I see an increase in requests for proposals that require compliance to specific performance levels and standards. I would say that the government is educating its information technology contract managers about effective ways to secure quality performance from contractors. Our contracts frequently entail service level agreements with clear, measurable objectives that reward acceptable performance. Why didn't he mention this trend?

Similarly, I wonder about the "IT industry insider" who says that IT companies need defensive strategies to shore up integrity to compete successfully in this new threatening climate to end outsourcing. It's time to end the kind of attitude that further enhances the sense of "them" and "us."

Contract management of contract performance is not rocket science! It starts with clear customer requirements, a solid approach to the delivery of those requirements and meaningful measures of performance that are aligned with the quality service objectives. It takes planning, firm execution and a continual measurement of results and corrective action to further refine service outcomes. It just makes good business sense!

Why has this eluded government and contractors? I suggest that we look to standards, such as ISO 9001, that require an organization to demonstrate that it can meet customer requirements. Look at the list of ISO-registered organizations. Government entities, including NASA, and IT contractors have both elected to implement the ISO standard as a way to manage effectively, and this trend is growing, Mr. Kelman.

Name withheld upon request

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