DOD urged to share outsourcing lessons

Information Technology: DOD Needs to Leverage Lessons Learned from Its Outsourcing Projects

The Defense Department is doing a good job of applying commercial best practices to its information technology outsourcing programs, but DOD must improve the process of sharing and using those lessons learned, according to a General Accounting Office report.

In the report, "Information Technology: DOD Needs to Leverage Lessons Learned from its Outsourcing Projects," GAO noted that if DOD could capture how it applied industry best practices to outsourcing projects, the information could help similar projects in other agencies.

"Although currently there is no such DOD-wide mechanism, such as an electronic tool, to easily share and leverage lessons learned, DOD IT and acquisition officials agreed that a departmentwide effort to identify, capture and disseminate lessons learned could offer valuable insights and new ideas that would benefit others," according to the report, which was released April 25.

The report reviewed five projects that used various solicitation methods, including holding a public/private competition and carrying out a negotiated competitive procurement.

Among the five projects, the types of services being outsourced varied from help-desk services to enterprisewide information services. The contract terms covered a span of five to 15 years, and estimated contract values ranged from $23 million to $8.8 billion.

GAO acknowledged that developing a lessons learned mechanism would not be easy and said senior management support and resources are keys to success. "Without such support driving the capture and dissemination of lessons learned, DOD is losing an opportunity for wider application of leading practices and thus better ensuring that its IT outsourcing efforts are successful."

The report made two recommendations, calling for the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, in conjunction with the assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, to:

* Provide management support and adequate resources to implement an electronic tool to capture and disseminate lessons learned from IT outsourcing projects.

* Ensure that the method used to gather information for the electronic tool incorporates the main elements of a lessons-learned process — namely, collection, verification, storage and dissemination.

DOD officials received a draft copy of the report last month, and Margaret Myers, DOD's deputy assistant chief information officer, responded to the recommendations in an April 8 letter. Myers agreed that capturing IT outsourcing lessons learned is important to continued success in DOD programs, but said that picking a specific method to do that is premature.

"Before the department commits to a specific means of provision, we intend to explore a variety of mechanisms by which we can exploit lessons learned in IT outsourcing initiatives," Myers' letter said.


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