FlipSide: FCW Time Machine: 2004

Midway through June 2004, EDS was struggling to achieve the service-level agreements in its performance-based services contract for the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI). Defense reporter Matthew French’s story in the June 28, 2004, issue of Federal Computer Week makes it clear why EDS was struggling three years and nine months into the largest network outsourcing contract that the Defense Department had ever awarded.

Here is an excerpt from that 2004 story:

The contract for NMCI, the Navy’s massive initiative to create a single enterprise network at about 400 shore-based sites, is built on service-level agreements (SLAs) — specific tasks that the lead contractor, EDS, must perform in order to receive financial compensation. Each SLA outlines metrics or parameters covering everything from network throughput to help-desk response time.

Navy and Marine Corps officials recently decided that too many SLAs were bogging down the contract. It was difficult to focus on building and populating the network when more than 240 parameters had to be followed, said NMCI Director Navy Rear Adm. Charles Munns.

“In the past 2 1⁄2 months, we have worked with the Navy and Marine Corps team to reduce the total number to about eight SLAs and 30 parameters,” Munns said. “Depending on how you looked at it, we had 44 SLAs and 240 parameters to fit.”

Navy Capt. Chris Christopher, NMCI’s staff director, said the contractors erred on the side of caution by loading the contract with SLAs. Officials later discovered that many of those agreements were too narrowly focused and didn’t allow for the larger project to progress as planned. “We’re going to have fewer SLAs, but they’re going to have a greater effect and be more measurable,” Christopher said.

He said he didn’t know which SLAs are slated for elimination or whether there is a specific target.

Christopher gave examples of services that do not need such intense scrutiny. E-mail, for instance, is a key component of NMCI. The SLAs in place were being used to measure how long it took for a message to travel from a sender’s computer to a server, from that server to a network operations center, from that center to a different center, from there to another server and finally to the recipient.

Lessons learned
That year, the Navy and EDS brought the number of performance metrics down from about 200 to 34, said Randy Dove, executive director of global government affairs at EDS, in an interview last week. “There was certainly a lot of learning and a realization that we needed to do this.”

— Florence Olsen

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