A good idea worth saving

Nick Wakeman

The concept of a lead systems integrator makes perfect sense. An agency hires one company to manage a large, complex project. The company acts as a procurement office ? hiring and managing subcontractors, creating requirements and letting task orders. The agency has one cage to rattle and is free to concentrate on its mission.

But problems with projects such as Deepwater and Future Combat Systems have caused some to wonder if the days of the lead systems integrator are nearing an end. I don't believe that will happen, but things are changing.

Alice Lipowicz explores the debate in her story in this issue. She talked to industry officials and longtime observers, who offer words of caution to both industry and the agencies.

The concept of a lead systems integrator needs to evolve, particularly the way agencies manage them. Agencies need to clearly state what they want to accomplish with a project. They need to set measurable goals and have a schedule of milestones for the lead systems integrator to meet. There needs to be constant and honest feedback between the agency and the integrator.

The companies seeking the lead systems integrator role must learn to watch for warning signs of potential trouble ? particularly unclear requirements and objectives. They need to be willing to walk away and not bid on a project, despite its lucrative price. They also need to accept the increased scrutiny these high-profile projects bring.

There is plenty of blame on both sides for problems with some of the current incarnations of the lead systems integrator, but there is too much value in the approach to abandon it.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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