CONTRACT REPORTS: ABC of Faster IT

The ABC strategy for acquiring capabilities and services puts another stake in the heart of the “not invented here” syndrome.  The ABC strategy and philosophy are simple: we will adopt before we buy, and buy before we create – in order to achieve speed.

 

To deliver an enterprise capability and service – enterprise meaning jointly used across the Department of Defense– we
will adopt capabilities and services developed by the Military Services and Defense Agencies if they can scale to enterprise use.  Failing the ability to adopt, we will acquire a commercially available capability or service, normally as a managed service governed by a service level agreement.  And, if we still can’t meet the need by adopting or buying, we will build it.  In all cases we will attempt to build small modules of capabilities and services with small teams.  We will avoid lengthy requirements processes and documents that hinder flexibility, and we will enable ourselves to kill an initiative early if need be.  The “adopt” element of the ABC strategy builds on today’s willingness of the Services and Agencies to share applications, to trust one another’s processes,  to reap the benefits of each other’s successes, and to learn from each other’s failures.

 

So, why adopt?  When we adopt a capability or service already in use, it has already gone through whatever research, development, testing, certification, and program cycles were necessary to get it to work.  We gain speed.  And, we immediately get a partner who provides us both a strategic advantage and another set of “eyes and ears” in the joint space we are working.  We also meet the potential challenge of accepting something less than 100 percent of what we intended to deliver.  But, that’s okay because the ABCs allow us flexibility to reach 100 percent in many ways.


 

GCDS


 

Here are several examples of how DISA has been able to apply the ABCs:

 

The Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program makes frequent use of the ABC strategy.  For example, DISA began building our own enterprise portal to be delivered by NCES.  Instead, we decided to adopt Army Knowledge Online (AKO) as a Defense Department-wide enterprise portal called Defense Knowledge Online or DKO.  AKO with two million users  provided the majority of the capability needed in an enterprise portal.  When we were deciding whether to adopt AKO as the DKO, we asked ourselves a simple question: how long would it have taken DISA to realize two million users?  The answer was clear:  Too long.  And developing our own portal from scratch would likely have been more expensive.

 

For the enterprise collaboration service, we adopted two commercially available tools as managed services.  We avoided a lengthy requirements process, eliminated the need for new  R&D or software development, and cut short lengthy program evolution cycles.  We have selected widely used collaboration tools, with some added security protection, because they serve our needs well.  With ongoing “two-button” competition, that is, two collaboration service providers that are paid based on actual use of their tool, we have found that the service providers are motivated to make periodic improvements to their offerings to remain competitive.  Thus, the collaboration tools evolve and improve without the need for the government to make added investment in new capabilities or engineering changes.

 

The NCES Global Content Delivery Service (GCDS) adopted an Air Force solution with minor modifications, resulting in an extraordinary success.  DISA’s Computing Services Directorate, which hosts the Air Force solution,
is providing content delivery as a managed service using an existing Akamai contract.  The adoption avoided the need for a lengthy new contract solicitation process and allowed the Department to take a known, accepted solution and merely expand it to support an enterprise mission. 

 

The same is true for the Content Discovery Service.  By adopting an existing service from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and simply expanding its coverage, the Department was able to take advantage of existing contracts,
help desks, and processes all of which would have been time consuming and expensive to implement.  It was acquired from DIA as a managed service governed by service level agreements.

 

DISA decided to pursue the NCES service oriented architecture framework (SOAF) as a managed service as well.  Rather than go through an entire acquisition, we did this under an already awarded Army contract, ITES-2.  Using this previously competed contract, we avoided about sixteen months of procurement time and the high costs associated with managing a large procurement.

 

So what have the ABCs earned for the Department?  Speed and dramatically reduced delivery costs:

 

* The portal decision avoided a major development effort, reduced the time-to-availability by at least three years and gained two million users immediately.
* The collaboration services avoided development and a lengthy acquisition time.  We were able to deliver the first service in one year – with a 13 page statement of objectives – and the second in nine months without the costs attendant to development.
* Using the existing Akamai content delivery capability as an internally provided managed service similarly saved years’ worth of effort and the eliminated the costs that are usually attendant to a lengthy acquisition.
* Using the DIA search capability avoided time and cost associated with a competitive acquisition and development effort, and it took us only nine months to field what would have taken a number of years.
* Use of the Army’s ITES-2 contract for SOAF saved about 16 months in acquisition time.

 

We have also had a breakthrough in acquiring processing and storage capacity as managed services with utility-like pricing.  Under these managed services used by our Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs), we are able to turn capacity on and off in a matter of days or hours without a contract action or procurement lead time.  And, with utility pricing, we pay only for the capacity consumed.  We are no longer buying boxes and waiting for the procurement process, delivery, and installation.  Service is available immediately – just plug in to use.

 

The advantages of this managed service approach are dramatic.

* When acquiring processing capacity using the traditional “buy, own and run” model, the organizational function providing the service typically ensures that server(s) are sized to allow the application to work properly, often resulting in unused capacity ranging as high as 80 percent.  The same dynamic exists in “buy, own and run” storage, resulting in efficiency levels of only 50 percent.  With the managed service contracts, the service providers and DISA jointly manage capacity that can surge up anddown based on demand.  With this feature and with virtualization we are able to dramatically reduce unused capacity and therefore cost.
* Paying based upon consumption reduces the cost to our customers. We charge them only for the capacity used, not depreciation for an entire suite of processors and storage.
* Being able to turn capacity on in a matter of hours or days avoids the lengthy procurement process and its attendant costs.
* Since technology refreshment is included in the managed service, we no longer have to plan and program for technology upgrades.
* Adopting existing capabilities and services reduces the need for investment capital and long procurement, development, and testing cycles. 
* Using the ABC concept implies that we must be flexible enough with requirements to forego the absolute 100 percent solution.  In adopting or acquiring a managed service, we have to be willing to accept a 70 or 80 percent solution in the interest of cost and speed.

 

Bottom line - The ABC approach is helping DISA and its customers achieve greater agility, speed, efficiency and cost-effectiveness by applying the latest strategies from the private sector to many of the top challenges facing the Department of Defense today.