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Why U.S. Navy is Standardizing IT Strategy Around ITIL

Facing multiple problems from multiple directions, the U.S. Navy turned to ITIL to help right the ship.
Apr 3, 2009

Dave Perera

In 2006, EDS had a problem. A big problem. The company was facing rampant and voluble dissatisfaction of its $9.9 billion contract to manage the Navy and Marine Corps’s land-side IT infrastructure, better known as NMCI for Navy/Marine Corp. Intranet. The solve this migraine of a headache, EDS, now a division of HP, turned to ITIL. Initially applying it to high-visibility areas such as change and incident management, EDS expanded ITIL over the next 27 months across its areas of responsibility, which cover everything from seat management to network command and control.

“Proactive issue resolution, streamlining the process in those functional areas so that the system felt more responsive to end user – that was the target” during the ITIL roll out, said Steve Heidt, the company’s VP for Navy/Marine Corps Intranet Operations. Parts of the EDS’s support organization have adopted ITIL version 3 (v3) but when the contract runs out in September 2010, it’ll end with a mixture of the version 2 (v2) and v3 frameworks in place, Heidt added.

The Navy's unhappiness with the outsourcing effort – called NMCI for short – was obvious to anyone witnessing the mid-decade raft of “NMCI Sucks” bumper stickers or the forest of snide online comments. More recently, however, the percentage of satisfied users has reached the high 80s, according to surveys conducted by EDS. Some of the dissatisfaction may have been inevitable. EDS was tasked to hammer around 6,000 separate networks managed by 28 different commands into a single, coherent whole for about 700,000 users. Still, the degree of discontent went deep and high in the ranks.

“I believe that EDS was not prepared to handle the implementation,” said Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon in 2004 when he was the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

Post ITIL, relations between EDS and Navy have improved, Heidt said. “We interact much better with them in a more rigored structured process that helps them get visibility and control faster,” he explained.

Moving Forward

Now the Navy is looking past NMCI to its next IT contracting vehicle and vowing not to repeat old mistakes. The Navy calls its next procurement the Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) and is in the process of finalizing its acquisition strategy. Regardless of what final approach emerges after the Pentagon okay's the analysis of alternatives, the Navy is making it clear that ITIL will be its management framework of choice. In NMCI, the Navy essentially handed over to its entire infrastructure to EDS; even abdicating command and control of land-side networks to the company.

No one in the military, or even in EDS itself, reasonably expects that to happen again with NGEN , although a NMCI-like model officially remains a possibility, said Navy Capt. Tim Holland, NGEN’s program manager.

Regardless, the NGEN concept of operations document specifically calls for ITIL. That’s because the Navy wants a common language to speak with industry when it comes to integrating their support with Navy command and control, Holland said.

“Industry is familiar with it. We can have more than one industry partner and we’ll all be talking the same language,” he added. The Navy will use ITIL across the totality of NGEN. “It’s a lot more than help desks. Help desk is just one service within ITIL." The analysis of alternatives should be complete within the next few months, Holland added.

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