How to totally screw up an outsourcing project

Observe and beware

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Outsourcing the US state of Virginia’s IT operations to Northrop Grumman was supposed to put the state’s network beyond politics, overhaul and standardise it and improve operations, but the effort has failed in almost every respect.

The £1.2 billion, 10-year contract with Northrop Grumman calls for a network overhaul – or transformation as the state calls it – is months behind scheduled despite repeated deadline extensions.

Network services to agencies have been cut off or have been poor enough to affect the services agencies deliver to the public. Members of boards are overstepping their authority to negotiate with Northrop Grumman, and the chain of command is so fragmented that it’s difficult to get any one entity in control of the problems.

This is all according to a report issued this week by the states Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), which points a finger at Northrop Grumman, but also at boards, agencies and individuals for problems like these:

• In May, Virginia State Police in Newport News lost Internet access for 78 hours, affecting the ability to perform its duties.

• Also in May, Environmental Quality in Roanoke lost its network connection for 31 hours.

• In June, the Department of Motor Vehicles in Bland lost the network for 31 hours, affecting customer service.

• One state correctional facility lost incoming phone service at 4 am and was assigned a priority level that gave Northrop Grumman 18 hours to fix it. The priority was assigned based on the number of employees at the facility – 30 to 40 – not on the need dictated by the fact that the facility houses 1,000 inmates.

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