Part 2 of a 2 part series on Data Consolidation in the Federal Government

By Colby Proffitt

In part I of this series, we discussed some of the common consolidation challenges facing the Federal Government. In part II, we’ll explore five recommendations to ensure organizations are well-prepared for consolidation:

1.)   Know the requirements, and know your responsibility

Within the DoD space, there have been a number of mandates and directives over the years, and each one has come with a different set of requirements. Among them is the 1995 DoDD 8220, which focused on ensuring “effective and efficient usage of the full spectrum of information technologies to eliminate the requirement for each DoD Component to establish, operate, and maintain duplicative capabilities.” Ironically, after its release the number of data centers across the government exploded from 200 to more than 1,100. Consequently, the government has since released other directives, including the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), which mandates “government agencies to reduce the overall energy and real estate footprint of their data centers, with the targeted goals of reduced costs, increased security, and improved efficiency.”

Enacted in 2014, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) outlined specific requirements related to:

    1. Agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) Authority Enhancements
    2. Enhanced Transparency and Improved Risk Management in IT Investments
    3. Portfolio Review
    4. Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative
    5. Expansion of Training and Use of IT Cadres
    6. Maximizing the Benefit of the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative
    7. Government-wide Software Purchasing Program

Released in June 2015, OMB Memorandum M-15-14, “Management and Oversight of Information Technology” provides agency CIOs with guidance for implementing and measuring progress toward meeting the goals of consolidation, as set forth in FITARA.

With very specific FITARA terms and requirements, and real barriers to success such as lack of upfront funding, an aggressive timeline for ROI, poor visibility into the existing IT supply chain, and organizational resistance to change, agency CIOs should look to the guidance set forth by OMB and should also formulate a consolidation strategy.

2.)   Develop a consolidation strategy

Just like any other major project, success requires strategy – setting targets and timelines, identifying risks, and capturing ideas. At a high-level, a strategy should include:

  1. Planning – setting the objectives and goals of the consolidation, which should be heavily influenced by FITARA requirements. An assessment of the organization’s IT needs should also be performed – not just taking inventory of what the organization has currently in terms of people, processes, and technology – but doing the analysis to see what is actually needed.
  2. Impact and Dependencies – once the organization has a handle on its needs, decision makers should focus on understanding how those needs will be impacted by consolidation. With a myriad of potential impacts, organizations should focus on the impact to the mission above all else. It’s also critical to understand the interdependencies within applications, networks, and other IT functions. Critical tools can’t run on decommissioned servers or networks that don’t exist anymore.
  3. Gap Identification – know what your gaps are and plan to address each, either by accepting the risk or taking action to eliminate the gap with the required tool, process, or personnel. New tools or skillsets may be required to implement and manage new IT.
  4. Communication – copying and moving data, physically moving servers, changing URLs – these are things that, depending on the technical prowess of your user base, may be foreign to your end-users. Let your users know well in advance of consolidation what will be happening. Expect questions, expect concern, and expect resistance. Establish a single source for information dissemination and make sure the latest information is available. The better you plan and the more effectively you communicate, the greater the level of buy-in throughout the organization. Don’t over communicate, but do ensure a consistent message.
  5. A Phased Approach – once plans have been established, execute the plan on a small scale with a subset of users or test accounts. Or, where possible, consolidate in phases, targeting different servers and user groups in each phase. No one ever wants to have to reverse all the work they’ve done, but if something goes awry and the mission stops, have a rollback plan.

3.)   Explain why it matters

Communication should be part of the overall strategy, as mentioned above, but specifically, leadership should explain the importance of the consolidation. With the seemingly incessant talk around cost savings, it can be easy to forget what those savings actually mean, especially for the end user. Whether to abide by a mandate or to save money, users need to understand the reason behind the consolidation. Make it easy for the people in your organization to understand the benefits. The better you communicate, the better they will understand, and the easier and more successful the consolidation will be.

4.)   Measure

If consolidation is supposed to bring efficiencies, cost savings, and a better experience for the end users, it’s important to measure and document the pre-consolidation state. The following are basic areas to measure where improvements should be significant:

  • Energy consumption
  • Downtime and availability
  • Service Desk ticket volume
  • Costs
  • IT Facilities & Energy Usage
  • IT Hardware Assets & Utilization
  • IT Software Asset & Utilization
  • Environmental Impact
  • Service Levels
  • Software licenses and service contracts

Once consolidation is complete, measure those same areas again to capture the targeted improvements and efficiencies, then share it with the rest of your organization.

5.)   Plan for the future

Consolidation won’t happen overnight. It takes time to plan, prepare, and execute. By the time your organization is ready to execute, mandates may have changed, or the organization’s requirements may have changed. While you may know your projected pre-consolidation growth over the next 10 years, that number will likely change as a result of consolidation. Reevaluate those projections, account for the new environment and other changes, and be sure to build out adequate infrastructure to support your organization in the long run. And, remember your people – from your customers and end users to your service desk and IT staff. Too often, leadership focuses too much on the technology and too little on the organization’s mission and people. As described in The Human Factor of IT Consolidation, an organization that fails to keep the organization’s mission, people, and customer service as a top priority will likely experience a number of problems.

Looking for the expert?

NetCentrics has more than 25 years of consolidation experience in the federal space. If your organization needs help planning, preparing, and executing a consolidation, contact NetCentrics today to better understand what you need to do, what to expect, and let us help you consolidate, quickly, easily, and effectively.