Catapult Technology Understands the Mission to Provide Secure IT for the Department of Defense | Article
16th Annual Outsourcing Excellence Awards – Best Partnership: US Army Information Technology Agency and Catapult Technology
“We trust the Catapult team to pursue a solution without government intervention. They don’t have to wait to hear from us because we know they fix problems fast and provide backup documentation as a matter of course.”
Gregg Meserve, Data Center Services Division Chief, Defense Continuity Integrated Network, Department of Defense
Definition: This is the top award. Both companies demonstrated a partnering approach in all phases of the relationship. They made decisions based on what’s best for the relationship’s objectives even if the outcome was challenging for both parties.
The Department of Defense created the Defense Continuity Integrated Network (DCIN) program after the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. Its mission is to provide secure, highly-available and cost-effective IT services to the Department of Defense community within the national capital region. DCIN was created to make certain the Pentagon can “command and control” no matter what.
DCIN’s mission is to provide continuity of operations and disaster recovery services. And that ability was put to the test on numerous occasions. Like the summer of 2011, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the region. Many employees fled the rattling building where the DCIN is housed but not the Catapult team. They not only stuck around to make sure mission-critical functions remained up and running as everyone else was running out of the building, but they also walked into other buildings to check on key systems.
“It would have been perfectly acceptable for the Catapult team to get in their cars and go home. But they didn’t,” says Gregg Meserve, Data Center Services Division Chief, DCIN. “This is just one example that the overriding attitude of the Catapult team is a focus on upholding the mission,” he adds.
Or the day a water leak damaged equipment. DCIN was able to recover in less than a week, thanks to Catapult’s innovative and cost-effective solution. “We were able to recover quickly because of Catapult’s processes and personnel,” says Meserve.
He says working on the DCIN contract is “more than just a job for Catapult employees. They actually take pride in their mission.” He says this pride extends from the top in command to the worker with the lowest rank.
How the IT works
Before the attack, various contractors did the work and all of them reported to the Department of Defense. Afterwards, the government wanted to consolidate these IT functions under one roof. “They wanted everyone to sing off the same page,” says John Scarcella, executive vice president, Enterprise Systems, Catapult Technology Ltd.
Catapult is the prime contractor that manages the contract’s seven other subcontractors, who were used to reporting to the government independently of each other. Scarcella says originally Catapult had to devise a way for all the partners “to think alike.”
Catapult leadership decided to require every one of its employees and every subcontractor to go through ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) training. At the end of the course, everyone “had the same mentality and understood the same processes,” says Scarcella. Today, 50 percent of the team earned ITIL Foundation certification.
The provider standardized and improved the IT processes, which include data storage and replication, automated fail-over and monitoring and managing systems administration. Logistical support is included too. The improvement was so noticeable that now the entire ITA is emulating the DCIN’s processes. “Gregg’s team has taken the lead in driving the future for that organization,” says Scarcella.
Meserve says Catapult is “open and honest about the processes.” This has helped the ITA with its functional alignment, he adds.
Because the processes are repeatable, the Army was able to measure its results. The result was “declining dollars,” reports Meserve. Outsourcing has saved the Army as much as 40 percent over providing the IT internally.
The DOD has asked the ITA to squeeze its budget tighter and tighter,” says Scarcella. “We can comply because we know how the organization operates and can measure everything. That’s the only way to make massive changes successfully,” he adds.
Why this relationship works
Trust is the basis of this relationship. Meserve says many government contracts require agency approval before a contractor can take action. “We trust the Catapult team to pursue a solution without government intervention. They don’t have to wait to hear from us because we know they fix problems fast and provide backup documentation as a matter of course,” he explains. He adds the executive summary of any problem usually arrives within an hour.
Transparency is another pillar. “We know if something goes wrong, the Catapult team will be truthful,” says Meserve. “We are comfortable with hearing the truth,” he adds.
The relationship is based on a zero defects policy, Scarcella adds. “Zero defects is not a goal but a process. We continually search for what caused an issue, address it and then move forward while ensuring it does not happen again,” he explains. “There will always be defects, but the same one will occur only one time because we’ve addressed it by the process.”
Scarcella says this relationship works because Catapult found a buyer that was willing to do the two things that are required for success:
- Make a commitment to a plan of action and then support it
- Get corporate buy-in on the plan
He says the partnership’s drive for ISO 20000 certification was a good example of how they worked together on a big mission.
Catapult’s business philosophy contributes to this relationship’s success. In the water leak situation, Meserve liked the fact Catapult “did not throw money at the problem.” Instead, the team used “innovative thinking” to come up with an out-of-the box solution. The provider team repurposed unaffected equipment and reshuffled storage space.
“The Catapult team approached the situation not from the perspective of how to save money (which is important) but how to keep the mission going. Because of their innovation, we solved the problem quickly and preserved the mission,” he adds.
In addition, new capital investments to remedy the problem were “minimal.” Meserve says “without their innovative thinking, we might have had to spend more money to replace the equipment and the systems might have been down for a longer period of time.”
Meserve is impressed with the low turnover on the Catapult team. “This is an indication they like their jobs and the company they work for,” he observes. “Our employees work for DCIN 24x7x365. For them it’s not just a job. They know they are supporting the nation,” adds Scarcella.
And that’s why this relationship won the Best Partnership Award. Mission accomplished!