The IT department of a Federal agency responsible for storing, processing, and protecting the data of over 235 million U.S. citizens, businesses, and non-government agencies, launched a multi-year initiative to standardize their computer operations.

The campaign was challenging due to the IT organization’s many complexities. For example, within 22 environments they host 7,600 servers, maintain 4,700 databases, and support over 2,500 applications. Historically, operational requirements for systems were prescribed by the customer vs. industry best practices. As the years went on, customized requirements became the norm, and there were few standard practices being followed. Recognizing the ineffectiveness of simply rolling out policy statements, the agency requested Wheelhouse Group’s services to facilitate collaborative policy development and integrate sound organizational change management tactics into the communications approach.

Approach/Solution

Using industry maturity models (CMMi, IIL, etc.), analyzing call center statistics, and reviewing audit findings, the Wheelhouse Group team identified areas causing the most strife in the production environment – issues that caused downtime, security breaches, cost overruns, and delays to the agency’s customers. Wheelhouse Group worked with the IT operations group and its customers to define and implement 20 Operational Requirements aimed at data center standardization, enhanced infrastructure delivery, and high system availability and security.

The successful implementation of these requirements needed to be more than a “check the box” type of activity. Employees needed to understand why each requirement was necessary, be well versed in the benefits of each, and know how to professionally push back on customer’s requests for cutting corners, taking short-cuts, and making exceptions. The campaign that Wheelhouse Group developed did just that.

Wheelhouse Group worked collaboratively to socialize the requirements with stakeholders, worked with policy boards and other enforcement areas to build the requirements into already accepted process steps, identified and removed barriers in the culture that could prohibit acceptance, and provided tools for information about each requirement to be accessed easily. Wheelhouse Group developed clear and simple messaging, promoting the benefits of the requirements, including definitions, links to agency policies and supporting procedures, and points of contact for the each standard. In addition to the communications and change management, Wheelhouse Group provided program management for this initiative. In this capacity Wheelhouse Group worked with leadership to develop a plan to ensure the work was done in an organized and manageable way.

Key Outcome/Key Data

The implementation of the standards has helped to create a world-class IT Operation. Results include:

  • Virtualizing 40% of the operating environments
  • Flawless shutdown and power up of a major data center
  • Fail over and restoration to an alternate processing site for critical systems
  • Installation and implementation of an end-to-end monitoring system
  • Moving to one, standard change management process and tool
  • Consolidation of data center footprint by 10%
  • Implementation of automated file transfer tools
  • Implementation of electronic authentication for log-on protocols

Not only did this work improve service delivery, standardize the infrastructure, and increase productivity, but communications campaign moved the organization from its initial reaction resistance to being committed to the requirements. Today, requirements are the standard, and exceptions are truly exceptions.

Key Takeaway