Education office smokes out its stovepipe systems

The systems design will focus
on individual services, Russomano said.





IRVINE, Calif.—The day of the stovepipe system is dead—at least in the
Education Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education.


The office is moving away from separate systems to a modular environment that will
increase integration and vendor competition, said Jerry Russomano, director of program
systems service for the postsecondary office. Russomano is overseeing the reorganization
of the division’s systems.


The goal is to put an end to stovepipe systems, Russomano said.


“It’s essentially my mandate for change within the department,” he said.
“The bottom line is moving from 10 different stovepipes and doing things 10 different
ways to a single, more standardized environment.”


Russomano last month outlined some of Education’s modernization efforts at the
Federation of Government Information Processing Councils’ Management of Change
Conference.


The new systems design will focus on individual services rather than on specific
projects, he said.


Each of the office’s 10 programs have been autonomous, Russomano said, which makes
them more expensive to maintain. Plus, the systems don’t share databases, so
information and maintenance is duplicated, he said.


Russomano wants to outsource services across all systems so that, for instance, one
vendor would be accountable for help desk services for all systems while another would be
responsible for all the systems’ software.


He described the approach as a band strategy. It lets vendors provide support in
specific disciplines, rather than making one vendor responsible for running all of a
system’s aspects, he said.


Education has already had some success with such an approach. In February, Education
moved the National Student Loan Data System from an IBM Corp. mainframe environment
managed by Raytheon E-Systems Inc. of St. Petersburg, Fla., to a data center in
Connecticut run by Computer Sciences Corp.


The move will save more than $30 million over five years, Russomano said. The
department plans to consolidate three more systems next month using the General Services
Administration’s Virtual Data Center contract [GCN, July 21, 1997, Page 3].


Education officials want to leverage the data center consolidation success into other
areas, including software support, Russomano said. He said he wants to issue a request for
proposals for software support as early as this fall. Education and Office of Management
and Budget officials must first approve the concept.


“Ultimately I want to get to a situation where I have one postsecondary education
development and test environment,” he said. “We may still have individual
contractors doing work for us, but they’ll do it using tools that I own.”


The Postsecondary Education Office, in support of its student loan responsibilities,
also runs a call center. Russomano said he is looking to contract out that service more
effectively.


Russomano also hinted that Education might run a pilot with one of the university
systems in California next year. The pilot would test a system to let users apply for
school and federal loans online.


The department will not announce the project until early next year, Russomano said.
Discussions including one on how much the university system would receive from school
applications are continuing, he said. 

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