VIEW FROM THE FRONT
Hagerty keeps outsourcing on the rise
ODIN program manager fills in the gaps between users and vendors
By Richard W. Walker
Twenty years ago, a career in information technology wasn't on Mark Hagerty's radar screen.
Then, Hagerty was a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller in Miami. Aside from working with radar systems, he 'had nothing other than a passing interest in computers,' he says now.
But then came the summer of 1981 and the tumultuous Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strike. When the Reagan administration fired PATCO employees who didn't return to work, Hagerty had to find something else to do.
Taking a temporary job in customer service for a company in Miami, he enrolled in computer classes at Florida International University and became a computer operator in the company's data center.
That proved to be the beginning of an IT career voyage through the private sector and government that eventually led to NASA, where Hagerty is program manager for the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA. He is based at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
He was offered a civil service position at NASA in 1991 as a mainframe specialist after spending four years at Goddard as a systems programmer for a NASA contractor, Computer Sciences Corp.
At NASA, he worked his way into IT management, becoming ODIN program manager in July 1998, shortly after ODIN contracts were awarded to seven vendors.
As program manager for ODIN, Hagerty is responsible for implementing the $13 billion program across the agency.
ODIN is one of two federal procurement vehicles for desktop PC outsourcing; the other is the General Services Administration's Seat Management Program. Although NASA initiated ODIN to provide desktop PC outsourcing for its own centers, the vehicle is available to all federal agencies.Shared knowledge
'Many of the cultural issues are bona fide concerns. ... We have to prove to them that outsourcing is a good idea and supports them in getting their jobs done.' - Mark Hagerty
The Health Care Financing Administration used ODIN to award a three-year, $40 million contract last June to Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego to outsource its 4,000-plus desktop PCs. It is presently the only non-NASA agency using ODIN.
'Clearly NASA is not in the business of developing contracts intended for use by other agencies,' Hagerty said. 'But the ODIN service model was designed in such a way that it recognizes that, even though NASA primarily has a scientific and engineering mission, many of the support environments within the agency are an analog to what goes on anywhere else.
'As we think about sharing across the government, it makes no sense for other agencies to spend the money and do the work we did up front to reinvent the wheel,' he said. 'So we've made it available with the knowledge that if it works for us, it should work for others as well.'
To be sure, ODIN boasts a growing showcase of outsourcing case studies.
At NASA, ODIN has been implemented at Goddard; Kennedy Space Center, Fla.; Johnson Space Center in Houston; Stennis Space Center, Miss.; Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.; and the agency's headquarters in Washington.
Scheduled for ODIN by the end of this year are Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.; Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.; Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland; and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
Hagerty describes himself as the ODIN facilitator.
'My primary role is to make sure that the ODIN managers at the centers get what they need to do their jobs, to stay out of the way so they can do their job and to focus on ensuring that the contractors are complying with the contract,' he said. 'The bottom line is that the customers are getting what they need from this contract and that their missions are being supported.'Handle with care
But Hagerty also thinks it's crucial to provide proper care and feeding to ODIN's prime vendors.
'I want to make sure that all the ODIN vendors are engaged'all seven of them, not just the three that have business now,' he said. 'My goal is for every one of the seven companies to have business under ODIN because it's only then that they're going to remain interested in it.'
Hagerty said he's a conduit of information, talking continuously to ODIN and vendor project managers and to chief information officers. He spends six to seven hours a week in teleconferences. He also reviews master contract modifications and helps to resolve issues at the delivery-order level.
'It's imperative that we communicate what's going on,' he said. 'Where one problem was solved, others can gain from it and get insight. And we can roll all these lessons learned up to a master contract, maturing it and making it a work in progress.'
When he's working out of his office at Goddard, Hagerty generally puts in about nine hours a day.
'I try to keep it reasonable,' he said. 'I have a life outside of this. I have a family and three daughters, and I want to spend some time with them. I can take advantage of long days when I'm traveling.'
He's on the road about four days a month, usually to meet with project managers and contractors at the centers. He also stages an annual workshop that brings together project managers from all the centers.
'Every center has an opportunity to report on where they are,' he said. 'I also invite HCFA and any other agencies interested in ODIN to attend. It's extremely important for us to stay engaged as a community and to work things through collaboratively.'
A constant companion is his Compaq Armada M700 notebook PC, which he uses with a docking station at the office. He also carries a Palm IIIx handheld computer from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., for scheduling, contacts and notes.
The principal hurdles to implementing desktop PC outsourcing are cultural, not technical or logistical, Hagerty said.
To be sure, there are special cultural challenges at NASA.
For one, the agency has lots of brainy users who know computers. Removing control of their desktop PCs and handing it over to a vendor represents a cultural sea change.
'Our customer base includes a lot of very intelligent people,' Hagerty said. 'We're not at a loss for engineers, Ph.D.s and computer scientists. We're dealing with customers out there who know this business and they can do it just fine, thank you very much.'
For ODIN managers, transitioning users to ODIN requires kid-glove treatment.
'I wouldn't think for a minute of belittling some of the resistance [to outsourcing] that's in the system,' Hagerty said. 'Many of the cultural issues are bona fide concerns, so it is important for us as an agency team implementing this to listen, pay attention and show that we care about those concerns'not just blow them off and move on. We have to prove to them that [outsourcing] is a good idea and supports them in getting their jobs done.'No pain, no gain
He gives credit to ODIN and vendor project managers for making the program work. 'When you talk about skinned knuckles and bruises, they're the ones who go face-to-face and eyeball-to-eyeball with the customers as they work through these cultural issues.'
As the chief cheerleader for ODIN, Hagerty thinks the benefits of desktop PC outsourcing are immense and outweigh any negative issues.
Here's one example. Before ODIN was implemented at Goddard, Hagerty wanted to implement an 800 help-desk number. His efforts were fruitless.
'We just couldn't do it,' he said. 'We just couldn't justify the cost. But on day one with ODIN, we had 800-number, 24-7 help-desk support.'
What's the biggest plus to outsourcing? 'Think about how we procured computers before,' Hagerty said. 'An organization might want to buy 10 computers for their staff, so they'd have a technical person identify three machines on the market and ship it to procurement. A procurement buyer would call up and get some pricing and cut an order.
'Eventually, a pallet would show up over in the logistics area of the warehouse, and they'd have to tag it and deliver it. And somehow the network and the software would have to marry up at the customer end. It was easily a 60- to 90-day process. Now, with ODIN, you submit an order for a new seat and within a couple of weeks you've got a machine delivered to your desk that you can log on to and start using immediately.'
To Hagerty, that's one of the most important reasons why desktop PC outsourcing should be on radar screens across government.