NMCI transition team hits the road

Two years into the implementation of the Navy'Marine Corps Intranet program, the Navy is still struggling to train users to work with the portal.

Under a new strategy, the Navy is taking the training to the users. Last fall the Navy NMCI Program Office organized a transition assistance team to conduct on-site training for users who request it.

Members of the transition team visit sites around the country to help users get comfortable with the new network, according to Navy Cmdr. Brion Tyler, who heads the team. Among other things, the team gives out points of contact, telephone numbers, and a lengthy glossary of NMCI acronyms and terms.

Some of the two-hour briefings have gotten heated when users complain that they don't want the network, Tyler acknowledged.

'I usually bring an umbrella with me and ask people to throw their tomatoes,' Tyler joked. 'I have been asked to leave several bases before.'

He said the group visits sites up to six months before workers begin using the portal. The team walks them through the basics, reviews a command's NMCI cutover checklist, and supplies users with information on other resources, such as Web sites and upcoming NMCI conferences.

'What prompted the formation of [the team] was a lot of unprepared customers,' Tyler said. 'Change is disruptive. The goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible. If we are not prepared, cutover will not run smoothly.'

Some of the work is rudimentary, Tyler said, such as informing users what computers they will receive, when they will get them and what applications they will have.

Other work is more complicated, such as explaining where the NMCI program office expects to whittle down the thousands of legacy applications'many of which users want to keep. The apps must comply with NMCI's security policies and be compatible with the Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system.

Getting through

Despite some users' reluctance, the training is paying off, Tyler said.

'I know we're making some headway,' he said, judging by the increase in calls for help the team has received since it began operating.

But many users are still dissatisfied with NMCI. The complaints range from missed deadlines for assumption of workstation responsibility by contractor EDS Corp. to deteriorating network performance.

'I am using legacy and NMCI equipment, and have seen deteriorating performance of NMCI rather than improved performance as of six months into our deployment,' said one Navy contractor who requested anonymity.

Capt. Chris Christopher, staff director for NMCI, acknowledged that the service could have done a better job easing the transition. But he said the amount of misinformation about the NMCI contract is troublesome.

'There is no length of [assumption of responsibility] mentioned in the contract,' Christopher said about one user's complaint of missed deadlines.

'One of the biggest challenges to this whole thing is the cultural change,' Christopher added. 'We have too many people who are trying to put the square peg of NMCI into the round hole that they're used to and saying 'This isn't working.' '

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