Monday, April 9, 2007

On a different note...

... I will share a little something about my work today. I work for a subcontractor on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI. My company manages the enterprise network assets and design, and is still to my knowledge the only NMCI subcontractor paid by subscription, as prime contractor EDS is, rather than being paid via time-and-materials or fixed-cost contracts.

It is actually a little scary to reveal this, because while NMCI was a great idea, the implementation has been dogged by poor management decisions from the very beginning. And those poor decisions have had implications that still cause most of the problems NMCI faces today. I'm not going to outline the mistakes I've seen, because that would bore you to sleep. Suffice it to say that, when I run into a problem with my NMCI seat (basically: computer) that I can't troubleshoot and resolve on my own, I know I have to set aside pretty much an entire day for dealing with the help desk.

Last semester, in my statistics class, we had to write papers describing the application of an analysis technique we'd learned, and then present them to the class. I knew there were Navy personnel and contractors in the class, and the groans I got when I told them I work on NMCI were entirely expected. Trust me: I feel your pain! It is so frustrating to see from the inside how much better it could work, and to not be able to do anything about it.

This comes up today, because my Google Alert included a link to this blog post, which is spot on. I love his definition of an NMCI seat:

(For those of you not involved with NMCI that don't know the lingo, a "seat" is a metal or plastic device used to heat the air around an NMCI LAN drop.)

(Also, the word "asshattery" made me giggle.)

I've been relatively fortunate with my seat. The reason? It has not been physically connected to the NMCI network since December 2004. I've only accessed NMCI over dialup in the last two+ years, so none of the automatic software updates have been pushed to it. There is a broadband RAS solution now (finally!), but I found it too risky to put the laptop back on the network and have all those updates kill it. The cost of being without my access was far higher than the benefit of broadband over dialup.

In January, I was transitioned to a position that no longer requires daily access to the NMCI network, and now that we're into April, I realize that my password has expired. Next time I want or need to get on NMCI, I'll have to call the help desk to have my password reset. In the meantime, getting the Navy and Marine seats set up for my former teammates so that they can fulfill my former responsibilities has been a nightmare for them. After three months, they're still wrestling with issues. I love the work I get to do here, but I know there has to be a better solution. Unfortunately, I don't know if NMCI can be "fixed" now, not without radical change from the top down. And I don't know if the leadership - Navy and civilian - can be strong, firm, and consistent enough with the message that needs to be given to make that radical change.

On September 30, 2010, the follow-on years to NMCI end. I don't know what will happen then. I know that the next version of the contract is being discussed in Washington. It will be very interesting to watch it over the next few years, to see who bids on it, who wins the work, and how it gets managed in the future. In the meantime, I hope you can forgive me and still love me, even though I work for the Borg. :-)