NASA's Johnson Space Center takes customer-first approach to IT

Thursday - 2/20/2014, 1:34pm EST

Annette Moore, chief information officer, Johnson Space Center

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NASA's Johnson Space Center is taking a different approach to working with vendors and one that the Obama administration has been promoting over the last few years.

Annette Moore, the chief information officer, said vendors approach her organization through a vendor management office.

"When Larry Sweet was the CIO at NASA Johnson Space Center, Larry made an intentional decision to get us more in the direction of a business technology office," she said. "We actually created a position for vendor management support and IT procurement support. So we actually have a staff dedicated here on our directorate level that works that vendor management piece to ensure that the vendor gets connected to the right office in our directorate, gets connected with the right individual in our directorate and gets the right level of attention to get them connected into what we are doing with our initiatives and our priorities. We also have a chief technology officer on the directorate staff. That CTO does the same thing and those two positions work hand-in-hand to ensure that the vendor gets the appropriate level of contact at the right level within our directorate."

Sweet moved on to become NASA CIO in June.

Moore said the goal is to simplify the path for vendors to find the most appropriate person and to help her office ensure they are using their time most wisely.

The Obama administration has been pushing agencies to develop vendor management offices to improve the acquisition process. The President's Management Advisory Board recommended the use of VMOs as a single door into the agency in 2011. The Veterans Affairs, the General Services Administration and Treasury Department are among the agencies that took part in a pilot in 2012.

For NASA Johnson Space Center, the VMO will play a big role in the coming months as Moore is looking for ways to expand her center's use of cloud computing and other technologies.

"We have some smaller initiatives that are using cloud. We are looking at those larger initiatives that we want to move into the cloud," Moore said. "In fact, I have a game-changing challenge for my IT organization right now to look more into areas that we can move into the cloud. So we are looking in 2014 at how we can expand that and really make some game changing moves for 2014. We've taken some baby steps toward that."

She said in the applications and data systems offices is where the biggest opportunities exist to take advantage of cloud computing.

Moore didn't say whether or not her office has developed an acquisition strategy or would use existing contracts under the IT Infrastructure Integration Program (I3P). NASA awarded three contracts under I3P for a host of different services from application to end user to Web enterprise technologies.

Johnson Space Center is implementing some of the offerings from I3P, but the bigger benefit, Moore said, is the need to review and improve procedures and processes around IT programs.

The vendor organization and move to the cloud are part of a broader effort across Johnson Space Center to focus more on using technology to enable the mission.

Moore said her office is comprised of five different areas that cover about 59 functions: business management and policy, end user services, project management and technical integration, an application and data systems and information technology security and communications.

She said one priority is redefining organization's functions to better serve the mission areas.

"The reorganization is really taking place around our whole approach to how we provide IT services," Moore said. "IT organizations are recognizing the need to be more agile, more flexible and more adaptable to change. They are understanding that organizations that are traditionally hard IT core organizations are moving more toward looking at the business technology to ensure they can meet the business needs of any organization. So what I'm trying to do is reshape this organization to [one that focuses on] business technology that provides IT solutions that meet the business needs of our customer. That is a little bit of a different approach than what you might from a traditional IT organization."

She added her staff includes customer service agents that are tied directly to the mission areas across the center.

"They are listening to and hearing what the needs of the customers are, what their challenges are and what looks like the type of IT organization that will meet their business needs," Moore said. "I also invest in an IT leadership council across the center that includes someone from our station's program, from our missions' operations directorate, from our engineering directorate, from the Orion program and from several other key organizations at the center. I listen to those folks. I hear what their pain points are, what their challenges are, what their business needs are and what their next business evolution will be for their organization, and my responsibility is to ensure I'm tied into those key points and that I'm helping to drive this organization into a direction that will meet the needs of our customers."