New contracts set EPA's roadmap toward IT centralization

Thursday - 11/29/2012, 6:37pm EST

Malcolm Jackson, CIO, EPA

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The Environmental Protection Agency isn't paying lip service to the Obama administration's mandate to change and improve the way it buys commodity technology.

The EPA is revamping its entire approach to commodity IT acquisition, starting with IT hardware and email.

Malcolm Jackson, EPA's assistant administrator for Office Environmental Information and chief information officer, said the agency awarded two contracts in the last six months to begin the procurement shift.

"We have awarded our new hardware contract where in the past we have 10 regional offices and these 10 regional offices negotiated their own hardware contracts," he said. "Today, we have one enterprise or agencywide hardware contract that takes into account all 10 of our regions as well as our headquarters and our laboratories. It's one blanket contract that they all can buy in. It gives us the same level of services and offers one approach to technology across the agency."

On top of that contract, EPA also hired Lockheed Martin to move about 18,000 employees to Microsoft's email and collaboration tools in the cloud. Under the $9.8 million deal, Lockheed will move EPA from Lotus Notes to Microsoft's email-as-a-service platform, and in the process centralize email and collaboration tools.

"Our biggest lift we have at the agency right now is our move to collaboration and email. Over the next, three to four months, we will be doing the heavy lift of moving from our current email system to Microsoft 365 in the cloud," Jackson said. "Four months or so after awarding the contract, we are going live. Live with email, calendaring, contacts as well as the full suite of collaboration tools, video conferencing and document sharing, just a whole host of new capabilities that I believe will be transformational for this agency."

Jackson said both of these new contracts will help EPA buy more efficiently and thus save money.

He said for both procurements, his office took a collaborative approach so the regions wouldn't be surprised by the centralization of IT.

"They knew we were moving in that direction. As an agency, we have been talking about a one EPA approach toward any initiative that we have. This started with the administrator, down to the deputy administrator and across all assistant administrators. So it was no surprise from that perspective," Jackson said. "What we did to help effect the successfulness of this was we reached out to have collaboration with all of our region representatives to help us form what the package would look like and to make sure they had input, transparency and visibility into it so they had a sense of where we were going relative to the contract going out on the street."

He added the regions will not all move to the new contracts all at once. Each of the offices will begin using the contract when their existing deals expire.

Jackson said the hardware contract is one of many opportunities to centralize commodity IT buying across EPA.

"I think there are a number of opportunities there that we can take a hard look at," he said. "We signed a cloud computing contract, which offers cloud services to various offices within our agency. What we are looking to do there was, we wanted to negotiate the contract one time, with one vendor, who would offer the services to anyone who wanted to buy into the contract. So cloud computing is one component of it."

He said another area is shared services from within EPA, but also outside of it.

Jackson said EPA already is moving its human resources system to the Interior Department's National Business Center.

He said EPA and NBC have worked out a schedule to complete the migration by 2015.

"It takes into account payroll, time and attendance and it has links back to our finance organization," he said. "There are two large organizations that fall underneath it. It's our HR organization as well as our finance organization."

To ensure the success of the move, Jackson said he has created a project management office to manage multiple HR projects

"This is our first PMO we've created at least within my office. It's been very successful up to this point," he said. "We look at this as a pilot, one from which we want to learn from and possibly extend as we move forward with IT investments over time."

Along with back office systems, Jackson said EPA is looking at which mission critical applications could move to the cloud. The Central Data Exchange program is a likely candidate.