Defense Information Systems Agency

I. Project Information

Company and division name

Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Center for Computing Services

Web site URL:

Project designationEnd to End IT-Business Service Alignment
Brief explanation of the goals of the project:

DISA sought to enhance situational awareness and increase end-user satisfaction while reducing costs and resource drain.

Brief description of the business risks involved

Anytime that an organization sets out to transform the way it manages and monitors the systems that comprise its IT infrastructure, there exists a certain amount of risk to temporarily displacing infrastructure components that assure uptime. Downtime for DISA represents the single risk to the continuity of its operations, which are wholly focused on information systems. This risk was completely mitigated during the project.

Brief description of how the system helps users

The system provides end-to-end IT service management and consolidates multi-vendor enterprise system management (ESM) data into a centralized console view. This view provides DISA with control over its IT infrastructure and alignment of IT with DISA’s business processes.

II. Organizational Objectives

What short-term and long-term benefits did the organization achieve from the project? Did the solution meet the projected goals for saving time and money? How were benefits measured? Was the system mission-critical to the organization?

DISA’s impact in providing and managing information systems is paramount to the defense of the United States. DISA fields IT systems that serve the military’s chain of command all the way up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President of the United States. It is also the DoD’s number one provider of back-office services like finance, accounting and supply chain systems. The bottom line is that DISA’s IT infrastructure doesn’t have time for downtime. This implementation:

  • Allowed DISA to consolidate heterogeneous management data sources from multi-vendor network, systems and applications management tools along with critical business metrics enabling DISA’s IT managers and line of business executives to understand the impact of IT services on the overall business.
  • Provided bi-directional control, supporting not only the ability to perform detailed root-cause and impact analysis – but also empowering IT Operations with the capability to issue commands back out to native ESM systems and thereby initiate critical changes to the IT enterprise to quickly remediate problems.
  • Simulated user transactions and loads on Web-based applications to baseline performance and simulate potential problem scenarios before they occur, like the impact of a spike in user transaction volume on response time.
  • Created visualizations of this information on a role-based executive dashboard which provides a fast, easy and effective mechanism for understanding overall network, systems, or application health. Role-based dashboards provide essential information in real time, allowing DISA to determine exactly how IT services affect specific organizations.
  • Benefits were measured by examining savings derived from consolidating 18 systems management centers to four, consolidating 16 Help Desks into four, remotely monitoring more than 800 applications at 16 sites from four locations, reducing the employee headcount in Computing Services by 1,000 – primarily through attrition – and cutting IT problem resolution time by 50 percent. The total estimated savings per year for the DoD is more than $140 million. DISA has reduced IT costs significantly.
  • While the items above represent sizable cost savings, DISA’s IT customer satisfaction ratings prove the agency has done more with less. The independent survey, conducted for DISA by Gartner Research ranks the agency among the "best in class.". On the most recent survey for 2004, DISA scored a 4.43 on a scale of one thru five where five is the best; these are the highest scores DISA has earned on this annual agency wide survey to date.
Describe the business purpose of the new system

Delivering a reduction in workforce requirements, more secure operations, and the ability to support better and new services

Describe the features of the new system.
  • Consolidation of management system information and control
  • Automated end-to-end visualization tool
Explain the functions of the new system.

Using Managed Objects’ BSM solution, the team consolidated the data from DISA’s traditional management systems, on to a single consolidated view – on a centralized console. The consolidated view is based on a unique object-model, which aggregates and correlates all of the data from existing heterogeneous sources. This provided DISA with end-to-end visibility into the health, performance and availability of their IT infrastructure.

The object model provides a visualization tool that automatically builds graphical representations – termed a Business Service View – of an IT service, i.e., a supply chain system. This graphical representation is useful to department heads as well as IT technicians. A department head can view the object model at a high level and understand how well the IT infrastructure is performing. Vis-à-vis, if the model indicates a service degradation an IT technician can perform a point-and-click drill down – quickly and easily – to determine the root cause of the problem. In addition, that technician can initiate commands through the Business Service View, back out to the underlying management system and remediate the problem; resetting a server is a simple example of remediation.

Who were the internal sponsors of the project? Which officials or groups were opposed to developing the application? Why?

DISA made this project a reality through its Customer Advocacy Directorate. The directorate works is aimed at anticipating and understanding the customers' needs, championing those needs throughout DISA, and facilitating and enhancing communication within the entire DISA team. Tactics and strategies are publicly communicated throughout the agency. DISA kept the workforce informed about its plans, which is critical to minimizing the organizational indecision and morale issues that come with sweeping change. As a result of this function, internal consensus was reached quickly on developing the application for this project.

Were users of the system involved in the project during the planning and development phases? If so, how?

DISA customers throughout the agency articulated their needs via the Customer Advocacy Directorate. The directorate queried users on customer satisfaction and collected enterprise-wide knowledge of customer business, from current services DISA provides to future customer requirements.

What were the greatest challenges in completing this project? How were they overcome?

The greatest challenge was in finding a provider that could provide truly seamless integration.

Were the goals changed as the project progressed? If so, what were the changes and why were they made?

No, N/A

III. Category

Middleware/Application Integration

IV. Methodology/Process

Describe how productivity tools or techniques were used in the project. Were testing tools used during development? If so, when were they used? Was the testing cost-effective?

DISA focused on a regime of performance indicators and efficiency measures. For instance, the availability of relevant services and key technology groupings was baselined before the work was done, so as to provide data for DISA to measure success. External analysts from organizations like Gartner were also brought in to review plans and results.

Was a formal or informal software development life-cycle methodology employed? If yes, please describe it.

Yes -DISA’s top leadership kicked off the project by precisely identifying its desired business results: a workforce reduction, more secure operations, the ability to support better and new services – and then applying bold new business strategies such as sweeping technology changes, data center consolidations, data mirroring and a business context for IT management data. This process affects each DISA division, with the results publicly available and used as a guide for focusing projects and rewarding employees.

In planning for increased alignment, DISA chose a nimble approach that it could continuously refine and learn from, thereby eliminating mistakes and maximizing value. As the agency’s transformational tenets note, "We think strategically but act tactically." DISA thus drove alignment service-by-service and department-by-department, not by re-building its entire enterprise at once.

This thoughtful methodology helped DISA reap the largest economies of scale from its investment – and minimize the risk and problems associated with large-scale change. An important part of the plan is to ensure that intellectual assets and information are captured, organized, shared, and reused throughout the agency.

What formal or informal project management methodologies and/or tools were used to manage the project? If used, please describe how.

DISA has also instituted formal reporting processes for our customers and our leadership. The reports deal with service availability and the agency’s expenditures per customer. That way, customers and DISA’s executives know precisely what their dollars are getting them at any given time. This kind of external and internal accountability is rare in the private sector and near unprecedented in the public sector.

The directorate works by anticipating and understanding the customers' needs, championing those needs throughout DISA, and facilitating and enhancing communication within the entire DISA team. Key responsibilities include representing DISA customers throughout the agency in articulating their needs and priorities; facilitating problem resolution and driving process improvement to guarantee the highest levels of customer support; and developing long-term, strategic partnerships with the customer base. The directorate also tracks customer satisfaction and collects enterprise-wide knowledge of customer business, from current services DISA provides to future customer requirements.

Were software quality metrics used? If so, what were they, and did using them significantly help the project?

No, N/A

V. Technology

a. What were the major technical challenges that had to be overcome to complete the project successfully? How did the team respond to those challenges?

Traditional management systems had produced event-oriented alerts on the console of an IT operator – the same way a large amount of e-mail might rapidly populate an inbox. The reality of the event-oriented world begged the same question: "which problem do I address first?" Frequently the answer to this was that alerts were managed in the order in which they were received.

What software tools, including databases, operating systems and all development tools, were selected for the project? Why were they selected over competing tools? What process was used to select development tools and software platforms?

DISA implemented Managed Objects’ Business Service Management (BSM) software after a thorough review process examining offerings from existing vendors, as well as others in the marketplace. Managed Objects was chosen on the basis of its ability to provide seamless integration among existing tools, regardless of vendor, resulting in the best available end-to-end view of systems architecture and the relationships among its components.

Describe the overall system architecture. Were elements of the technical infrastructure put in place to support the new system? Please describe.

DISA automates remedies to common customer problems with its Enterprise Systems Management (ESM) toolset. The ESM architecture provides a secure, robust, high availability, standardized infrastructure with disaster recovery capability and a standard suite of tools for use across platforms. ESM’s centralization of both hardware and application administration combined with the standardization of tools enables the DISA transformation goal of force reduction. ESM’s intended benefit is to reduce labor costs to customers while service improves.

Prior to this project, the ESM architecture included IBM’s Tivoli T/EC console to monitor network status, HP’s OpenView to manage communications and Mercury Interactive’s SiteScope to observe the performance of independent Web pages functioning within DISA’s domain. However, these tools only monitored health and availability in silos – as individually specified components. DISA wanted to logically group specific interrelated physical elements within its IT infrastructure and view these as elements collectively as a holistic IT service delivered to support successful business operations.

What characteristics of the tools and technologies used were most important in achieving the business purposes of the system?

By transforming the way DISA manages and monitors the systems that comprise its IT infrastructure – it is able to find and fix IT outages before they affect an end-user. What’s more, DISA can also prevent outages from occurring in the first place. The bottom line is better situational awareness, which leads to better performance, and ultimately both a reduction in costs and higher satisfaction levels. Given DISA’s crucial role in supplying information systems supporting the defense of our nation, in combination with its thought leadership and innovation, DISA is an exemplary model agency for others to follow.

VI. Project Team

What was the size of the development team?


Describe the software development experience of the team members.


What was the composition and skill level of the team? Did development teams require training to work with the technology?

Intermediate-advanced; Managed Objects provided training specific to its application, but none other was required.

How many person-months/days did the project take, and over what calendar time frame? Was a formal schedule created at the start of the project? Did the project stay on schedule?

The project was completed in approximately 12-24 months (2003-05), from scope to delivery. The project conformed to schedule.

Did management and the user community consider the project a success?

The project was considered an enormous success. By transforming the way DISA manages and monitors the systems that comprise its IT infrastructure – it is able to find and fix IT outages before they affect an end-user. What’s more, DISA can also prevent outages from occurring in the first place. The bottom line is better situational awareness, which leads to better performance, and ultimately both a reduction in costs and higher satisfaction levels

If you had to do the project over again, would you do anything differently? If yes, please explain why?

No, N/A