By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2005-10-01 Print this article Print

NASA has 80,000 employees, and works with more than twice as many scientists and other outsiders. The problem: Those log-ins could be used to access the agency's computer systems after the users have left, retired—or died.

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DAY 3: Conclusions

By Wednesday morning, I've written a draft of the panel's findings for the other members to review, but we're still not quite through with the presentations.

Ing gives us an overview of the $33 million project budget and how the original request for 15 project managers to oversee the implementation at each location was trimmed to 4.5 full-time equivalents (or about 15 people spending a third of their time on this). It's not news to anyone in the room that budgets have to be stretched, though. "The reality is, reality is no fun," Hevey says.

What worries the center CIOs more are the costs not shown on Ing's budget slides, such as the expense of integrating applications with the NISE architecture. The project engineers don't think it will be that hard to do a well-designed Web application—perhaps a couple of months of work per application in the beginning, down to one month once the developers gain experience with the process. Hevey says his own staff's estimate was "about a man-year," meaning the equivalent of one person's full-time labor for a year.

After a lunch discussion among the panel members, we present our findings (see "A Better Launch Pad," p. 56).One of the most important is the need to analyze the gap between how the project is actually being managed and NASA's official project management process.

We also recommend that a configuration control board, an ongoing panel to review systems configuration changes, needs to be created immediately for the critical account management system. The project to create a new security badge system already has one of these change management oversight boards in place, which the account management project would do well to imitate.

We run down the list of findings, with Greenwood doing most of the talking. Santiago and Ing thank us for our participation, and we go home. As the meeting is breaking up, I overhear one of the NASA people asking Ing what's next for the project. "Didn't you hear?" she asks, in a tone of good-natured grumbling. "Now I've got all this documentation I've got to redo."

David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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