One of the advantages of working in government is that we’re not only permitted, but encouraged to copy what works. If another team has grappled successfully with a problem similar to the one we’re facing, there are no proprietary barriers to learning from their experience—or even asking to re-use their work.
Similarly, leveraging the experience and proven solutions of external partners can help reduce, cost, risks, and timeframes—but only when combined with your own research, leadership, and ownership.
For example, we sought the advice of an independent research analyst firm to confirm our estimates of the level of operational resiliency needed for a Microsoft® Office® SharePoint® Server collaboration and data-sharing site that provides critical mission-supporting services across the Command.
The analysts helped us validate the “sweet spot” in terms of the price paid for a contractual commitment to recover point and recover time objectives (RPO/RTO). Because the price goes up exponentially for guaranteed resiliency, we identified the point at which the guaranteed RPO/RTO (30 minutes or less/4 hours or less) that we paid for was adequate—while knowing that the actual responsiveness (automated failover to the COOP site) would typically be much faster.
To re-architect and implement the existing SharePoint application on a high-availability virtual infrastructure and planning, design, and implementation of the DR/COOP solution, we looked for a partner with consulting and technical solution expertise that spanned Microsoft technologies, virtual environments, data replication, and disaster recovery. After market research, including references and known successful implementations, we also reviewed this choice with analysts.
Another important consideration in our decision-making was the quality of teaming among the systems integrator, the Disaster Recovery and Continuity of Operations (DR/COOP) consulting and solution provider, and our in-house team. Our role—beginning with partner selection and formal kickoff—was to create a team with the right personalities and complementary set of strengths to achieve a common purpose. Our Hq’s Operations Division, Computer Support Squadron element, and the systems integrating vendors made that team successful. It was critical that the integrator understood government networks and U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) requirements; that the COOP/DR consulting and solution provider bring experience from proven, enterprise-scale installations; and that our internal team have the right mix of technical and program management skills.
Taking advantage of proven, best-of-breed approaches to solutions— and bouncing our approach and decisions off experienced objective analysts—helped us optimize, virtualize, and achieve enterprise-level operational resiliency for our 80,000-user SharePoint application on time and within budget…cutting costs by a third over external approaches and streamlining implementation from a over a year to approximately four months.
Disclaimer: Mention of particular vendors and technologies does not signify endorsement by the DoD