Although IT deployments are often referred to as mission-critical, it is very rare that a project actually has the potential to impact the success of a critical mission.
There was, however, just such a risk with the roll-out of a new desktop infrastructure to one of the main organisation’s within the Ministry of Defence. Teams within the Defence Logistics Organisation provide critical asset and engineering information to the RAF, and can make all the difference to whether an aircraft takes off and completes its mission.
As a result, when the department embarked on a desktop refresh for this important group of users, it needed to make sure that disruption was kept to a minimum and that the new infrastructure could support existing logistics applications.
In conjunction with IBM, Computacenter helped to ensure the desktop deployment not only kept to its tight schedule but also fulfilled its objectives. Thanks to the new infrastructure, the Integrated Project Teams within the Defence Logistics Organisation are now able to provide an enhanced support service to their flying units and have increased access to business and reporting tools.
Government department responsible for the UK’s defence and Armed Forces.
Ensure RAF flight schedules are not impacted by the lack of critical asset and engineering information.
Deploy a new desktop infrastructure which will ensure the availability of existing information, and provide asset support teams with additional functionality.
Improved efficiency and financial management for Integrated Project Teams.
Installation, configuration, technology sourcing.
The project started in January 2004 and was completed in June 2004.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is responsible for defending the UK and its interests, and strengthening international peace and security. In the UK it employs more than 270,000 civilian and service personnel, and controls some £30 billion worth of resources for the Armed Forces.
The Armed Forces are increasingly working together to make more efficient use of British defence resources and to increase operational impact. Such co-operation is not restricted to just defence activities, but also applies to the use of technology and provision IT management within the Royal Air Force, Army and Royal Navy.
As Royal Air Force squadron leader Dave Lander, from the Logistic Application Integrated Project Team, explains: “To help simplify IT management, the MoD is starting to implement a standardised infrastructure across its many organisations, with common workstations, servers and office applications. A dedicated Integrated Project Team has been set up to help implement the new standard, and it is therefore essential that any IT roll-outs comply with the specified Defence Information Infrastructure (DII).”
As a result, when the Royal Air Force (RAF) needed a new desktop infrastructure to support its mission-critical aerospace engineering and asset management system, DII compliance – and a rapid roll-out – were fundamental to the success of the project.
“The RAF needs to be able to respond swiftly and effectively to new threats and challenges, while also keeping pace with new technology,” comments Dave. “Our LITS (Logistics Information Technology Strategy) application is critical to the operational efficiency of the RAF, and needs to be reliable and scalable and easy to maintain.”
Desktop project takes off
Integrated Project Teams within the Defence Logistics Organisation - which is one of the largest parts of the MoD - are the main users of LITS. Each team supports a different aircraft type from Tornados and Typhoons to Hawks and Harriers, providing online fault and failure reporting, maintenance forecasting and post-sortie feedback capture.
The system also provides users with access to standard office applications, such as e-mail, and until recently was running on legacy hardware. “Although there were no performance issues around LITS, the existing desktop hardware was preventing the Integrated Project Teams from rolling out new applications and functionality,” comments Dave.
It was also becoming increasingly difficult and costly for the MoD to manage the desktop infrastructure due to a number of non-standard builds and hardware. To help overcome these issues and ensure DII compliance, the department took the decision to refresh more than 3,000 desktops and 350 printers.
Due to the mission-critical nature of LITS, it was essential that the new hardware was deployed with minimum impact on the users. To help ensure the success of the roll-out, IBM, the MoD’s prime systems integrator, called on the resources and expertise of its partner, Computacenter.
IBM project manager Ruth Surtess commented: “Computacenter offered a wealth of logistical experience, but what really made the difference was its professional and flexible approach. It was able to communicate with us and our customer at many different levels, and was prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the customer was accommodated and the project was a success."
The deployment, which was co-ordinated by the MoD’s Logistic Application Integrated Project Team, was scheduled for 10 weeks during the spring of 2004, with a target of more than 70 workstation installations per day.
Martyn Spettigue, a Computacenter project manager, comments: “Extensive planning and watertight implementation processes were core to achieving the installation target. We worked closely with IBM to ensure all elements of the roll-out were co-ordinated from procurement and configuration through to installation.”
As a result, Computacenter and IBM were able to develop a slick and repeatable deployment solution, which minimised the impact to the 3,000-plus users of LITS. “The high installation rate was specifically designed to reduce the project’s impact on business continuity,” comments Dave.
“As the implementation, however, took place during normal business hours, user disruption was unavoidable. We therefore allowed for a maximum of 24 hours of downtime per user. Beyond this, and the Integrated Project Teams would have found it extremely difficult to support their flying units, which could result in an aircraft being grounded. The project was therefore truly mission critical, and the timescales absolute.”
Sky’s the limit with new system
Thanks to its flexibility, Computacenter was able to ensure that the project remained on schedule – no matter what. As Dave explains: “As with any IT project, problems did arise, but Computacenter made certain that these did not impact the roll-out and was extremely flexible. Computacenter uses a very similar project management methodology [PRINCE II] to the MoD, which meant we were able to work very effectively together.”
The new IBM hardware has been in use at RAF Wyton, and Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton and Sherborne since June 2004. As a result, the Defence Logistics Organisation’s Integrated Project Teams have been able to benefit from a number of new applications.
“The increased functionality of the hardware means we have been able to optimise the potential of a number of reporting and business tools that the legacy infrastructure was struggling to support,” comments Dave. “For example, the teams now have full access to the Defence Finance Management System, which has given the greater budget and cost control.”
Additional functionality, however, is not the only benefit of the desktop refresh, as Dave explains: “We now have a fully standardised desktop infrastructure, which will be easier and less costly to manage. We have also improved visibility of our desktop assets, and have been able to save space by rolling out flat screens. Most importantly, the overall efficiency of the Integrated Project Teams has improved, enabling them to provide an enhanced service to their RAF flying units."