After The Handover

As the transfer of power in Iraq nears, the U.S.-led authority prepares to turn over tools to manage the assets being rebuilt.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

June 19, 2004

4 Min Read

Total Resource Management's system automatically tells Program Management Office staffers when a new contract has been approved and what work needs to be scheduled. Plockmeyer hopes that within 30 to 60 days, some contractors in the field will have the ability to input live data and progress reports into the system using PCs that communicate with the main server via satellite Internet links. Later, the system should let users track the status of all construction projects within the country. A coalition or Iraqi engineer working on, say, an oil refinery in the southern port city of Basra could use a PC to input progress updates. Modules could be added that would monitor the health of oil pipelines and alert authorities to a drop in pressure caused by mechanical failure or sabotage, Plockmeyer says.

The coalition's asset-management system also will be able to capture data from remote diagnostic and management technologies being built into some of the newer Iraqi buildings. Plockmeyer says some of the construction blueprints he's seen call for utility plants to incorporate advanced SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) technologies--a first in Iraq.

An Iraqi observes the reconstruction of the bombed out Olympic Committee building in Baghdad.Photo by AFP

Coalition officials want to introduce the asset-management system to Iraqi administrators in small doses. At present, Plockmeyer and staff are discussing ways to apply the technology to the electricity sector around Baghdad. Under a proposed plan, the system would be deployed at one or two facilities within easy reach of the Green Zone, and Program Management Office staffers would train Iraqi nationals to use it. "If we can see success on a small scale, then I think we can see it on a big scale," Plockmeyer says.

After months of work there, Plockmeyer believes the progress the coalition has made in Iraq has been largely obscured by news that focuses mostly on the day-to-day violence. The list of projects completed or initiated under the coalition's watch--and managed through the asset-management system--is lengthy. Each week, about $75 million in new construction work begins, on projects ranging from water-treatment and waste-management systems to new schools.

There are many technology-literate Iraqis anxious to apply their skills to the rebuilding effort, Plockmeyer says. While few have worked with advanced applications such as Maximo, many have basic technology skills and are familiar with Oracle and other common IT environments.

"I'm getting a steady flow of resumés from young Iraqi men and women who want to participate. They understand their skills may not be the most current, but they're ready to learn," Plockmeyer says. If all goes as planned, Total Resource Management would likely implement the asset-management system at various Iraqi ministries, extending its work in the country at least through this year. "Working shoulder to shoulder on the same system gives you the basis for a successful turnover," Plockmeyer says.

Ever present in a war zone like Iraq is the threat of attacks, on coalition personnel and any Iraqis working with them. From his living quarters, Plockmeyer can hear and feel the mortar shells that Iraqi insurgents occasionally fire into the Green Zone. It's a reminder that while he's in a relatively safe haven, the streets and countryside beyond coalition headquarters are rife with violence. Dozens of civilian contractors have been killed or taken hostage in the months since the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The violence hasn't delayed the implementation of the core asset-management system, Plockmeyer says. However, Internet access needs to be widely available if it's to be fully utilized by some of the more far-flung Iraqi ministry outposts. The violence has slowed efforts by communications contractors, including Lucent, to deploy fiber beyond Baghdad. For now, satellite links are needed to make most Internet connections.

Still, Plockmeyer believes the project ultimately will be a success. "I'm an optimist," he says. "I think this will exceed our wildest expectations."

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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