Northrop Wrist-Slap: Yes, Virginia, There's A Santa Claus - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
8/31/2009
06:09 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Northrop Wrist-Slap: Yes, Virginia, There's A Santa Claus

Dear Boss: I know my project's 9 months late but you shouldn't fire me because Northrop Grumman is nine months late on its Virginia project but will still continue to get paid $190 million per year thru 2014, which you must admit is a tad more than I make for delivering similar results. With Virginia showering clemency on Northrop, how can you not do the same for me??

Dear Boss: I know my project's 9 months late but you shouldn't fire me because Northrop Grumman is nine months late on its Virginia project but will still continue to get paid $190 million per year thru 2014, which you must admit is a tad more than I make for delivering similar results. With Virginia showering clemency on Northrop, how can you not do the same for me??I was inspired to write that letter after seeing the latest news about the state of Virginia and its "corrective action plan" regarding its tardy 10-year, $1.9-billion deal with Northrop Grumman, which my excellent colleague Paul McDougall analyzed earlier today.

While I'm currently not nine months behind on any projects, I'm not getting any younger and what'll happen when I can't type as fast? Or think as fast? Or more likely, both? So when that day-of-late-reckoning arrives, I'll want to have in my back pocket the legal precedent of Virginia giving prodigal IT vendor Northrop Grumman that wonderful-to-hear "all is forgiven" message.

Until now, I always turned down job offers that would pay me $190 million per annum because I figured at that rate, the expectations would be way too high, the pressure too intense, the stress too great. Even when offered a long-term deal like the one Northrop Grumman has with Virginia for $1.9 billion over 10 years-and I kid you not when I say that I have flatly rejected every such offer that has ever been put in front of me-I just figured I'd rather stay outta the limelight and toil in some other lower-wattage vineyard.

But Virginia's big "aw, fuhgeddaboudit" message to Northrop has me rethinking my policy because just look at what Paul McDougall wrote in his news story:

Northrop Grumman acknowledged Monday that it is at least nine months behind schedule on a plan to revamp the state of Virginia's information technology systems under a ten-year, $1.9 billion outsourcing deal inked in 2005. . . . Northrop's admission was part of a "corrective action plan" it submitted to the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, which coordinates statewide IT operations and contracts.

Now, in my wayward youth, I was myself subjected to more than one "corrective action plan" at the hands of the nuns of St. Benedict, and I can assert with great confidence that those efforts included significantly more oomph, impact, sting, and immediate behavior modification than Virginia's plan seems to pack. I mean, c'mon-in reading McDougall's account, I can barely tell if Northrop received a punishment or a reward:

"We have used our now considerable experience from our interaction with VITA and with state agencies to create what we believe are vastly improved schedules and processes under this plan," said Tom Shelman, VP and general manager for the Civil Systems Division at Northrop Grumman Information Systems.

"We are looking forward to VITA's suggestions so that we can come to agreement on the best approach for this final push in modernizing the IT infrastructure," said Shelman, in a statement. . . . Under its corrective action plan, Northrop pledged to communicate more effectively with VITA and state agencies on implementation dates, improve the incident escalation process, and allow individual agencies to sign off on scheduling matters.

Folks, if you're on the receiving end of a deal like that, then that's a corrective action plan you can believe in!

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