You Can Never Test Enough: Q&A with LGS Innovations CIO Rich Martin
Posted on: February 12, 2014

nitiatives like HealthCare.gov are at a scale few companies have ever seen according to LGS Innovations CIO Rich Martin

The federal government’s IT infrastructure suddenly became news when HealthCare.gov collapsed under a flood of traffic. Do you have any insights as to the challenges HealthCare.gov face?

While system outages, deployment delays, and service degradation are never good, one must remember that government solutions such as HealthCare.gov operate on a scale that few commercial solutions have experienced. When operating at that level it is important to architect in a way that can scale elastically. The government is making progress in this area, but clearly some challenges remain. The key thing to consider in these instances is ensuring that the solution is adequately tested prior to implementation. By all accounts the testing phase appears to have been a challenge in this particular case, which certainly had an impact on the early struggles.

Working for the Feds must mean dealing with shifting priorities and a diversity of customers and needs. How do you deal with the high demands these expectations place on LGS’ IT?

It all comes down to setting priorities and understanding the business value of IT. It’s great to implement Windows 8.1, and it gets technical people like me excited, but how is that moving the business forward?

At LGS Innovations, we place a lot of attention on the business value and security of IT services. We are always thinking about how we can provide capabilities to our work force so that they can be effective while ensuring the right controls are in place to ensure data security.

One area we are especially focusing on is mobility. It benefits the company to have employees get information securely whenever and wherever they need it.

You provide infrastructure to the DoD, it seems lives could literally depend on your technology. Is that the case and if so, how do you handle that kind of responsibility?

I supported major telecommunications structure for the U.S. in a previous position, and it was a little bit nerve-racking to think that the systems you were supporting could accidentally prevent someone from making an emergency call should they fail. For crucial systems, many potential issues can be mitigated through testing. You need a lot of eyeballs reviewing test results and validating what is being done.

As with my earlier comments on HealthCare.gov, you can never test enough. It’s the most effective way to ensure success.

LGS Innovations was recently sold by Alcatel-Lucent and acquired by CoVant and Dearborn Madison Partners. What IT challenges did you and your team have to account for in preparation for this transaction?

Anytime you go through an acquisition there are a lot of challenges. One of the biggest is how do you, as the CIO, extract the company from the former IT situation.

In the case of LGS Innovations, our infrastructure was 90 percent separated from the parent (Alcatel-Lucent) as a result of agreements with the federal government. Still, a lot of our personnel have used Alcatel-Lucent systems for a long time and may not even know it. Putting a plan in place to identify those touch points and duplicating functionality is a challenge.

There are also vendor contracts that have to be taken into consideration. We have purchased certain hardware and services through the parent and now have to manage the process of contractual obligations.

That being said, everyone involved has done an excellent job and we have experienced no interruptions in the level of service we have been able to provide our customer. That’s ultimately what is the most important.

Rich Martin is the CIO of LGS Innovations, which provides networking and communications to the U.S. federal government.

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