The VA's computer systems meltdown: What happened and why
Not following best practices can render the best technology useless
Computerworld - At times, the bad news coming from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs seems unstoppable: D-grade medical facilities, ongoing security and privacy breaches, and a revolving door of departing leadership. In September, during a hearing by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, lawmakers learned about an unscheduled system failure that took down key applications in 17 VA medical facilities for a day.
Characterized by Dr. Ben Davoren, the director of clinical informatics for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, as "the most significant technological threat to patient safety the VA has ever had," the outage has moved some observers to call into question the VA's direction in consolidating its IT operations. Yet the shutdown grew from a simple change management procedure that wasn't properly followed.
The small, undocumented change ended up bringing down the primary patient applications at 17 VA medical centers in Northern California. As a result, the schedule to centralize IT operations across more than 150 medical facilities into four regional data processing centers has been pulled back while VA IT leaders establish what the right approach is for its regionalization efforts.
The Region 1 Field Operations breakdown of Aug. 31 exposed just how challenging effecting substantial change is in a complex organization the size of the VA Office of Information & Technology (OI&T). Begun in October 2005 and originally scheduled to be completed by October 2008, the "reforming" of the IT organization at the VA involved several substantial goals: the creation of major departments along functional areas such as enterprise development, quality and performance, and IT oversight and compliance; the reassignment of 6,000 technical professionals to a more centralized management; and the adoption of 36 management processes defined in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
As part of the reform effort, the VA was to shift local control of IT infrastructure operations to regional data-processing centers. Historically, each of the 150 or so medical centers run by the VA had its own IT service, its own budget authority and its own staff, as well as independence with regard to how the IT infrastructure evolved. All of the decisions regarding IT were made between a local IT leadership official and the director of that particular medical center. While that made on-site IT staff responsive to local needs, it made standardization across sites nearly impossible in areas such as security, infrastructure administration and maintenance, and disaster recovery.
The operations of its 150 medical facilities would relocate to four regional data processing centers, two in the east and two in the west. The latter, Regions 1 and 2, are located in Sacramento, Calif., and Denver respectively, run as part of the Enterprise Operations & Infrastructure (OPS) office.
- 18 Hot IT Certifications for 2014
- CIOs Opting for IT Contractors Over Hiring Full-Time Staff
- 12 Best Free iOS 7 Holiday Shopping Apps
- For CMOs Big Data Can Lead to Big Profits
- Slideshow: 5 ways to lock down your mobile device
- Slideshow: 10 mistakes companies make after a data breach
- How to rob a bank: A social engineering walk through
- Which smartphone is the most secure?
If you think getting it right from day one is always what matters, you probably haven't been following technology too closely.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Bring Networks and Applications Closer--Cisco ONE
- A series of sweeping trends is placing new requirements on the tried-and-true network model--requiring network infrastructure and applications to communicate. Get the open...
- Lippis Research Reviews the Cisco Catalyst 2960-X
- In this Lippis Report Research Note, Lippis Research reviews the latest edition of the "most popular access switch on the planet" -- the...
- Design Guide--Scaling Up to a Campus-Wide LAN
- Is it time to scale your network environment to a campus wired LAN? Here's the framework you need to set up your LAN...
- Comprehensive Security: Cisco Catalyst 2960 Series
- With a rich and comprehensive set of security features, Cisco Catalyst 2960-X and 2960-XR Series Switches can help you address networking megatrends such...
- Be Energy Efficient--The Cisco Catalyst 2960 Series
- How much energy could be saved if all 230 million Layer 2 and 3 fixed managed switch ports sold in 2012 were as... All Government IT White Papers
- Modernizing SAP environments with minimum risk - a path to Big Data Hear from top IDC analyst, Richard Villars, about the path you can start taking now to enable your organization to get the benefits...
- Vblock™ Specialized System for SAP HANA® Overview video from DJ Long about the new Vblock Specialized System for SAP HANA®.
- The Power of the Citrix Mobility Solution, XenMobile Does everything become a smartphone? Or does the smartphone begin to do everything? How can we afford to support BYOD? Rather, how can...
- BYOD Happens: How to Secure Mobility How to navigate the journey of securing mobility, including the BYOD corruption of IT, the top ten mobility strategies, and the mobility management...
- Fighting Fraud Videos: IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager Short videos about IBM Intelligent Investigation Manager (IIM) for Fraud. IIM optimizes the investigation of fraud for customers across many industries in both...
- All Government IT Webcasts
Does your organization offer extensive benefits, cool perks, competitive salaries, opportunities for training and advancement? Then get it recognized!
Nominate your company or another deserving organization for Computerworld's 2014 Best Places to Work in IT list now through Dec. 20, 2013.