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Lessons from Northrop Grumman Failure in Virginia?

This week witnessed one of the most dramatic government information technology failures ever, with an outage that paralyzed twenty six state government services for days in Virginia. The Department of Motor Vehicles was the most visible outage, leaving thousands of frustrated motorists and forcing law enforcement to relax enforcement to allow time for drivers' license renewals.

Northrop Grumman holds long term contracts for IT services worth more than $2.5 billion which has generated controversy since it began.

Investigators will be sifting through the incident to determine the causes. What lessons will emerge from this crisis? How can similar problems be averted in the future? Are massive outsourcing contracts a mistake? Would state employees have performed better than contractors in resolving the issues or coming up with workarounds?

Some press accounts pointed to hardware failure in devices manufactured by EMC which were highly unlikely to fail as they did. Recovery procedures took longer than anticipated and some data is still missing as of today, including 12,000 to 16,000 photographs for licenses and delivery cards.

The only people who can be grateful for this incident are those who write business textbooks, as this is certain to become a popular case study,


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