SiliconSpirit: People, Process, Technology


Every year, NIH awards billions of dollars in grants to research institution to fulfill the NIH mission to protect and improve human health. The research grant award process is a lengthy comprehensive process that has been automated by the grant management system software. This enterprise level software consists of dozens of IT applications working together to support the grant officers and reviewers within NIH. This expansive enterprise-wide grants management known as IMPAC II supports a $13 billion biomedical research program that is administered by 3,500 people.

Business Problems

The IMPACII application was built by Northrop Grumman based on Oracle database and forms based technology in the year 2000. Shortly afterwards, the need for web based access from grantee institutions resulted in the extension of these applications with Java applets.

Soon thereafter NIH executive management team realized need for a more scalable, longterm solution that was more aligned with the business of grants management. A decision was made to migrate to a n-tier based Web Services based J2EE solution. However, the combination of people, process, and technology considerations presented a major challenge. An NIH executive was referred to Silicon Spirit. A senior architect from Silicon Spirit was brought on to assess the current enterprise IT components and provide a roadmap/strategy to accomplish the migration. The strategy needed to include training of Northrop Grumman and NIH staff, in order that key human assets, and institutional knowledge were not lost. On January 2001 NIH approved the conversion of a key IMPACII application called COMMONS to ERA J2EE, and accepted the recommendation from Silicon Spirit to develop a reusable framework to ease the migration of the remaining applications to a J2EE and Web Services based SOA solution.

Silicon Spirit Solution

Based on Silicon Spirit's evaluation, the NIH elected to proceed with a portion of its IMPAC II System, and to utilize Silicon Spirit in key aspects such as analysis, design, development, and training of technical staff. Silicon Spirit spearheaded the creation of a wide array of infrastructure components, the definition of standards for component-based architecture, and the implementation of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) as a development methodology. In addition, Silicon Spirit created and administered a series of technical training seminars for 25 programmer/analysts who were taught the basics of RUP, object-oriented architecture, Web Services/SOAP, and J2EE standards. Since inception, this migration project has proven highly successful and serves as a basis for all future system development. Silicon Spirit's engagement spanned from 2001 through 2006.

"I want to thank Silicon Spirit... for their outstanding effort on the ERA COMMONS project", said J.J. McGowan, Director of DEA, National Institutes of Health.

"Silicon Spirit was able to leverage Best Current Practices from the commercial market and adapt it to our government client very effectively. I think the key to their success is their philosophy of gaining consensus through people; their commitment to process and quality; and a mastery of J2EE and Web Services technology. I would recommend them for any complex IT undertaking", said Jay Silverman, Program Manager, Northrop Grumman Information Technology.


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