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Bull: helping to craft DIRISI’s modernization

Posted on 01 June 2012 by Pierre Picard

Under a framework contract – which enables it to effectively combine agility and expertise while still following the strict rules governing public procurement – DIRISI can draw on the full range of Bull’s know-how in operating IT systems. François Decourt, Chief Armaments Engineer and Director of the Central Engineering Department at DIRISI, explains.

Just like the rest of the French government, for a number of years now the Ministry of Defense has been involved in fundamental modernization, aimed particularly at exploiting existing synergies. Against this backdrop DIRISI, the Defense Ministry’s Inter-Forces Networks, Infrastructure and Information Systems Directorate (Direction inter-armées des réseaux d’infrastructure et des systèmes d’information de la Défense) was established in 2003, to bring together in a single structure all the activities involved in securely operating the Ministry’s information and communications systems. DIRISI combines the functions of an IT services company and an internal telecoms operator, to fulfill three main roles: to contribute to the execution of operational command, to support the Ministry in its everyday operations and to assist in its transformation.

This means that DIRISI faces a dual challenge: on the one hand, to structure itself as a consolidated organization, a one-stop shop capable of offering and implementing appropriate solutions to meet the needs of the various entities within the Ministry; and on the other, to continue to ensure the smooth operation and evolution of systems that have to remain at the leading edge of technological development. In order to be able to respond to the extremely diverse requirements of a Ministry involved in a wide range of activities – from healthcare to logistics, from operations to human resources management – it is also essential to be very agile and to be able to draw on expert skills, capable of meeting tough commitments relating to very complex systems. All within the very strict constraints of public procurement rules. “We have to offer a coherent response even though we are dealing with a heterogeneous ecosystem,” explains François Decourt, Chief Armaments Engineer and Director of the Central Engineering Department at DIRISI. To square this circle, in 2008 DIRISI came up with the idea of using an original and innovative contractual framework; and today, Bull is one of the key pillars of that approach.

An original and innovative approach

All supplies relating to information systems were divided into around 600 units of work, which were then grouped into key areas (development, security…). Then these work parcels were put out to tender, in the traditional way. The suppliers chosen for each work parcel would need to respond to orders from the various entities within the Ministry, so long as they corresponded exactly to the pre-defined units of work. “The aim was to achieve optimum coverage, while also remaining highly responsive,” continues François Decourt. “That means we can respond quickly both to limited and precise requirements.” This approach, which won approval from all the bodies overseeing public procurement, has enabled DIRISI to effectively reconcile the need for agility and the obligation to achieve tangible results which characterizes government contracts.

In 2010, Bull was chosen to deliver work parcel 7, relating to IT operations. The Group adapted perfectly to this way of working, which not only matches its own corporate culture of close proximity and commitment to the customer, but also to the broad and highly expert nature of its skills. In concrete terms, the various departments within the Ministry address their request for a particular service or supply to the specialist internal unit set up by DIRISI who, along with the company responsible for the particular work parcel involved, fine-tunes it to fit the pre-defined units of work. The resulting negotiations and the content of the contract (performance indicators, definition of deliverables…) enable both the supplier and the end customer to meet the pre-requisites of a public procurement exercise (a fixed and fair price, clear commitments…) in a matter of just a few days. This means a purchase order can then be issued and the supplier can deliver a perfectly specified and structured contract. “Today, purchase orders can be sent out in a matter of days, rather than the months of negotiations that used to go on with traditional tenders,” François Decourt stresses. “The units-of-work approach to procurement real does speed things up.”

IT operations, Business Intelligence, security: Bull operating on many fronts
Within the scope of its work parcel, which includes over120 units of work, Bull is involved in three main areas: supporting IT operations, migrating databases to its FastTrack solution, and implementing business continuity and disaster recovery plans. All these fields are right at the heart of Bull’s expertise in mission-critical systems. When it comes to supporting IT operations, Bull delivers services including third-party operational maintenance, go-live, implementation, stress tests, administration, supervision… for a growing number of entities within the Ministry (CNGF , DPSD , the armed forces health service, SIMMAD , SIMMT …).

Notably, Bull has been asked to oversee the migration of various Business Intelligence databases to its FastTrack solution; a particularly robust appliance developed around Microsoft Business Intelligence solutions. And finally, Bull is in great demand to work on major business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives for each of the systems run by DIRISI, as a Defense-level secure operator that has to ensure the service and business continuity of its operational entities. As François Decourt explains: “What makes the Ministry of Defense different is that it needs access to highly adaptable resources, capable of changing rapidly in the face of exceptional circumstances – both military and civil – for example in the case of a pandemic or natural disaster, so they can remain in operation no matter what happens. This is business continuity and disaster recovery stretched to its absolute limits, and Bull brings with it a recognized expertise in these areas.”

An undeniable success story
DIRISI’s ability to support Operation Harmattan – France’s involvement in the Libyan military intervention in 2011, launched in just 48 hours – brilliantly highlights its responsiveness, and the units-of-work approach to procurement has made a major contribution to this. Since it was implemented, internal customers (who are increasingly making use of it) unanimously praise not only its ease of use, but also the quality of deliverables provided by the approved suppliers, especially Bull. “The close collaboration between DIRISI’s experts and Bull’s teams has reduced up-front misunderstandings and, as a result the risk of failure, to a minimum,” François Decourt notes. “Even more so since a remedial purchase order can be issued very quickly if necessary.” The framework agreement was originally designed to last for a four-year period, ending in 2014. But it is now generally accepted that this approach will be extended and thinking has already begun on how to improve it even further.

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[1]CNGF: National Center for Frequency Management
[2] DPSD: Defense Protection and Security Directorate
[3] SIMMAD: integrated structure providing in-service support for aeronautical hardware/equipment at the Ministry of Defense
[4] SIMMT: integrated structure providing in-service support for land-based hardware/equipment


DIRISI – the Inter-Forces Networks, Infrastructure and Information Systems Directorate – is the sole operator of information and communications systems for the French Ministry of Defense. Its role is to respond to the needs of the armed forces, as well as the different Directorates and Departments within the Defense Ministry, by offering them the most appropriate, powerful and cost-effective technical solutions.

Established: 31 December 2003
Workforce: 8,500 people
Scope: over 1,500 information and communications systems

Activities :

  • Telecoms operator
  • Outsourcing provider for defense information systems
  • Management of communications frequencies
  • Guaranteeing information systems security and service continuity
  • Central procurement for telecommunications, hardware and software
  • Implementation and support for operational information and communications systems.

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