Let the Games Begin

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Like others who have spent years preparing for the 2002 Winter Olympics, Bob Cottam is anxious for the games to begin. He's tired, nervous and looking forward to putting on his official uniform.

But no matter how well he performs, Cottam knows his best chance for headlines is the unlikely event that he stumbles. As chief integrator on the ground for European IT giant SchlumbergerSema, the official technology integrator for the Games at Salt Lake City, he and his team have tried to think of every possible glitch or mishap that could befall them. As recently as late December, they put their systems to the test: Technicians randomly took down routers and disconnected cables. How well did SchlumbergerSema respond?

"Fairly good," he reports.

In January, VARBusiness caught up with Cottam in the days before the Games' opening to see how well he was faring with what has to be among the highest-profile, highest- pressure jobs in IT integration. SchlumbergerSema has responsibility for the planning, control, quality assurance, project management, design, development, implementation, testing and operation of the Games' IT solutions. During the course of three years, Cottam has endured scandals, budget crunches, management changes, an acquisition and, of course, a dramatically heightened need for security. Now, he says, it's time for the athletes to take center stage.

VB: Did any one sport give you more of a challenge than the others?

Cottam: No, not really. We do find that for processing reasons, something like curling may be more challenging than something like ice hockey. Downhill, for example, is flash to bang in about 45 seconds. But with some of the team sports and some of the longer competitions, you're collecting lots and lots of data.

VB: Did they take you up to the sports park and take you down the luge or skeleton track?

Cottam: We had the opportunity, but it was like 145 bucks for sheer terror. I decided to let the professionals do that. We do have the opportunity, though, to watch the sports, meet the athletes and get a better sense of what's happening. For every sport, we meet the sporting federation president, plus the technical delegates who come along.

VB: What remains to be done?

Cottam: We did what is called homalogation testing, which went fairly well. We had to update some applications, but not much. Then we moved on to technical rehearsals%85We learned we needed to make improvements in processes and procedures after rehearsal one. But just before Christmas, we did technical rehearsal two. Then we did a much more comprehensive test. That included scenario testing. One member of the team went into our data center and pulled a plug and said, "Now your A system has failed. What are you going to do about it?"

VB: What tools are helping you?

Cottam: We use, for example, Intel LANdesk, to help us with software distribution, and HP OpenView for looking at all of our systems. I don't know if you're familiar with HP OpenView, but if you have a green icon, life is good. If you have a yellow icon, life is not so good. If you have a red icon%85

VB: %85you ain't going home tonight.

Cottam: Right, not going home.

VB: Have you thought of everything?

Cottam: All the scenarios we can think of. Hopefully, we've thought of all IT scenarios, all the physical scenarios, etc. Everything? I'll let you know on the 27th of February.

VB: What are you hoping to walk away with from this experience?

Cottam: Two things, hopefully. One is that athletes walk away happy with their medals. People tend to forget we are here for them. Second, we are going to walk away showing the world that SchlumbergerSema is capable of integrating large systems and working with really diverse companies in a professional manner%85and on deadline.

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