As Federal agencies move away from older telecom contract vehicles and transition to the new Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract–completion of which is due by the spring of 2020–a logical place to start is with conducting an inventory of all network devices. This will provide a good look at what type of future network is needed to achieve mission goals and objectives.

But that can be a daunting task, especially for agencies with large, diverse network environments comprised of a multiplicity of legacy hardware mixed in with newer devices and technologies. Many large agencies have built networks that rival those in large corporations. Every agency has a different method of gathering and retaining data on their networks. The challenge will be for agencies to navigate through the data they are sharing with their contractors to ensure they are making similar comparisons, or comparing items that can reasonably be compared.

To that end, agency IT/network managers should apply a programmatic approach that goes beyond hardware and T1 circuit connections to take a holistic view that encompasses resources, funding, human capital, and project timelines, according to David Young, senior vice president of strategic government with CenturyLink, a global telecommunications provider. CenturyLink was among the 10 telecom companies awarded a 15-year, $50 billion EIS contract by the General Services Administration in August 2017.

Program management “is all about what is the task, who owns it, and when will it be completed. It is about the quality of the effort and resource availability, money, and time,” Young said.

“If we understand where the information is coming from, understand who owns it, and understand the timeline, then that programmatic approach becomes the critical path on how agencies approach that transformation from the current Networx [contract] to EIS,” Young explained.

EIS is expected to provide a wide range of information technology and telecommunication services for Federal agencies to transform and modernize their IT infrastructures. As a result, agencies involved with the EIS transition should tie those efforts in with The IT Modernization Centers of Excellence (CoEs) managed by GSA, Young said. The CoEs are focused on cloud adoption, IT infrastructure optimization, customer experience, and service delivery analytics.

“As agencies begin to work through their transformation plans around those Centers of Excellence technologies, those conversations will bring best-of-breed practices forward,” Young said. Moreover, agencies need to position EIS and associated programs so that they can be built around cloud, IT infrastructure optimization, and service delivery analytics.

There are several IT modernization efforts in play now that weren’t a part of the transformation from the older FTS 2001 contract to Networx in the early 2000s, Young noted. For example, the Management of Government Technology Act, the Technology Modernization Fund, Centers of Excellence, and the backing of the Office of Management and Budget and White House now give agencies working on EIS an IT modernization ecosystem to tap into.

A programmatic approach tied in with IT modernization efforts could help agencies struggling to meet the EIS spring 2020 deadline get an extension, if needed. Some industry observers have questioned if agencies have enough time to meet the deadline. If agency managers take a programmatic approach that works with IT modernization funds and CoEs, and if they need four years or 27 months, maybe, they can get an extension. That’s because they have demonstrated a success path towards delivering IT modernization in a way that positively impacts the government’s ability to serve the country, Young said. This could be done on an agency-by-agency basis.

“The key to transforming to next-generation networks comes from an agency creating a clear statement of objectives. What is the desired end state for an agency’s WAN [wide-area network] or LAN [local-area network] and what is the security posture for those environments?” noted Seana Gilliland, CenturyLink’s vice president of Federal Program Management.

“What type of metrics are important to an agency in terms of end-user experience? These are just examples,” Gilliland said, “But the answers to those questions may dictate a different network design in terms of latency, availability, security, and more.”

“So rather than being overly prescriptive to industry, agencies can explain what they are trying to achieve and allow the experts to propose a next-generation solution that can evolve with agency demands,” Gilliland advised.

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