Networx transition woes: Enterprise becomes an also-ran

This is part 3 of our look at the Networx transition that explores how and why Networx Universal has become the favored contract of the two vehicles.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part three of a three-part series that explores the transition from FTS 2001 to Networx.

Networx Universal and Enterprise telecom contracts, which started out as cousins, have come to more closely resemble twins. Enterprise-only carriers’ beef with the development: Universal gets favored-son treatment.

Some agencies may be driven directly to Universal to ensure they can get everything they need to move off FTS 2001, but “from Day 1, the primary focus — whether that was in GSA’s positioning of Networx or [coming from] the large agencies — the focus was almost exclusively on Universal,” Sprint’s Bill White said. “There's so much possibility [in Enterprise], but you get lost in the noise of Universal.”

Enterprise awards have been both fewer and generally less valuable than those on Universal. Of 38 statements of work released but not yet awarded, 22 are on Universal.

“Most [awards] have been under Universal,” said Qwest’s Diana Gowen. But not all. “The Labor Department put all of its requirements out on Enterprise and more recently, the Environmental Protection Agency’s stated requirements were on Enterprise. In both cases, I think the agencies wanted more choice.”

The Enterprise-only carriers may be getting snubbed now, said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc., “but in a year or so when agencies have their basic services transitioned, they’ll be more likely to get awards to provide more of the specialized services that Enterprise was created to offer.”

It’s the transition

It’s an analysis that GSA’s Karl Krumbholz agrees with, while also conceding that the Networx transition pace is no boon to Enterprise-only contract holders. “The more the focus is strictly on transition, the more that is problematic for them,” he said.

Today, 30 months after Networx contract awards, and with 19 months to go, only 31 percent of services have been transitioned, according to GSA’s count. Anything that doesn’t with all speed get agencies off FTS 2001 and onto Networx must be a minor issue for Networx.

“If I could wave my magic wand over this scenario and combine the two contracts into one,” White said. “I think it would make transitioning go faster; I think it would have had that effect months ago but today, unfortunately, we don't have that luxury.”

Any wishful thinking about what might have been is pointless and foolish, Krumbholz agreed. “Given how far downstream we are on our current bridge contracts, our emphasis at GSA and our message to agencies is: ‘Get off the old contract [FTS 2001]; it’s going to expire and then we won’t have that contract for you to receive your services.’”

Neither GSA nor agencies have given up on transformation of networks and continue to consider migrating from traditional data services such as frame relay and ATM to IP services, Krumbholz said.

“I’m kind of a one-note samba here, but it’s time to quit considering alternatives, get onto the new contract and then consider what other options are available.”

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