A war over FTS 2001

Officials recently estimated that the government could save $300 million

annually if it can complete the governmentwide FTS 2001 transition by the

end of the year. Transition delays threaten those savings.

More important than the potential loss of those savings, however, is

that the delays create a setback in the government's overall push to use

technology to enhance the efficiency of internal operations and improve

its effectiveness in the delivery of service to the citizen. In almost all

cases today, a decision to delay transition from FTS 2000, the precursor

to FTS 2001 is also a decision to stay with outdated technologies and architectures.

The government's telecom decisions are too often dominated by fear of

the time, costs, risks and headaches involved in technology change. The

IT industry needs to help government customers overcome the fear of transition.

To be truly successful, we need to help them embrace the idea of technology

change. Frequent transitions represent the only way to achieve results in

efficiency and service delivery that mirror the amazing productivity growth

in the U.S. economy.

Today, there is a marketing and sales war waged between the forces advocating

change in the U.S. marketplace and the forces that are emphasizing the costs

and risks associated with change. The biggest battles occur on the long-distance

and local-service fronts, but major encounters also occur on other fronts

involving systems acquisition and engineering and integration services.

Even when the forces of change win a battle, the solutions are often

timid and result in small gains. Some agencies will move their outbound

voice traffic from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001 but will avoid making changes in

their inbound toll-free service. Some deal with voice service transitions

but not with their data network transitions. And those that are bold enough

to sign up for data transitions move point-to-point circuits from one vendor

to another but avoid fundamental changes in their data network architectures.

The paradox is, of course, that even when agencies sign up for FTS 2001,

their timid approach results in the delay or loss of the productivity and

service-delivery benefits that bolder strategies would produce. In an industry

whose technology refresh cycle is about 18 months, this means that more

than 90 percent of the government has missed out on the benefits of the

most recent technology improvements.

I don't mean to minimize the customer's fear of change. Nobody loves

transition. It's a giant headache. There's always the risk of an embarrassing

or dangerous hiccup in service. And there are tricky collateral issues that

must be resolved to achieve a successful transition — billing system customization,

compatibility, operational procedure updates and more.

But the war over transition is being fought over issues of pain vs.

gain. And up to now, pain appears to be winning.

— Suss is president of Warren H. Suss Associates Inc., Jenkintown, Pa., which

provides IT and telecom strategic planning, market research and opportunity

capture support.

MORE INFO

Do you agree that a bold transition strategy is best? Send your comments on this story to letters@fcw.com

BY Warren H. Suss
Mar. 27, 2000

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