A war over FTS 2001
- By Warren Suss
- Mar 26, 2000
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to FTS 2001 is also a decision to stay with outdated technologies and architectures.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