CIOs: Telecom transition can spur IT modernization

The move to a new $50 billion federal telecommunications contract should support transition to new IT services, official say.

Telecom VOIP Switch - Shutterstock
 

The General Services Administration's $50 billion, 15-year telecommunications infrastructure contract is a chance to for agencies to transform how they work, not only how they buy telecom services, according to two top federal customer agency IT managers.

Planning to move the Department of Agriculture's disparate networks and services over to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract, USDA CIO Jonathan Alboum said, is not just transferring telephone services. It's a change in how the agency will work every day, he said.

The Justice Department, said CIO Joseph Klimavicz, is also well ahead in its planning to move to EIS. He's looking to use the new contract to get rid of some network baggage. Through EIS, he said he wants to "to take the network out of the equation" as an operational hurdle for his agency.

Klimavicz and Alboum spoke to FCW on the sidelines of an off-the-record federal tech conference on Feb 14.

GSA has said it expects to award its EIS infrastructure vehicle this spring. Sources familiar with the contract and GSA said the award will most likely come late in the season. GSA wants agencies to shift away from the current Networx telecommunications contract by the spring of 2020.

With the award looming, all federal agencies should have some vision of what they want to get from it and be taking steps to prepare workers to adapt to the changes that vision will most likely bring, they said.

Klimavicz recently issued a request for information asking vendors how to leverage the EIS contract vehicle most effectively. He said Justice wants to collect information about future solutions for enterprise voice services as well to develop a roadmap for a move to a modern enterprise unified communications service.

The RFI also said the agency envisions integrating multiple methods of communication, allowing users to connect, collaborate and exchange information in real-time and non-real-time,  enabling "one-to-one," "one-to-many" and "many-to-many" bi-directional communications between internal and external entities.

Moving to EIS can also be more than a telecommunications network transformation, Alboum said. Large federal organizations with central offices, he said, can sometimes have difficulties working collaboratively on planning for such a comprehensive contract. Collaboration is a must to effectively implement EIS, he said.

The Agriculture Department, with 10,000 offices spread across the county, is hardly centralized, and just getting bandwidth in some of those rural locations can be a challenge. The agency, he said, currently has 17 separate networks that have grown up around specific operations. Alboum wants to combine those networks into four or five using EIS. "It's easier to secure four or five than 17," he said.

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