Lessons Learned

In its report GAO-14-63, GSA Needs to Share and Prioritize Lessons Learned to Avoid Future Transition Delays, December 2013, GAO recommended GSA “fully archive, share, and prioritize lessons learned” from the previous transition to Networx. GSA collected lessons learned from previous transitions, predominately from FTS2001 to Networx, and the complete list of those lessons learned is below. GSA encourages agencies and industry partners to review and consider these in planning for and executing transition to EIS.

Lessons Learned

LL# Lesson
1 The replacement of the telecommunications infrastructure for a large part of the federal community is a huge task. The transition stakeholders (that is GSA, the user agencies and the gaining service providers) need to be fully prepared for the undertaking.
2 A funding mechanism like the Transition Fund is strongly recommended for any future transition efforts similar to FTS2001.
3 To make agency resource planning easier, it is recommended that guidelines based on the “Taxonomy” document be established early enough in the budget cycle for agencies to do the financial planning required to ensure that needed resources are available.
4 The reimbursement plan between GSA and the agencies should be based on clear financial criteria that result in predictable agency impact.
5 A complete and accurate “baseline” inventory prior to contract award is critical. In order to facilitate this requirement it is suggested that inventory validation should be an on-going effort during the life of the contract to provide a complete and accurate baseline for not only transition, but also other operations such as billing validation and service optimization.
6 The roles and responsibilities of all transition stakeholders (that is GSA, agencies, and service providers) should be clearly defined and communicated to ensure critical activities are appropriately performed.
7 Many government requirements cannot be met by standard Commercial services. Although commercial solutions are encouraged, solicitation documents and all planning must include government unique requirements.
8 Agencies should be prepared for the ‘worse-case’ scenario of their current service provider either not being awarded a successor contract or not being selected through the fair opportunity process and plan accordingly in order to ensure a rapid transition effort with minimal impact on the continuity of service.
9 A “one size fits all” approach to program management must be avoided since agency capabilities differ widely. For each agency will likely not have the same transition experience. At the same time, the approach must ensure that the needs of all agencies, large and small, are being addressed. The approach either needs to ensure that resources are available when the plan requires or that the plan can be tailored to fit the available resources.
10 Agencies should anticipate and account for the new service provider’s possible inability or unwillingness to execute all transition requirements as expected thus ensuring that they (a) Establish and maintain effective oversight throughout transition and escalate problems with the service providers to GSA with documentation, and (b) GSA should anticipate and be prepared to deal with service provider’s possible inability or unwillingness to meet contractual obligations.
11 Overall transition planning should have sufficient flexibility so that agencies can coordinate transition with other ongoing activities regardless of the impact of external events. Likewise, contracts should be flexible to accommodate unforeseen marketplace issues.
12 Coordinated and synchronized disconnects and activation by different service providers are essential to ensure transition success.
13 Agencies should consider whether network optimization would be more effectively addressed as part of normal network management or during transition.
14 The planning activities of the transition stakeholders (that is GSA, agencies, and service providers) should be coordinated to ensure all activities are appropriately accounted for and that dependencies are adequately addressed.
15 The task of transition is not limited to transitioning a static list of services on a like-for-like basis. Therefore, agencies should anticipate the need for changing connectivity during the transition effort and mitigate those factors in their transition plan(s).
16 Care should be exercised when determining the MRGs to be offered to ensure that (a) They do not become an impediment to agency choice and competition in the future, (b) They do not become a disincentive to winning contractors to aggressively move forward; In short, MRGs should be managed so as not to impede the transition effort.
17 The delay in agencies selecting their vendors significantly impacted the timeline for transition. Therefore, a “deadline” for vendor selection should be incorporated into the overall transition schedule.
18 Agency procedures and resources were inadequate to manage the extraordinary volume of service orders associated with the transition effort.
19 Agencies responsible for slow contractor selection, transition planning and/or order entry that directly results in extension of incumbent contract(s) and services should bear the costs associated with those extensions.
20 In any future efforts, service providers should be held to the required levels of service from contract award (including the transition period).
21 Agencies should ensure their plans accommodate for potential issues associated with access facilities, as often service providers do not control the entire provisioning process.
22 Service providers need to apply sufficient, properly trained resources in order to meet the identified transition goals.
23 Future transition planning should not permit transition to begin until service provider support systems are in-place, tested, and accepted. Further, service providers should be required to deliver support systems for both commercial and government unique services that meet government expectation prior to contract award.
24 Some delays could be avoided if agencies (a) Take care not to approve a TPSP or site survey if services are not in fact what they need to operate (e.g. all 800 numbers were not included in site survey); (b) Advise service provider of any special access requirements for the site, (c) Make arrangements for the entry of service provider technicians into site in order to avoid unnecessary ‘turn a-ways’; (d) Ensure that they know and understand the plan for their site including the type of cutover (parallel, managed, or coordinated) planned; (e) Have material/equipment installed and ready on scheduled cutover date (e.g. cabling, inside wiring, PBX cards, or other GFE equipment); (f) Have needed technicians on hand for both pre-test and cutover (e.g. PBX technician was not present on scheduled test dates resulting in dialing plan problems).
25 GSA and agencies should proactively examine invoices during transition to verify that services are being invoiced against the right contract and the right rate and that the details of billing meet contract requirements. Also, billing discrepancies should be brought to the attention of service providers promptly and GSA must hold them responsible for resolving billing problems expeditiously.
26 The progress of transition should be measured by both the “old” services replaced and disconnected as well as by the “new” services installed.
27 Government should specify the information required from the service providers relative to transition progress as opposed to the method by which it is delivered. Further, how information is captured and presented by the service provider and GSA needs to be carefully documented for the agencies and the agencies need to be flexible as to how they can manipulate and use this data.
28 Effective and consistent transition metrics should be established and agreed upon by all transition stakeholders prior to contract award.
29 GSA will encourage participation from customer agencies so that they are intimately familiar and comfortable with the structure of the contracts well before they are awarded. This will help reduce the learning curve after award.
30 Contractor ordering processes need to be integrated with TOPS (or replacement) ordering processes.
31 Require secure FTP servers be operational at award.
32 Redefine the period for measuring the intervals.
33 Include requirement in solicitation for toll free number to allow users to verify they are on the selected contract.
34 If CSDS still exists, combine requirements for voice services and CSDS.
35 Investigate Ways to Improve the Timeliness of Fair Opportunity Decisions.
36 Separate intervals for switched and dedicated access, calling cards.
37 Require Caller ID to include a name.
38 Require contractors to accept bulk order disconnects.
39 Provide a solution for agencies to see their inventories behind GSA Systems.
40 Define transition reimbursement requirements and process in advance of RFP and include requirements to accommodate the process.
41 The ability for agencies to buy comprehensive network solutions from a single source (GSA) should remain an important one in planning for NS2020.
42 Contracts should have broad enough scopes to account for changes in technology and pricing methods.
43 The range of OTS Regional Offices services offered should be broadened in order to better fulfill customers’ needs and to move on from the current business model.
44 The NS2020 portfolio of service offerings should facilitate customers’ adoption of emerging technology trends, such as the proliferation of cloud services and wireless network access.
45 Enable access to solutions through the entire ITS portfolio of services and capabilities.
46 Establish an integrated portfolio of contract vehicles to serve the full range of agency needs.
47 Establish complementary contracts matching agency buying patterns to market segments.
48 Ultimately, both the National and Regional Office programs must ensure that future contracts and support services satisfy agency mission requirements with excellent value. The OTS national and regional offices should cooperatively plan the future program portfolio that addresses the variable needs of agency headquarters and field units using an appropriate mix of national and regional contracts.
49 Agencies should engage agency COs in the beginning of the transition process. Suggest creating agency Tiger Teams (with key stakeholders) for appropriate dissemination of pertinent transition related information.
50 Build lead/lag time into the transition plan to accommodate time for contract modifications.
51 Capture Local Government Contact (LGC) information from order to Service Order Completion Notice (SOCN) then to inventory.
52 Develop measurement standard for the inventory and determine inventory elements.
53 Transition Inventory (TI) should include a requirement to be updated when new or replacement circuit IDs are introduced.
54 When adding or modifying a service or contractual requirement, consideration should be given to what impact it will have on the process for reimbursing transition costs.
55 GSA’s stakeholder outreach efforts should be extended and strengthened to increase the early involvement and buy-in of higher-level Federal managers such as CIOs and their immediate representatives, as well as OMB’s Resource Management Office (RMO) and Office of E-Government & Information Technology.
56 Any structural disincentives to collaboration, such as variable revenue recognition across OTS contracts, should be identified and addressed.
57 Proper incentives for OTS national and regional programs to work together should be formalized. This includes regions working with each other.
58 GSA should strive for more effective collaboration among OTS program staff and COs, as well as more effective coordination with external stakeholders.
59 Transition Managers should be associated with AB Codes.
60 GSA should provide expanded outreach support for smaller agencies to focus and address specific transition needs and options. Provide follow-up support for preparing and completing fair opportunity decisions and support tool training.
61 Maintain agency TM information and status throughout contract lifecycle. Accurate and current agency contact information will enable GSA to coordinate planning, communication, and outreach for the next transition.
62 Explore other incentives, in addition to Transition Reimbursement, to provide sufficient motivation for agencies to execute their fair opportunity decisions and transition.
63 Voice service PICed to service provider prior to SOCN, resulting in commercial billing. This impacts “transition” and "new" service orders. Need flexibility to allow IXC to re-rate charges, or to prevent PIC from occurring prior to SOCN.
64 Dedicate trained personnel to handle disconnects.
65 Do not assume that a back office transition will be easier than change of provider. Many of the same transition elements still need to be coordinated with a back office transition.
66 Centralize ordering system process but decentralize ordering.
67 Provide drop down list of valid values for agencies to select from when documenting fair opportunity decisions.
68 Revisit the Definition of Billing SLAs.
69 Clear definition of account ownership – who is the directly responsible individual – for each account’s satisfaction should be defined.
70 GSA should provide a means for agencies to obtain third party acquisition assistance either directly through the OTS or through a partnership between OTS and other GSA service.
71 GSA should anticipate customers to want more extensive and continuous support from OTS for complex FO decisions.
72 GSA should establish an outreach and governance model that recognizes the perspectives of finance, acquisition, and information technology, and promotes coordination between senior executives in these organizations.
73 Equipment replacement actions were inaccurate and took an excessive amount of time.
74 Back office transition (BOT) process' were not rapid, efficient and non-service-affecting.
75 Numerous CLINs that were amended or changed on an order did not receive transition credit.
76 Agencies need to get a copy of the vendors' inventory files that will allow them to do a better job of reconciling inventory.
77 Multiple and repetitive reconciliations of TOPS inventory as a result of not being centrally managed.
78 Inventory problems (1) Baseline and (2) Complexity of reconciliation and validation with agencies, vendors and local LECs.
79 Innovative approaches to minimize the FO impact to agency customers should be sought. Examples of approaches to be considered include GSA making some FO decisions during initial contract award and offering pre-awarded, “turn-key” services, which would be similar to many current regional operations.
80 GSA should anticipate agency customers to increasingly require OTS to (a) Provide significant support to facilitate transitions, and/or (b) Structure the contracts and transition processes to ease agency workloads.
81 OTS should propose the integration of the IMC into the Federal Chief Information Officer Council (CIOC), given the similar missions and synergies of the two governance boards. This will ensure top-level attention to infrastructure activities.
82 Contractor's ordering and invoicing processes and systems have an impact on the success of the TCR process.
83 Agency COs should meet with GSA’s Program COs for and advice and scope determinations questions.
84 Agencies should consider the effectiveness of separating Wide Area Network (WAN) decision from other systems.
85 Identity contract modifications for inside wiring, since most inside wiring is ICB on FTS2001 and Networx.
86 Separate TIC solution Fair Opportunities from Transition Fair Opportunity decisions.
87 Agency should conduct Requests for Information (RFI) when writing their SOW.
88 Complete decisions on definitized CLINS first before the other decisions needed for the agency.
89 Agencies need a vendor supplied website that will provide a physical address for all data Networx services for validation of demark or service addresses.
90 Improve usability and interface of GSA's Networx Unit Pricer.
91 Make Lessons Learned, FAQs and Knowledge Base readily available to agencies.
92 Agencies should continuously and regularly validate their inventory throughout the Networx contract-monthly if possible.
93 Networx Pricer needs mechanism for pricing current inventory.
94 Vendor OSS/notifications were unreliable and need to be sent in accordance with GSA established SLAs.
95 The regional business model, including service offerings, should be adjusted to account for changes in technology.
96 GSA should provide more proactive OTS responses to unexpected issues as they arise, before they result in significant negative consequences.

Back to Top

print Share Icon Last Reviewed 2018-08-29