John C. Johnson and Warren Suss | Networx can transform federal enterprise
Information technology managers, take note. You probably think of Networx as the contract vehicle that will deliver your agency's next-generation wide-area IP network infrastructure. That's true, but Networx can also help you significantly improve your enterprise-level operations.
Networx offers network-centric service solutions for storage, hosting, conferencing, collaboration and contact centers, and there will be more services to come. Using Networx to deliver net-centric solutions to address enterprise requirements will yield a boatload of tangible near-term and long-term benefits.
By shifting selected IT operations from the enterprise to Networx, you can lower your direct IT system costs. With less user-owned-and-run hardware and software, you'll need less operations and maintenance support. And for the O&M contracting you require, the General Services Administration has aggregated governmentwide demand to negotiate below-market rates.
Networx offers built-in administrative efficiencies by streamlining and standardizing your ordering, installation, billing and reporting processes. Networx also gives you an avenue to meet Federal Information Security Management Act, IPv6 and other federal mandates because compliance is built into each contract service.
GSA has worked with user agencies to develop a precise set of technical requirements that reflect priority customer needs and state-of-the-practice industry capabilities. Further, GSA and its vendors have established management mechanisms to ensure continued low prices, service quality, security compliance and easy upgrades.
But GSA and its Networx vendors can't transform the enterprise without the support of the federal IT management community.
First, IT managers must help make the organizational changes needed to transition from enterprise-centric operations to network-centric services. Our IT organizations must place primary emphasis on the quality, value and cost of IT services rather than on the location and control of IT systems.
Second, we need to take a better approach to the financial management of IT. Our IT investment decisions should be based on long-term, total-cost-of-ownership criteria, not on the 'color of money' or the availability of end-year funding.
Third, we should all do a better job of making our IT strategies reflect the real rate of change in the technology marketplace. There will always be some cases where it makes sense for the government to buy, install, operate and maintain IT systems. But when we do this, we often trade off long-term efficiency and flexibility for near-term control.
Fourth, we should re-examine our need to own and run IT systems. In the past, security was a major issue. GSA has built security into the Networx contract. In the past, industry offered only a limited menu of network-based services. GSA has achieved a significant expansion of IT services on Networx and plans to add many more. In the past, the structure of federal contracts forced upfront, five-year-plus IT decisions. GSA has designed Networx to allow users many upgrade paths.
These changes won't come easily. GSA, industry and the agency IT management community will all need to work together. The results ' more cost-effective IT operations, greater agility and improved mission planning and delivery ' will make it worth the effort.John C. Johnson is GSA's assistant commissioner for integrated technology services. Warren Suss is president of Suss Consulting, based in Jenkintown, Pa. They can be reached at johnc.johnson@ gsa.gov and warren.suss @sussconsulting.com.