Users say shift to FTS 2001 won't be a walk in the park

FTS’ Sandra Bates is
optimistic about the transition from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001, which, she says, might start in
March.





The good news about the FTS 2001 long-distance telecommunications buy is that it is
still set for an October award, the Federal Technology Service’s Sandra N. Bates said
this month.


Agency cutovers from the FTS 2000 networks run by AT&T Corp. and Sprint Corp. can
begin as early as March, said Bates, deputy commissioner of the General Services
Administration’s FTS.


That leaves agencies in limbo for at least four months after the AT&T and Sprint
long-haul contracts expire this December.


The bad news is that “things are going to go wrong,” said Candace Hardesty,
the Treasury Department’s director of chief information officer liaison and business
services. She oversaw Treasury’s troubled 1996 transition from Sprint’s FTS 2000
network to that of AT&T.


“Things didn’t go as well as we would have liked,” she said. One problem
left the IRS’ toll-free 800 number traffic routing to J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and
Dial-a-Prayer.


Her warning came at a conference on the FTS 2001 transition. Science Applications
International Corp. of San Diego sponsored the conference. SAIC holds one of eight
Technical and Management Support contracts awarded by FTS last year to help agencies move
their telecommunications services from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001.


Richard Colver, telecommunications manager for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of
Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, said moving from one
network to another is tricky even if the vendor stays the same.


DOD has almost finished moving from AT&T’s Defense Commercial
Telecommunications Network to the Defense Information Systems Network. AT&T in January
1997 won the contract to provide continental U.S. services for DISN. The cutover is 92
percent complete, and DOD expects to finish it by September. But the change has not been
easy, Colver said.


“There is no consensus yet on the success of the DISN CONUS effort,” he said.


Other speakers agreed that the first priority in changing networks is to make an
accurate inventory of all equipment that must be disconnected and reconnected. When DOD
began its switch to DISN, the department believed it had a good inventory, Colver said.


But AT&T’s inventory did not match DOD’s, and neither inventory
ultimately proved accurate, he said.


Hardesty said taking an accurate inventory also was a big headache for the Treasury
transition. The smallest offices of the department’s 3,000 locations turned in their
inventories by telephone, which she called a mistake. All inventory work needs to be done
on site and coordinated by a central authority, she said.


AT&T also had to bring in a lot of outside technical help to support
Treasury’s special requirements. “If you know your requirements are unique,
insist on bringing in the technical support early,” she said.


In general, Hardesty said, Treasury depended too much on AT&T to get the job done.
“It’s not the contract holder’s problem,” she said. “It’s
your problem.”


That will be even truer in the FTS 2001 transition, said Robert M. Cann, a senior SAIC
vice president who formerly was AT&T’s director of FTS 2000 operations.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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