"We took a best-value approach to our Networx migration strategy," says Dave Cheplick, Director of Enterprise Infrastructure Engineering and Telecommunications within the VA's Office of Information and Technology. "We were looking at what was going to be available across the Networx program, and we wanted to make sure we had broken down our purchases from a good project management point of view into bundles that we could focus on. This was important given that we have a limited amount of staff to work on the program."
The VA's three categories of telecom services are:
* Wide-area network, which was awarded to AT&T for an estimated $120 million in 2008. The WAN transition will be done in July.
* Toll-free and inbound/outbound voice services were awarded to Qwest, which also serves as the secondary carrier on the agency's WAN. This deal was estimated at $60 million when it was awarded in 2008. This transition will be done in the fall.
* Call-center services -- dubbed NARS for the National Automated Response Systems -- were awarded to Verizon. This deal was estimated at $21 million when it was awarded in 2008. This transition is complete.
The VA has not experienced any network outages related to its Networx transition, Cheplick says.
Cheplick says one key to having the migration go as smoothly as possible is having a solid inventory of its network services. "The better your inventory is across the entire enterprise, the better able you are to make determinations of how to scope your level of effort to ensure you are getting the best value in obtaining services from the carriers," he says.
Because its network is so big and complex, the VA chose to do a like-for-like network transition and then upgrade technology afterwards. Cheplick says other network operators may be able to switch carriers and handle network upgrades and optimization in one step.
"We were not ready to make a decision about full VoIP implementation, therefore we stayed like-for-like in terms of capabilities," Cheplick explains.
The VA says it is already reaping the benefits of the lower prices on Networx, which is helping offset the cost of growing network capacity.
"When you break up large telecom packages into smaller services and components, you should be getting a better deal," says Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of Fed Sources. "You have to trade that off against what possible impact it's going to create on your oversight and contract management downstream. But it may make more sense economically and probably in contractor performance."
Biggest loser: Sprint