Lamont Copeland is managing director of federal solutions architecture at Verizon, with more than two decades experience in network engineering.
As the federal government prepares for the transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract in 2023, agencies face tough decisions, tight timelines and budgetary restrictions—all while needing to ensure performance and uptime during this period of transition and modernization. That’s why it is important for agency IT leaders to take an outcomes-based approach to their network modernization efforts.
EIS is the $50 billion government-wide contract federal agencies must transition by September 30, 2022 to modernize their IT and telecom services. But only six of 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies were more than 50% of the way toward transitioning off the predecessor Networx contract as of Aug. 5, 2021, according to the most recent Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act scorecard.
The EIS contract presents an enormous opportunity for agencies to modernize their IT and communications infrastructure, but also brings significant challenges. Some agencies have budgets as large as Fortune 50 enterprises and face the task of transitioning thousands of circuits and millions of numbers. While many agencies may have already started the migration process or gone through a recent IT upgrade, time is quickly running out to make the right decisions for an effective, mission-focused modernization effort.
An outcomes-based approach to network modernization requires looking beyond traditional methods of acquisition. It’s no longer simply about pricing out bulk purchases of routers, licenses and hours of service, but a long-term, programmatic approach to justifying spending based on tangible improvements for end-users and the overall mission.
Establishing a long-term, programmatic approach requires agencies to establish upfront requirements for a service-oriented architecture, security, end-user capabilities and availability. By defining these outcomes, agencies provide their industry partners with the ability to define the art of the possible in terms of what the service will look like, how it can be delivered and a robust but realistic service level agreement.
Setting operational expectations at the outset of contract performance benefits both the government and the contractor. For the government, it becomes a vehicle for consuming innovation at speed and at scale, as well as a tool to hold the contractor accountable. For the contractor, focusing on operational expectations allows new innovations to be developed that are not locked into specific widgets or delivery methods. Technology then becomes an enabler of mission outcomes.
Setting expectations around data is also critical to an outcomes-based approach to modernization. Agencies should consider taking an inventory of their data and then thinking about the best ways to move that data securely, how to make the data consumable by end-users and how best to format and present that data to decision-makers.
An agency’s data should also inform and help the vendor drive security outcomes. A managed service approach that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning can help agencies stay ahead of emerging threats. This is where it is important for agencies to partner with an experienced vendor that is capable of tapping into a partner ecosystem and applying AI and machine learning to a global data set that can then help to inform decisions around security policy.
By taking security into account at the beginning of the transition process to EIS, agencies will also be better prepared to make important decisions about whether to opt for managed services or keep certain functions in-house. Because of the volume of data agencies need to protect, the relentless onslaught of cyberthreats and the shortage of skilled IT security workers, agencies could place themselves at a strategic disadvantage if they do not focus on security outcomes from the start of their modernization transition.
Of course, managed services and professional services, whether they cover security or day-to-day IT operations, force both the government and the vendor to discuss service level agreements — and that’s a conversation about outcomes.
By focusing on strategic mission outcomes, agencies can strike the right balance between the urgency necessary to ensure a timely transition to EIS and the necessities of maintaining continuity of operations and conducting strategic planning for the future.
Find out more on how Verizon Professional and Managed Services can provide a full spectrum of network and security modernization solutions for your organization.