Telecommunications:

Full Adoption of Sound Transition Planning Practices by GSA and Selected Agencies Could Improve Planning Efforts

GAO-06-476: Published: Jun 6, 2006. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 2006.

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With the current governmentwide telecommunications contracts set to expire, the General Services Administration's (GSA) Federal Technology Service (FTS) and its customer agencies must prepare to transition their services to a new contract vehicle. The previous federal effort to transition telecommunications services proved to be a large, complex task. GAO was asked to determine to what extent (1) selected agencies used sound practices in preparing for the transition and (2) GSA's FTS has prepared for the transition by addressing previous lessons learned and providing agencies with guidance on sound transition planning.

The agencies GAO reviewed--Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and GSA--were generally planning to employ sound transition planning practices. However, officials at two agencies stated they did not plan to fully identify necessary resources. Specifically, officials from the Department of Justice indicated they would not need additional funding for the transition, even though they could not provide an analytical basis for their decision, and officials from the Department of Energy believed their transition planning efforts would not require the identification of human capital needs. Without addressing all of the sound practices, agencies risk entering into a complex transition without the level of preparation necessary to ensure a smooth transition. FTS has addressed the majority of the lessons learned from the previous transition. Areas that have not yet been fully addressed are securing incumbent contractor cooperation and establishing guidance on inventory management and validation processes. FTS plans to address all remaining lessons prior to contract award. FTS has also provided agencies with guidance that fully reflects two of the five sound transition planning practices. However, guidance has not addressed all aspects of the remaining three, including establishing an inventory maintenance process, using key management processes, identifying measures of success, and performing transition-specific risk assessments. Although principal responsibility for the transition rests with individual agencies, FTS has an important program-level responsibility to plan and coordinate the transition. As a result, unless it works with agencies to address the full range of sound transition planning practices, agencies may not address the practices fully or consistently, which could, in turn, affect their level of preparation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2007 we reported that the General Services Administration (GSA) guidance to agencies on transitioning to new governmentwide telecommunications contracts did not fully address sound transition planning practices. Specifically, guidance did not address agencies establishing measures of success. As a result, we recommended that GSA, in working with the Interagency Management Council (IMC), ensure that guidance addresses the development of measures of success to help agencies' managers assess progress toward the objectives stated in their plans. In September 2007, GSA issued a Networx Transition Bulletin advising agencies to have internal guidance that addresses the establishment of measures of success to help agency managers assess progress towards the objectives stated in their transition management plans. Because GSA guidance now addresses agencies establishing measures of success, agencies are more likely to be aware of the gamut of issues and activities that need to be addressed for transition to new telecommunications contracts, and will likely be better prepared for transition.

    Recommendation: To ensure that agencies are adequately prepared for the transition, the Administrator of General Services, in working with the Interagency Management Council, should develop and distribute guidance to ensure that our identified sound practices of transition planning are utilized. In particular, FTS should ensure that guidance addresses the establishment of measures of success to help agencies' managers assess progress toward the objectives stated in their plans.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its 60-day letter, GSA stated that it has begun the process of consulting with the Interagency Management Council (IMC) to implement this recommendation, and that the process should be complete by the end of the year. In June 2007, the IMC issued a Networx pre-award transition guide to agencies that encourages agency transition managers to utilize project management best practices to develop transition-specific project plans and activities. This guide also encourages agencies to use change and configuration management processes and includes appendices with additional detail on these topics.

    Recommendation: To ensure that agencies are adequately prepared for the transition, the Administrator of General Services, in working with the Interagency Management Council, should develop and distribute guidance to ensure that our identified sound practices of transition planning are utilized. In particular, FTS should ensure that guidance addresses the use of project management, configuration management, and change management processes in transition planning efforts.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2006 reported that 6 agencies reviewed were generally planning to employ sound transition planning practices for the upcoming transition to Networx; however two agencies, including Energy, did not plan to fully identify necessary resources. Specifically, officials from Energy believed their transition planning efforts would not require the identification of human capital needs. As a result, we recommended that the Secretary of Energy ensure that the department's planning efforts included identification of human capital resources needed to conduct an effective transition. Subsequently, the Department developed a Networx Human Capital Resource document that identifies six contractor staff responsible for the Networx transition. This estimate was based on the prior successful transition and lessons learned. In addition, the Energy Transition Plan identifies local/regional points of contact and an agency transition team. Energy's actions should reduce the risks involved with entering into a complex transition and help ensure that human capital needs are adequately met throughout the transition.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the agencies we reviewed adequately prepare themselves for the transition, the Secretary of Energy should ensure that the department's planning efforts include identification of human capital resources needed to conduct an effective transition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2006 we reported that 6 agencies reviewed were generally planning to employ sound transition planning practices for the upcoming transition to Networx; however two agencies, including the Department of Justice (DOJ), did not plan to fully identify necessary resources. Specifically, officials from DOJ indicated they would not need additional funding for the transition, even though they could not provide an analytical basis for their decision. As a result, we recommended that the Attorney General ensure that the department's planning efforts include an analysis of the extent to which current financial resources will be sufficient to conduct an effective transition. Subsequently, DOJ developed justification of requirements needed for a program management office (PMO) to guide the transition within the department and identified the financial resources required for this PMO to assist the department in successfully transitioning to Networx. DOJ documentation indicated that the department did secure the funding required for the PMO. By conducting an analysis on the extent to which current financial resources will be sufficient to conduct an effective transition, DOJ has increased the likelihood of a successful transition to Networx.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the agencies we reviewed adequately prepare themselves for the transition, the Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice's planning efforts include an analysis of the extent to which current financial resources will be sufficient to conduct an effective transition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its 60-day letter, GSA stated that it has begun the process of consulting with the IMC to implement this recommendation, and that the process should be complete by the end of the year. In June 2007, the IMC issued a Networx pre-award transition guide to agencies that provides a list of known risks based on previous transitions, mitigation strategies for risks, and encourages transitioning agencies to document their own transition-specific risks.

    Recommendation: To ensure that agencies are adequately prepared for the transition, the Administrator of General Services, in working with the Interagency Management Council, should develop and distribute guidance to ensure that our identified sound practices of transition planning are utilized. In particular, FTS should ensure that guidance addresses the development of a transition-specific risk assessment that would allow an agency to lessen problems and delays during the transition.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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