Telecommunications:

Agencies Need to Apply Transition Planning Practices to Reduce Potential Delays and Added Costs

GAO-17-464: Published: Sep 21, 2017. Publicly Released: Sep 21, 2017.

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What GAO Found

The General Services Administration's (GSA's) transition guidance to agencies addressed roughly half of its previously identified lessons learned. GSA identified 35 lessons learned from previous telecommunications contract transitions that identify actions that agencies should take. In transition guidance released to agencies, GSA fully addressed 17 of the 35 lessons. Two lessons from previous transitions were not appropriate for the current transition. GSA partially addressed an additional nine lessons. Seven lessons were not addressed at all (see figure). For example, GSA's guidance did not address the previous lesson that agencies should not assume that a transition to a new contract with the same vendor will be easier than a change in vendors. By not including all lessons learned in its plans and guidance to agencies, GSA limits agencies' ability to plan for actions that will need to be taken later in the transition. As a result, agencies face an increased risk that they could repeat prior mistakes, including those that could result in schedule delays or unnecessary costs.

Number of Lessons-Learned Addressed in GSA's Plans and Guidance

Number of Lessons-Learned Addressed in GSA's Plans and Guidance

Selected agencies—the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Labor (DOL), and Transportation (DOT); the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Social Security Administration (SSA)—have yet to fully apply most of the five planning practices previously identified by GAO as key to a successful telecommunications transition. The practices encompass: (1) developing inventories, incorporating strategic needs into transition planning, (2) incorporating strategic needs into transition planning, (3) developing a structured transition-management approach, (4) identifying resources necessary for the transition, and (5) establishing transition processes and measures of success. SEC fully implemented one practice, partially implemented three practices, and did not implement another. The other four agencies partially implemented each of the five practices. Agencies provided various reasons for not following planning practices, including uncertainty due to delays in GSA awarding the new contracts, plans to implement practices later as part of established agency procedures for managing IT projects, and a lack of direction and contractor assistance from GSA. If agencies do not fully implement the practices in the next transition, they will be more likely to experience the kinds of delays and increased costs that occurred in previous transitions.

Why GAO Did This Study

GSA is responsible for contracts providing telecommunications services for federal agencies. Transitions involving previous contracts faced significant delays resulting in increased costs. Because GSA's current telecommunications program, Networx, expires in May 2020, planning for the next transition has begun.

GAO was asked to review preparations for the transition. This report addresses the extent to which (1) GSA's plans and guidance to agencies incorporate lessons learned from prior transitions, and (2) agencies are following established planning practices in their transitions. In performing this work, GAO analyzed GSA lessons learned and transition guidance. GAO also selected five agencies—USDA, DOL, DOT, SEC, and SSA—based on size, structure, and Networx spending. GAO then reviewed the agencies' documentation to determine how they followed five planning practices identified in previous GAO reports.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that GSA disseminate guidance that includes all agency-directed lessons learned. In addition, GAO recommends that USDA, DOL, DOT, SEC, and SSA complete adoption of the planning practices to avoid schedule delays and unnecessary costs. Five agencies agreed with all of our recommendations. SSA agreed with two recommendations, partially disagreed with one, disagreed with two, and provided updated information. GAO stands by the recommendations, as discussed in the report, and revised the report based on SSA's new information.

For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harriscc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2017, GSA updated its EIS Transition Handbook to include all 16 agency-focused lessons learned. GSA then disseminated these lessons to all agencies involved in the transition by posting this document on its EIS Interact website.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should disseminate the 16 agency-focused lessons learned that have not been fully incorporated in GSA guidance to the agencies involved in the current transition. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to (1) continue to facilitate collaboration with all component agencies to verify its telecommunications inventory at each USDA location, and (2) develop a centralized inventory system and standard operating procedures for ongoing maintenance of this system. We will continue to monitor USDA's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of its inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to, among other things, provide the EIS vendor community with USDA's future vision and requirements in order to enable each vendor to propose optimal solutions; and update the cost benefit analysis of new technologies while reviewing vendor proposals. We will continue to monitor USDA's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify future telecommunications needs and areas for optimization, identifies the costs and benefits of new technology, and aligns USDA's approach with its long-term plans. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to, among other things, identify individuals to fill open transition roles, develop a transition communications plan, and implement a change management plan. We will continue to monitor USDA's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies transition-related roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets, human capital, and information security, and legal expertise; develops a transition communications plan; and uses configuration and change-management processes in USDA's transition. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to (1) continue to update its cost benefit analysis while reviewing vendor proposals; (2) utilize the recommendations of its Concept of Operations Working Group and the CIO Council to identify any gaps in staffing resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and (3) take advantage of GSA-sponsored EIS-related training. We will continue to monitor USDA's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer documents the costs and benefits of transition investments, identifies staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to (1) incorporate mission-critical priorities into USDA's requests for quotes; (2) ensure that critical systems are inventoried and that their respective transition plans ensure continuity of operations; and (3) prioritize mission-critical functions within its transition timeline. We will continue to monitor USDA's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer demonstrates that the Department's transition goals and measures align with its mission, identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in USDA's transition timeline. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it planned to provide the agency's Chief Information Officer (CIO) with a monthly summary report of the transition inventory, which would include inventory changes. In addition, the agency planned to sign an attestation of the completeness of the review of the transition inventory and provide it to its CIO and to General Services Administration. We will continue to monitor the department's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of DOL's inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) concurred with our recommendation and noted efforts underway to address it. For example, department officials stated that DOL previously initiated a strategic analysis of its network and a 4-year major investment project to migrate its voice telecommunications systems into a Unified Communications platform. DOL planned to initiate the deployment of this platform in fiscal year 2018. We will continue to monitor the department's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies the agency's future telecommunications needs, completes a strategic analysis of the agency's telecommunications requirements, and incorporates the requirements into transition planning. (Recommendation 8)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it has identified transition-related roles for key personnel, stakeholders, and support contractors. In addition, DOL plans to include the EIS Transition as an Enterprise Project, which will require it to adhere to the department's Project Management Office guidelines. We will continue to monitor the department's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies transition-related roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets, human capital, and information security, and legal expertise; develops a transition communications plan; and uses project, configuration, and change-management processes in DOL's transition (Recommendation 9)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to revise the resource requirements for regional and field office services transitioning to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solution. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies the resources needed for the full transition, develops justifications for the costs of changes to hardware and software, identifies staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 10)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to update the risks identified in its Agency Transition Plan to include information security, critical systems, and continuity of operations. DOL stated that it will also ensure the final transition timeline identifies mission-critical priorities. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies transition risks related to information security, critical systems, and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in DOL's transition timeline. (Recommendation 11)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to establish an EIS planning team comprised of key IT personnel from across the agency to identify, among other things, future needs and areas for improvement, so that SEC can incorporate the results into its transition planning. We will continue to monitor SEC's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer identifies the agency's future telecommunications needs, areas for optimization, and the costs and benefits of new technology; completes a strategic analysis of the commission's telecommunications requirements; and incorporates the identified requirements into transition planning. (Recommendation 12)

    Agency Affected: United States Securities and Exchange Commission

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to document the roles and responsibilities of key EIS transition team members across the agency. SEC also plans to develop a transition communications plan that includes configuration and change management practices. We will continue to monitor SEC's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer identifies roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets and human capital and legal expertise for the transition; includes key local and regional officials in SEC's transition communications plan; and completes efforts to use configuration and change management processes in the transition. (Recommendation 13)

    Agency Affected: United States Securities and Exchange Commission

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concurred with our recommendation. We will continue to monitor SEC's efforts to implement it.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer identifies the resources needed for the full transition, justifies requests for transition resources, identifies staff resources needed for the full transition, and completes efforts to analyze training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 14)

    Agency Affected: United States Securities and Exchange Commission

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it plans to develop a risk mitigation strategy that (1) addresses how the transition aligns to mission-critical requirements, and (2) identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations. We will continue to monitor SEC's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to demonstrate that the commission's transition goals and measures align with its mission, identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in SEC's transition timeline. (Recommendation 15)

    Agency Affected: United States Securities and Exchange Commission

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: The Social Security Administration (SSA) provided documentation demonstrating that it has a repository for office information (e.g., location and phone numbers). However, SSA has not yet demonstrated that it has verified the completeness of its inventory of telecommunications assets and services, nor demonstrated that it has established a process for maintaining the services in this inventory other than local and long-distance telecommunications. We will continue to monitor SSA's efforts to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of SSA's inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory regarding services other than local and long-distance telecommunications. (Recommendation 16)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: Social Security Administration (SSA) officials stated that the agency's priority is to transition its telecommunications services on a like-for-like basis, in order to complete the transition before its existing contracts expire, as well as to receive immediate cost savings. Officials also stated that, once SSA has released its EIS solicitations, they plan to analyze the alignment of their future telecommunications needs with the agency's enterprise architecture. We will continue to monitor SSA's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer completes identification of the agency's future telecommunications needs and aligns its approach with the agency's enterprise architecture. (Recommendation 17)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: The Social Security Administration (SSA) provided documentation demonstrating that it has implemented a change management process, including establishing a change control board that is scheduled to meet on a weekly basis and tracking change requests in its IT Service Management tool. However, SSA has not yet provided documentation demonstrating that it has implemented configuration management processes. We will continue to monitor SSA's efforts to implement these processes.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer uses configuration and change-management processes in its transition. (Recommendation 18)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: The Social Security Administration (SSA) concurred with this recommendation. According to agency officials, EIS transition staff are required, as part of their position descriptions, to have the necessary skillsets to support the transition. SSA officials also stated that most of the staff assigned to the transition already have required certifications. However, SSA has not yet provided documentation demonstrating that it has identified the resources needed for the full transition, nor analyzed the training needs for all staff working on the transition. We will continue to monitor SSA's efforts to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer identifies the resources needed for the full transition, documents the costs and benefits of transition investments, identifies staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and analyzes training needs for all staff working on the transition. (Recommendation 19)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: Social Security Administration (SSA) officials stated that they plan to use the same transition measures of success that GSA has established for the government as a whole, including tracking transition preparedness and transition progress factors. In addition, SSA has identified transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations. However, it is unclear how the administration has taken these mission-critical priorities into account in SSA's transition timeline. We will continue to follow-up with SSA regarding these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify measures of success for the transition, identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in SSA's transition timeline. (Recommendation 20)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  21. Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Transportation (DOT) concurred with our recommendation and stated that it is working to complete its inventory of current telecommunication assets and services. We will continue to monitor DOT's efforts to complete this inventory.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of DOT's inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory. (Recommendation 21)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  22. Status: Open

    Comments: Department of Transportation (DOT) officials stated that they conducted an assessment of the department's future telecommunication requirements. As part of this assessment, the officials stated that they identified potential future optimization areas and determined the potential costs and benefits of new technology. We will continue to follow-up with the department for documentation of this assessment, as well as for documentation demonstrating that DOT has aligned its transition approach with its long-term plans and enterprise architecture.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies the agency's future telecommunications needs, areas for optimization, and costs and benefits of new technology; and completes efforts to align DOT's approach with its long-term plans and enterprise architecture. (Recommendation 22)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  23. Status: Open

    Comments: Department of Transportation (DOT) officials stated that they plan to develop a department-wide change management plan that includes specifics on how the EIS transition will be managed, including the communication and change management practices and procedures that are to be followed. We will continue to monitor DOT's efforts to develop and implement this plan.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets and human capital and legal expertise for the transition; develops a transition communications plan; and fully uses configuration and change-management processes in DOT's transition. (Recommendation 23)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  24. Status: Open

    Comments: Department of Transportation (DOT) officials stated that they are in the process of developing an Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions Project Management Plan. This plan is to include details on the resources and staffing needed for the EIS transition effort. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to develop this plan.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer fully identifies the resources needed for the full transition, justifies requests for transition resources, identifies staff resources needed for the full transition, and fully analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 24)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  25. Status: Open

    Comments: Department of Transportation (DOT) officials stated that the department is in the process of evaluating and identifying the risks associated with the EIS transition, which they plan to put into a risk register. Officials also stated that they plan to incorporate modernization and federal CIO oversight requirements into the risk identification and mitigation process. We will continue to monitor DOT's progress on these efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer fully demonstrates that DOT's transition goals and measures align with its mission; completely identifies transition risks related to information security, critical systems, and continuity of operations; and fully identifies mission-critical priorities in the transition timeline. (Recommendation 25)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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