Inside CenturyLink's EIS strategy

The General Services Administration got its much-anticipated $50 billion next-generation telecommunications contract out the door in August and the work to transition both agencies and vendors is well underway.

Two out of the 10 Enterprise Infrastructure Services winners in Harris Corp. and Level 3 have revealed an additional component since GSA announced the EIS awards and publicly detailed their subcontracting partners. Level 3 will bring its 17 teammates into the telecommunications giant being formed out of the company’s merger with CenturyLink slated to close at the end of September or in early October.

For its part, CenturyLink has taken a different approach to how it will form partnerships with other companies over the course of the 15-year EIS contract. This “opportunity-based” approach as CenturyLink executives described to Washington Technology and our sister publication FCW is aimed in part at staying current with technology trends as EIS rolls on.

EIS will have approximately 500 full-and-open opportunities available over its duration and some have requests for information released, said Lisa Bruch, vice president of sales and marketing for CenturyLink’s federal solutions business. And the company’s partnership strategy for EIS in pursuit of those opportunities seeks to “keep the door open for the next innovator,” she said.

 “We like to make sure that it’s not confusing and easy to understand who and what you’re getting,” said Erich Sanchack, senior vice president and general manager of the federal solutions business. “We think the best way to address it is on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis… and we will assemble the partnering arrangement in that way too. There are some things that are incubating that we may not be aware of but once we get awareness of them we’ll bring it to bear.”

Like many other large acquisition programs, Bruch said EIS has requirements for subcontracting of work to small businesses in different categories. Many of those small businesses have worked with CenturyLink on other contract wins, she said. 

For CenturyLink’s part, the company won the right to compete for task orders in all 932 metropolitan regions covered under EIS. Sanchack attributed CenturyLink’s reach across EIS to an “investment upfront” the company made for the transition to the new program.

Sanchack declined to disclose the specific value of the EIS investment but estimated CenturyLink invests $2 billion overall into research-and-development efforts for the company’s network.

“We believe the business case was warranted and that it was an investment from the senior leadership team all the way up to the board of directors,” Sanchack said. “We would report out on a routine business cadence perspective on how we were performing against the investment we made here just to make sure the entire corporation knew the importance of this contract vehicle and what it meant to the company.”

The planning activities for transitioning to EIS from its predecessor Networx date back to 2012, Bruch said. That was key for GSA to build flexibility into the new program with its large scale, she said, as were communications with industry forums to get all parties on the same page.

There is also the matter of CenturyLink’s impending merger with Level 3, which has one regulatory approval at the state level in California remaining along with reviews by federal agencies. Bill Zielinski, deputy assistant commissioner for category management in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, told reporters in an Aug. 2 conference call it was “too early to tell” how both companies’ work would consolidate under EIS.

“Until that deal closes (Level 3 is) a separate, competing entity and there is no coordination or collaboration on any kind of pursuit in the marketplace,” Sanchack said.

There will be a contract novation process after the deal closes to determine shared vehicles and government work spaces they overlap on, Sanchack said.

The award of EIS also precedes a transition for Sanchack into a new role at CenturyLink after the Level 3 transaction completes. Post-close, he will work as senior vice president for IT solutions and new market development.

Sanchack said that group will encompass both government and commercial markets and focus on how the company provides services and capabilities on its network. The goal is in part to look at how people will interact with technology in the future as new trends emerge in cyber and other areas such as the Internet of Things, he said.

“Our role is to help facilitate that and make sure CenturyLink is tuned to that from a trusted provider perspective,” Sanchack said. “We’ll cover the full swath of the CenturyLink portfolio.”

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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