As part of the FedWAN programme and the takeover of the WAN network management by Belnet for federal organisations - launched in 2022 - the FPS Economy is the first WAN to have been implemented. We invited Bertrand Dockier, ICT Operations Manager, to tell us about this successful collaboration. "The implementation of our WAN network was carried out efficiently, while maintaining transparency".
Could you briefly describe the FPS Economy and its activities?
The FPS Economy's mission is to provide the levers for a high-performance, competitive and sustainable economy and to support our country's economic growth. Protecting consumers and businesses, with a particular focus on SMEs, is at the heart of this approach.
This mission is carried out through a wide range of activities, from security of energy supply to the production of statistics and economic analyses, as well as market surveillance and economic regulation.
What is your role within the organisation?
I'm the head of the Operations department, which is everything to do with infrastructure, servers, databases and middleware. So, I'm not responsible for all the ICT, but I do look after the WAN network.
"Our collaboration with Belnet is important to keep this whole ecosystem fully operational."
Does the FPS Economy have a large IT team?
My team consists of 35 people within a global IT team of 200. It's a fairly traditional organisation for an FPS of our size, as there's more or less 1,800 of us.
How many sites does your WAN network consist of?
Our main offices are located in Brussels (two buildings), but we also have around ten buildings spread across the provinces. Not all areas of authority are represented in each building. There are buildings where there are fewer people.
This makes it quite a complex landscape, because there are some buildings that belong to us, some buildings where it's just us, and some that we share, particularly in the context of synergy programmes (for example, with the FPS Finance).
That is why we need to surround ourselves with competent partners. This is to help us keep everything running smoothly and performing efficiently for all our agents at the various sites, as well as all our remote workers.
How did the WANECO project go? What's the result?
Most of the work has been done by Belnet. On our side, we mainly do reporting, testing and validation. We very rarely have any problems, so we're very happy.
Once or twice a month, we hold a review with our Belnet project lead, who keeps us informed of the progress of the project and any migrations. He also provides us with the documentation we need so we know where we're up to. As the landscape is complex and we have a lot of buildings and interconnections to manage, we need to be kept informed of every movement and change.
Our collaboration with Belnet is important to keep this whole ecosystem fully operational.
The project lead also carried out an analysis of our needs in order to rationalise resources while maintaining appropriate levels of performance. Right from the start of the project, he also explained what he expected of us, so we were able to organise ourselves after that. This step was essential for us and gave us a lot of clarity in this project.
Have you communicated internally about this project?
For us, the quality of the information provided by Belnet is paramount. We wait for Belnet to provide us with as much information as possible about the interventions carried out, because we have to communicate this kind of information internally to our advisory board.
In the case of an intervention involving minor changes, Belnet handles them transparently, without asking too much of us. In the case of a major intervention such as a relocation, it's important that we know what it's all about, so we can explain it internally. Especially if there's downtime or interruptions, we have to be able to justify it.
What are the main advantages of the WAN for your organisation?
As we work with Belnet on a number of aspects, and have a long-term relationship, this makes things much easier. Our aim, as far as possible, is to limit the number of partners, and Belnet is one of the key players in our connectivity. In this context, there's documentation and project follow-up, so we know the technicians and how they work. It's much simpler for us, because they know what we're talking about straight away.
"For us, what's essential is clarity and to have as little impact as possible for our users, and I think, in practical terms, that's been the case here."
If there's an incident, is Belnet your SPOC?
Even if there are other providers, for us, Belnet is our SPOC, so it's pretty transparent. Since we don't have infinite resources, we're very interested in anyone who makes our lives easier. Especially in contract management, etc. The fact that we have a contract with you and you manage everything else is a great advantage for us.
In terms of timing at project level, did we stick to the plan set in advance?
We're right on schedule. We've not had any delays. So far, it's well in line with what was planned.
What was the key to the success of this collaboration?
For us, what's essential is clarity and to have as little impact as possible for our users, and I think, in practical terms, that's been the case here. What we want is as little downtime as possible.
Everything went very smoothly, because all the changes that were made were transparent; everything was validated immediately, which is obviously a great comfort for the customer.
Do you have anything else to add?
We are in regular contact with Belnet, particularly through our Relationship Manager for all commercial matters. We have plenty of opportunities to discuss any areas for improvement. Even outside projects, we have a very close relationship, and alongside the projects, we also get day-to-day support. Sometimes we have presentations of new services. In any case, we're kept up to date with Belnet's activities, which is something we appreciate.