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ICA Plans Point in New Directions As Large Users Adapt to Changing Industry.

Jack Fetzer has served as president of the prestigious International Communications Association during the most historic period to date in the telecommunications industry -- half in the year leading up to the AT&T divestiture, half in the early months of its implementation. He guided not only the ICA, whose more thatn 500 member companies collectively spend over $15 billion per year on telecommunications, but also his own employer -- Lockheed. Located at the company's headquarters in Burbank, California Jack Fetzer is corporate director of telecommunications, responsible for intercity communications services for Lockheed's worlwide activities. CN Editor Don Wiley recently spoke with him to see where ICA is headed, what's in store at the ICA annual conference in Las Vegas and how Jack Fetzer manages Lockheed's telecommunications systems. The following material is based on the discussion.

CN: As you wind down your year as ICA president, how about a recap of what you see as some of the major accomplishments achieved for ICA during the past year?

FETZER: I think that probably the greatest advance that ICA has made during the past year is in the work of the Public Policy Committee. That group has realy come of age and is being recognized and listened to in Washington for probably the first time. We were kind of late getting into this regulatory arena--there was some reluctance by many of our member companies to getting involved--but after the decision to become active was made about three years ago, Bob Bennis (Westinghouse) and a number of others like Bill Pomeroy (General Electric), who have been on the committee for most of its life, have done a great job of organizing the whole activity and heading it up in Washington. I would see that as being our principal acccomplishment during the past year.

CN: So you feel that you've made great strides in getting the attention of Congress, the FCC and others?

FETZER: Yes, I think that becoming recognized as the major user group has been big accomplishment.

CN: Now that the divestiture is more or less history, do you see a need for more involvement or less involvement of the Public Policy Committee, or will there be any change at all?

FETZER: I don't think there will be any less involvement. WE'll still have a role to play. There are some kinks in deregulation, both in timing and pricing structures. I don't think that we're at the end of the road yet. I see that continuing for another couple of years before all the problems are worked out. As a matter of fact, we may be starting on a whole new round of it because AT&T has requested, the FCC has established, a docket on deregulating the rest of AT&T. Wo we will be involved in that the same way we have been in deregulation in the past.

CN: We'll come back to more species on divestiture in a while, but let's turn to more general thought on ICA as a whole. How would you describe ICA's role, its purpose?

FETZER: WE have always had as one of our principal goals the education of our members and that still remains as one of our main goals. That doesn't mean that we're restricting the term "education" to the formal school-type education. One of the biggest benefits of ICA is simply meeting and interfacing with other people in the same jobs, to learn from each other. That certainly is one of our major jobs, to learn from each other. that certainly is one of our major goals--to promote more of that interchange among the members.

CN: The primary vehicle, then, would be the annual conference?

FETZER: Yes. However, I think we will see a trend toward more interim seminars and conferences that we've had in the past. For many years the annual conferences was the only interface. Now we have an interim seminar almost every year. I would expect that we'll have at least one of those per year and maybe even expand beyond that point to give us more time to exchange ideas and views and experiences on more specific subjects, rather than just a big general conference once a year.

CN: Then, of course , you have the short-course program and others to bring smaller groups together.

FETZER: During this past year, we also had two sessions in different cities--one in New York and one in Chicago-- for the specific purpose of explaining deregulation and how it was affecting members.

CN: Will we see more of these, where you'll take it to more cities around the country?

FETZER: Yes, we have definitely started planning for more seminars of that type.

CN: Let's turn to your participation in ICA. When did you first become a member?

FETZER: It was in 1970, when I came from a job in one of Lockheed's divisions to become manager of the corporate-wide networks.

CN: And what have some of your activities been in ICA?

FETZER: Over the years I've served as room monitor and held buzz sessions at the annual conferences on different subjects, among other things. U first got active on the formal committees as budget coordinator for the conference in Las Vegas, in 1978.

CN: As far as Kack FEtzer is concerned, what have you gained from ICA membership, both personally and professionally?

FETZER: I think there are two things. I've learned a lot from the association with other members of ICA. The exchange of ideas and experiences with them has taught me more about the business than anything else I could have done in thw way of education. What I think is equally important is the friendships you make in such an organization. Even though we don't meet very often-- maybe because we dont meet that often--some of these friendships have become quite close.

CN: Where does ICA stand today with members companies? Is it still around the 500 mark?

FETZER: Yes, it's about 540. We've been picking up about 40 member companies a year. There are always who drop out; we find every year that mergers and acquisitions cost us a few members.

CN: What about individual members, or guess you refer to them now as delegates? You had about 1,300 a year ago.

FETZER: That has not changes radically; it runs about two and a half per member company. Thewe was a time when we restricted attendance at a conference because of the limits of a hotel because we were trying to stay under one rood with the sessions and exhibits. WE no longer do that, and a number of companies have half a dozen representatives at the conference. We encourage that.

CN: Looking at some of the other ICA activities, you've been working for a couple a years or so on a member certification plan. Where does that stand?

FETZER: Certificationis one of those issues that has been going on for probably more than two years. It's an idea that comes out of certification for engineers and other types of professions. We have done a lot of studying, looking and planning to see how we might make certification in telecommunications a reality. One of the things has been build a base of educational programs at a number of universities through scholarships and grants. We have wrestled with the questions for many years on how we could make it a reality, or if we should press for certification. We have held meetings wtih all the other regional telecommunications organizations to get their views and cooperation in trying to design a program that would be acceptable and meaningful to everyone. Everyone seems to be thinking along the same lines. We just mailed outr a survey to all of our members, asking them to once again--or mayve the first time--tell us how strongly they feel about certitication. In other words, are they serious about it? Is so, are they willing to take part in whatever educational program might be set up as a requirement for certification? Would they use certifications as one of the guides in hiring--all of the hard questions to help us decide once and for all if we should proceed with it or back off. If it's not going to be a meaningful and effective program, then we feel like we've given it about enough study. If everyone is serious about it, then we'll go ahead and invest the time and the money to make it a reality. If they're not serious, and they're not going to use it, then we're going to back out of it.

CN: Roger Underwood, a former ICA president and most recently retired from Raychem, has been spearheading the liaison with other user associations. Aside from certification, are there other areas where these efforts are proving beneficial?

FETZER: Yes, Roger is exploring other areas where we might work more closely together. For example, in the public policy or regulatory area, many of the same companies belong to more than one organization, there's some duplication of membership. We see no reason why we should be spending the oraganizationhs money for "me-too" kind of filings. We think we can save a lot of money and effort if we coordinate our activities in the regulatory areas.

CN: Another area that's been explored over at least the last couple of years is an ICA Institute. Where does that project stand?

FETZER: There are two things involved there; one is the idea of certification. We felt that an ICA Institute or some sort of armslength organization would be necessary to implement any kind of certification program. And there is fairly strong feeling that, for any kind of ICA Institute or certification to become a reality, we have to have some degree of affiliation or association with a recognized university program. Southern Methodist University did a study for us on a summer institute. They've given us a preliminary report, and we expect to get a final report within the next few months. Hopefully we'll able to move forward with something of that nature. If that becomes a reality and we do go forward with certification, then I think we have the need to establish some sort of ICA Institute to operate those programs.

CN: Turning to the annual conference in Las Vegas, what emphasis do you plan to make in you president address?

FETZER: One area will be on how to educate or make our own company managements aware of all the changes in telecommunications and how they are affecting our jobs. I think that's a thing that most of our management has never had to be aware of; they've never had to worry much about it. But they're gradually becoming aware of it. You haven't been able to pick up a magazine or periodical over the last year and not find at least one article about telecommunications. In my own organization, I've gotten all kinds of questions from people. That seems to be the subject of discussion at evey lunch -- "What does this means?" "Should I buy my own phone?" What it going to do to us? They are becoming aware, although most of these articles tend to be directed toward only one aspect of the subject. The telecommunications group in our companies are going to have to find better ways to make management more aware of what really is happening and how it affects us. I don't think we've done too good a job at that.

CN: Why is that?

FETZER: If you go back a few years, and I've been involved in telecommunications since 1961, everyone recognized there was one place to get you communications services, and one place only. You didn't have a whole lot of choice and didn't have any effect. You took the services that were offered and the telecommunications organization grew out of that kind of environment, where we acted really as coordinators between the company and AT&T. It was in some measure to our benefit to convince management that we didn't have a lot of choices to make, because AT&T would not allow us to do it. It has taken us some time to grow out of that mold, I guess. I think the younger people are not going to have as much trouble getting out of it as most of the old-timers in the industry. But I think we never learned, we never grew up in the kind of atmosphere where we had to educated our management in the new products, or had to sell them on doing certain things. We just provided the service that was offered by the Bell System. Now it's a whole new world. There's a great variety of possibilities and services out there and we have to make more choices. We have to do a better job of convincing our management that we need the funds and the personnel to operate those different services.

CN: How would you characterize your role as communications manager for Lockheed? You've already metntioned some, of course, but could you capsulize your principal duties?

FETZER: It's my role to find areas where the company can benefit by shared services and cooperative development of systems, and to see that whatever it is that's put in place at any of our operating divisions is compatible and meets with the broad policy of the corporation. It's also one of advising corporate management of activities in the field and areas where we might benefit by sharing services among the divisions or developing systems jointly.

CN: Looking at it organizationally from a corporate point of view, how does your department fit into the Lockheed structure?

FETZER: I report to the vice president of information and administrative services. He reports to the executive vice president.

CN: So you're relatively close then to the top management of the company?

FETZER: In the corporate office, yes we are. Lockheed operates with a relatively small corporate staff and we're fairly close to the top.

CN: You mentioned earlier that people can't pick up a publication without seeing something about telecomunications. Because of this, wuould you say you've had more inquiries from the top?

FETZER: Yes we have. They're showing much more interest than they ever did in the past. The articles that they read, while perhaps not having direct application to our problems, at least stir an interest and create questions. I've had luncheon sessions with the chairman of the board, who's asked questions about videoconferencing and that sort of thing. It's getting quite common to have those kinds of discussions, and indication that they are interested.

CN: You mentioned that you've been in telecommunications since 1961. How did that start?

FETZER: I came into telecommunications from accounting. I was working for a small company in Houston and got acquainted with Lockheed through a convention, where I meet some people who had telecommunications responsibility; they offered me a job I accepted and got in as a communications supervisor. The basic reason that they wanted me, and I little very little background in communications, was that they had people who had the communications background from having worked for the telephon company in most cases, but less cost and accounting background than they needed. They needed someone to do the analysis and financial side of the work in that organization. Most telecommunications people have come in either through having worked for the telephone company or as I did, from an accounting background or from facilities management. Now that's changing it's no longer that way.

CN: Where do you get your people? What do you look for in the people you hire?

FETZER: Recently, I've been looking for data, with some training in data processing, data transmission, troubleshooting experience. I've hired people from some of the modern manufacturing companies, field-service type people. Also those who come out of the interconnect business, which gives us some experience in PBX installations and troubleshooting. I'm going to wind up getting back in the same position as the group was when I came in; I'm about the only one with an accouting background in my group right now, and I'm going to have to start thinking about that. It's very hard to find people with the kinds of skills that you want; you usually have to take one who might be strong in one area and then train him in other areas. When you have a small group, everyone does a little bit of everything.

CN: How many people do you have in your group right now?

FETZER: Seven direct employees, and three more who are what I call indirect; they work for other organizations, but operationally they work for me. One runs a teletypwriter network, and we have two in London.

CN: How do you develop these people you have?

FETZER: We send them to various seminars and schools. We encourage them to go to night classes. Probably the two biggest areas are the short course type programs that ICA has, plus a lot of other groups sponsor courses that are good in fairly narrow areas. We also have some in-house training. Probably the school of "hard knocks" and experience is the biggest training vehicle.

CN: Your department's responsibilities are worldwide?

FETZER: I'm responsible for policy development for the whole corporation and for the implementation and management of all intercity services. And that applies throughout the world. I don't get heavily involved in local service or equipment for most of our larger offices. For example, during the past few months I've been to London, Paris and Geneva, and have selected PBXs for those offices. But largely, our big divisions around this country have their own communications people who handle local area, then I get involved and provide that service for them.

CN: Is there much privately owned equipment with Lockheed?

FETZER: No, there is not a whole lot of it. We have some interconnect systems that have been purchased in the last few years, but our three very large divisions, plus some of our smaller divisions, have had Centrex systems for many years basically because they are very large; they run anywhere from 8,000 up to 14,000 lines on one system. For many years that was the only way to handle that sort of thing, unless you wanted a row of operators a block long. We've had those, too, but we've replaced them with Centrex systems. Centrex provided quite good service for those very large locations. We have just in the last few years started purchasing some of our PBXs for the smaller locations, and are now beginning to look at replacements for Centrex.

CN: Largely because of the access-charge situation, or because of other reasons?

FETZER: Access charges certainly have a bearing on our looking at it, but the uncertainty of Centrex costs and features is the primary reason, coupled with the fact that in just the last year or two we're beginning to get systems which you can use to replace an 8,000 to 10,000-line Centrex. We tried to get one of our companies to look at a replacement for one of our large ones about five years ago and no one would talk to us. Now, of course, those sizes are available.

CN: Some of the Bell operating companies, of course, are talking about Centrex being their flagship vehicle and adding enhancements. Will that have a bearing on whether or not you stick with Centrex?

FETZER: We're taking a look at that, although the operating companies are a little bit slow in getting their act together in recognizing what it's going to take to save Centrex. Right now it's hanging in the balance, and I don't know which way it's going to go. I feel that at least in the very large locations, we would like to see Centrex survive as a viable option for us. I'm not sure that it's going to be able to. Right now, I'm beginning to have doubts.

CN: A few moments ago, you mentioned questions from the chairman on teleconferencing and other things. Are you using videoconferencing right now?

FETZER: Yes, we have one installation and we're installing a second one and looking at three or four other points that we will probably be installing over the next year or two. We've used voice teleconferencing, we've used electronic chalkboards and voice plus facsimile for many years, and still use those in many places. But formal videoconferencing is something fairly recent for us. We only have the one system up, and have a new one going in about a month. But, yes, we are actively pursuing it, and will very likely be expanding our videoconferencing over the next year.

CN: What about some of the other newer types of technology--fiber optics, satellite channels, local-area networks?

FETZER: We used satellite channels on our voice network for many years. At the present time we do not have any, but certainly are receptive and will be looking at them again. We're actively planning a very large local-area network at one of our locations which probably will use, at least in part, fiber optics. We have the beginnings of local-area networks in two or three locations and are looking at that many more, although local-area network is kind of one of the buzz words that has gotten an awful lot of play in the last couple of years and is an individual thing. You don't automatically have to say that everybody has to have a local-area network.

CN: To throw out an even more common buzz word--"office of the future"--what's Lockheed's office of the future going to look like?

FETZER: We have already started implementation of network which will tie together computer systems at all of our major locations, and tie in a variety of terminals from smaller locations. We have a network up now at four locations so that we can exchange documents through computers at those locations. We see that expanding pretty rapidly over the next year. We've also tied together word processors at different locations and we have some interface boxes for communications between different types of word processors. So it's a development that has gotten underway within the last year, but is moving rapidly right now.

CN: What's your interface with data processing?

FETZER: My boss also has responsibility for data processing, so we report up the same channels. I take over where the wire joins the computer and handle the data transmission.

CN: You explained that your primary responsibility is for intercity services, but that you also provide consulting services to the divisions. Let's say I'm a vendor with a product that I feel would be of benefit to Lockheed. Whom would I contact? You? Who would give the final approval?

FETZER: If it's for a network-type arrangement or intercity services, then my organization is the place to go. If it has applications for more local services, then the divisions would be the place to start. I would get involved to the extent that we want to see that it meets broad corporate standards and is not some odd thing that we would have trouble interfacing with in the future. So the answer is a little muddy, because at times a vendor comes into see me and I will send him to one of the divisions, because it appears that he has a product which is more applicable to their area. And it works both ways. I have the final say on a lot of it, but not all of it.

CN: What if I went directly to top management, circumventing the telecommunications department? Would they listen to me, or would I be sent to you?

FETZER: I get two or three letters a week kicked down here from the president or chairman. Nine times out of 10 it's sent directly down here for my action.

CN: To get back to the big question of the day, how do you see the impact of the AT&T divestiture, first on ICA members in general, and Lockheed in particular?

FETZER: Right now we're in a confusion stage, on products, service and everything else. We're not even sure what the final effect is going to be. At this stage it's affecting the way we do business in that the installation intervals are long, and we sometimes have trouble getting a complete quotation on services that we need because no one is quite sure where the lines are drawn between the various parts of AT&T. Sometimes they're in direct competition with each other. So it makes our life more complicated. The cost impact, in the early stages, is going to cost us more money. In the long haul, I hope that when all of the dust has settled, when the competition becomes a little more clear and the ways of doing business are a little easier, we get some benefits from it. Right now it's a little hard to see.

CN: Has the divestiture caused you to make changes in your organization? Have you had to add people because of it?

FETZER: Yes, we've had to add at least one person, and I would expect that before it's over we're going to see more. There's no question that the phone companies are trying their hardest to get out of the labor-intensive parts of the service business to the degree possible. They're putting more and more of that responsibility on the customer, and we're having to staff up to find ways to handle it.

CN: ICA, of course, is active on the legislative and regulatory fronts, but what if you, Jack Fetzer, had the ear of the FCC or Congress right now, what would you like to tell them? Something we can print.

FETZER: Slow down a little bit, and give us time to absorb what has been decided so far. I think ICA's basic thrust all the way through, and in my own case it's also true, has been that we have no strong feeling one way or the other about deregulation. We can see both good and bad. The big thing we have tried to accomplish is to be sure that we're not left holding the bag by some rash move which dumps on us too fast. If they plot a strategy which will accomplish deregulation or free competition in the industry, we, as representatives of large business, understand that kind of thing. We're not necessarily against that; we just want to be sure it's done in an orderly fashion and we're given time to manage and plan for the changes.

CN: Do you have any closing comments on anything we haven't touched on?

FETZER: There are signs that ICA is now beginning to be well-recognized throughout the industry, and I think the general public is beginning to hear more about it. It puts a lot of responsibility on ICA to become even more professional than we have been in the past. There'll be some changes, perhaps not sudden, but over the next year you're going to see a lot of change in direction of ICA, because we have been spending a lot of time planning.

CN: What are some of those changes in direction?

FETZER: I think the first one you'll see is changes in the ICA office in the next few months. Beyond that, we're looking at restructuring the board to take a lot of the operational duties off the board and put them in the office and allow the board to spend more time on policy matters.

CN: Jack, we appreciate your views and insight on ICA. See you in Las Vegas!
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Author:Wiley, D.
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:interview
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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