Network management is no longer only concerned with the physical implementation of networking equipment, connectivity or bandwidth control. Instead it is concerned with issues like staff empowerment, performance-led convergence, how to enable remote working and indirect improvements to decision-making and corporate agility.
This means businesses want stellar application performance and need 100 per cent uptime 24/7. The enterprise lacks the patience for ‘adequate’ connectivity or application execution, and the speed of conducting business has pushed the network to the forefront of the c-level agenda. After all, whether senior management realises it or not, the network has become the heartbeat of every business decision.
Time for passion
This is good news for IT managers as it clarifies the route to business success. However, operational excellence is only achievable if the necessary IT infrastructure is in place to facilitate it. All businesses should be focusing on what can be done to enhance application performance and boost security, as well as improving their staff’s general working environment.
First should come the identification phase - find out what makes a competent network provider. This is generally down to the matching of company cultures, whether it is corporate flexibility, performance-led solution selling, cost-conscious billing or zealous customer care.
The provider should be capable of meeting the unique requirements of each business. Shoehorning its connectivity portfolio onto an organisation is not beneficial to either side of the agreement. It is widespread knowledge that implementing an unsuitable network yields regular downtime, wastes financial and time investment, creates disruptive maintenance periods and prompts sub-standard connectivity across the business.
The right provider recognises the intrinsic link between a customer’s experience and the supporting technology. Businesses should not be looking for anything else - they need the full network package to ensure their business can thrive and survive through market fluctuations, new sales cycles and as recent history has shown, economic crises.
Trust is everything. Alongside smoother connectivity should be a direct sales revenue increase, improvements to staff productivity and better global collaboration. A competent network should also cope with the bandwidth demands of unified communications, video, immersive telepresence, remote working and recent developments like mobile services and big data.
This is even more essential for a multinational corporation that needs to manage its network across multiple sites, all of which have unique requirements, bandwidth profiles and, most likely, partner relationships. Businesses should be looking at service level agreements (SLAs) that promise flawless performance and management.
Furthermore, providers that take customer success personally have a beneficial supplier profile. A sense of ‘implementation pride’ and network ownership is rare in the current marketplace, but it goes a long way to ensuring both provider and business are happy. Remember, networking is not a commodity; it is a collaboration that must be taken seriously at every stage.
Confidence, trust and transparency
So now we know what characteristics businesses should be looking for in a provider, but what about the actual network technology? A provider that is serious about customer care is fine, but if the underlying technology struggles, there will be large disparities between the customer’s expectations and what is actually delivered.
Businesses must trust their network. They should have peace of mind that it will be reliable, not fail and will scale with growth. A network should drive business, not hold it back. The technology should go beyond what is expected and it should offer real-time visibility so IT management can effectively control the business.
Without these features, IT managers will spend their time battling failures, wasting resources trying to figure out what and where infrastructure is struggling and ultimately, have difficulties delivering what staff expect from their workplace.
Collaboration for better ROI
Essentially network implementation is about return on investment (ROI). Choosing an inadequate provider that does not value its customer relationships or one lacking the desired technological innovation / intelligence for conducting business on a global scale will provide a diminished return on investment (ROI).
The network should not only deal with the now, but it should look to the future and accommodate the past. Legacy systems should be incorporated when possible (unless their integration will have a severe detrimental effect) to further the business’s ROI. Likewise, new systems and embedded technologies should be rolled-out as soon as possible to ensure the business stays ahead of its competition.
Again, this agility is only possible through provider and end-user collaboration. The provider must understand what the business wants from its network and at the same time, if there are new unproven technologies, the provider should be firm in what it is recommending to customers to ensure they trust its decision.
For example, the past several years have seen businesses focus heavily on cloud-enablement - an approach that is not possible with cookie-cutter solutions. Those that have succeeded from a growth point of view (and technology perspective) are the businesses that recognised this trend and worked with their network provider to enable it across their organisations.
Bespoke at every turn
The same is occurring with unified communications, the creation of ‘anywhere, anytime, any device’ company cultures, as well as the widespread uptake of ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policies, the need to meet big data transmittance demands and general mobile services.
The marketplace is always changing, but the business basics are not. The network’s core characteristics remain unaltered - there will always be a need for greater performance, bandwidth management and global connectivity.
Businesses that address the need for a high performance network now will be those that succeed tomorrow. Companies that ignore the pressing need for a symbiotic relationship between network provider and the business will surely struggle as the marketplace becomes more competitive and mobile-driven.