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Blog: Why buying networks and telecoms is like painting my front door
Over the final few weekends of summer, I painted my front door. Thanks for asking – it looks great. During the long hours of stripping and sanding, I got thinking about some interesting parallels with my day job of buying networks and telecoms. Bear with me – it wasn’t the fumes…
The first parallel is one we get asked about a lot at TNC – when should you just throw on a quick lick of paint, and when is it time to do a proper job and strip the door back to the wood? Well, of course in TNC we get asked when a customer should negotiate a renewal with their incumbent provider, and when do they need to go to tender and have a proper look at the market, but you get the point.
Whether doors or WANs, the answer is the same – if your WAN is in broadly good condition and doing broadly what you need, you can probably get away with renewing with your incumbent, if they align pricing to the latest market trends etc. That is far quicker and easier than a full competitive tender, and gives you time to focus on other projects, like painting the spare room.
By contrast, if you have a significant technology deficit, poor service, and/or major new solution requirements, that’s when a competitive tender is almost certainly the right approach. Whilst a tender can be a daunting prospect, the rigour of the approach means it almost always delivers the best results. Where organisations try to complete major change through direct renegotiation with incumbents, the results are often poor, and 6, 12 or 24 months in, they wish they had done it right. Much like me regretting the quick paint job I did last time, which quickly cracked and severely dented my house’s “kerb appeal”.
The second parallel is about complexity and time. Very often organisations significantly underestimate the complexity and time required to complete either a renegotiation or a tender. Much like my door taking two weekends rather than my original and optimistic plan of getting it done in one weekend, great results do take time. At TNC, we regularly see organisations setting over-ambitious targets for how quickly they can complete procurement processes, and how little resource these processes will require, only to find that they are still hard at it, months after their original deadline.
The real risk here is that these false deadlines lead to bad decisions. Organisations think they can complete a tender more quickly than reality, so leave it too late and lose their leverage. Or organisations think they can complete a really quick renegotiation so don’t go to tender even when they really should, and end up with a much worse deal and not much more quickly.
The lesson really is to plan the timetable very carefully. These processes always take longer than you think, and remember that you aren’t exclusively in charge of the timetable – the service providers have their timetables too, and sometimes it rains and you just have to go back inside and watch the cricket.
However, my biggest parallel is this – it’s always worth taking the proper time to do a proper job – you have to live with your network and telecoms services for many years and you’ll thank yourself afterwards for not cutting corners. Just don’t buy a purple network – the colour was chosen by my daughters!