Introduction

For those of us who have been in the network industry a long time, we can surely agree on one thing: deploying networks is easily the least sexy job, right? Right?

Well, it might still not be very sexy, but it has definitely become ultra-critical - if you want to achieve excellence with your networks, you need to get great at transition, and quick.

As with everything in our massively dynamic industry, the criticality of network transition is changing at a very rapid pace, and TNC’s latest research has identified four key reasons for this:

  1. Deploying new technologies such as SD-WAN has many more challenges
  2. Network criticality has hugely increased, so you can’t afford to mess up transition
  3. Network transition is now driven by business objectives, so timescales are far tighter and failure far more visible (and unforgivable)
  4. Internal teams are more stretched than ever before

Let’s examine each of these drivers in detail:

New Technology

TNC’s latest research is revealing some very interesting challenges organisations are encountering in their deployments of new technologies, such as SD-WAN:

  • Service provider skills gap Technologies like SD-WAN are still cutting-edge and the service providers have much less experience deploying these solutions than with more traditional solutions such as MPLS. As a result, they have pockets of experience and knowledge but lack the broad-base of skills across their deployment and engineering teams. The end result can be that they appear to be learning as they go along, and therefore unexpected issues and delays can arise
  • Internal skills gap Just as the service providers lack experience with these new technologies, so do many internal IT teams, with the same results – unexpected complications or delays can easily result. In particular TNC has heard a lot of feedback from IT teams saying that deployments of these new technologies were much more difficult than they expected (or had led to be believed by the service providers during the sales process)

Solution Criticality

Another key finding from TNC’s latest research was that the increasing business criticality of many new network solutions is making transition in turn a far more critical activity. One of the most common examples revealed by this research is that many network initiatives are required to support specific business objectives, such as enabling new revenue streams. In these circumstances, it is no longer enough to deploy the new network capability successfully – it must also be deployed in accordance with the wider business objectives and timelines.

Of course, this has implications both to the internal IT team tasked with the transition but also for the service provider delivering the solution. In both cases, it is critical that the solution has been effectively scoped, the resources and skills are in place to ensure the deployment is successful, and the relevant tools, data, dependencies etc. are effectively understood.

Failure is
No Longer an Option

Linked to the point above, the visibility of network transition has never been higher. Whilst no-one would ever have thought that failure was ever OK, in the past a delayed network deployment may have had no impact beyond the network or, worst case, IT team. However, now that network deployments are critical to support wider business objectives (whether new contact centre capabilities, support integration of businesses, facilitating new revenue streams etc.), failed transition now impacts much more widely within an organisation.

For these reasons, TNC’s research increasingly highlights the importance organisations attach not just to the ultimate success of their network transition, but also that this is achieved within tight timelines to align with wider business objectives.

Stretched Internal Resources

All of these transition challenges are coming just as TNC’s research is showing that internal teams are stretched like never before. TNC has identified two key drivers for this resource challenge:

  • For many organisations there remains a continued focus on cost, meaning headcount continues to be constrained
  • IT solutions are ever more critical to the wider business objectives for many organisations, driving continual demand for IT services and support

As a consequence, many IT organisations have the ability to support the “Business as Usual” requirements but have much less capability to deal with major spikes in demand such as would occur when deploying a new network solution.

As noted above, this resource challenge is likely to be compounded by a potential skills gap for some new technologies, meaning resourcing major transition programmes can be extremely challenging.

What’s the Solution?

Of course, it’s not enough just to identify the problem - our research has identified and captured the innovative solutions that many organisations are starting to use to address exactly these challenges. These include:

  • Pre-planning The most successful organisations plan to address the challenges of successful transition early in their procurement process and therefore are ready to mobilise quickly and effectively. This means making transition a key element in their procurement processes, whilst also taking internal steps to understand and address skills gaps
  • Tackle dependencies As with pre-planning, the most successful organisations start to address dependencies during the period when they are procuring their new solutions so they have the data, tools etc. in place on day one, rather than having to scrabble for this information when it is already too late
  • Clear demarcation of responsibilities It is vital to clearly understand what your service provider will do during transition, and what you will have to do yourselves. Many organisations make the mistake of thinking “the service provider will do that”, and then are shocked to find how many dependencies are on them once the contract is signed
  • Resource the project right from day one The biggest single mistake TNC’s research shows is how many organisations fail to resource the project properly at the start, leading to significant delays and potential cost over-runs. There are two main reasons for this: an attempt to minimise costs, and/or underestimating the complexity of the project. The lessons of TNC’s research are clear – resource the project properly from day one maximises the chances of success and on-time delivery
  • Build transition into your business case The most successful organisations TNC surveyed built the costs of transition into their wider business case, meaning they had the resources they required to execute their project successfully. By contrast, those organisations that failed to do this were always trying to beg, borrow or steal resources for the project which resulted in significant deployment problems

As networks become ever more critical to most businesses, getting transition right is going to be ever more important. Here at TNC, we believe that the path to successful deployment is clear – don’t leave thinking about deployment until it’s too late, and make sure you have the right people with the right skills to lead this critical activity. After all, transition is the new battleground for network excellence and you never want to go into battle without being equipped for victory.

Disclaimer

Other than matters relating to The Network Collective, this research is based on current public information that we consider reliable. Opinions expressed may change without notice and may differ from views set out in other documents created by The Network Collective. The above information is provided for informational purposes only and without any obligation, whether contractual or otherwise. No warranty or representation is made as to the correctness, completeness and accuracy of the information given or the assessments made.

This research does not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations, or needs of individual clients. Clients should consider whether any advice or recommendation in this research is suitable for their particular circumstances and, if appropriate, seek professional advice.

No part of this material may be (i) copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or (ii) redistributed without the prior written consent of The Network Collective Limited © 2019

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