• United States



by John Stehman

Translating IT Business Requirements into Appropriate Network Technology Choices

Sep 15, 20049 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

RFG believes numerous enterprises neglect to translate key business and application requirements effectively into salient selection criteria for network technology solutions. However, the failure to identify key business requirements for adopting any technology selection generates several disconcerting problems for IT. Some examples of the potential problems include disproportionate costs for network services, achievement of only mediocre application performance levels, a high potential for security issues, and disgruntled users. IT executives should assume the responsibility to verify that strategic business requirements are identified and satisfied by technology choices, and that the selected solution remains congruent with business needs for the required timeframe. IT executives should also appreciate that the best methodology to achieve these goals is to construct business application profiles (BAPs) and user application profiles (UAPs) that identify and focus on key business and application requirements.

Business Imperatives:

  • Identifying the strategic business requirements a network technology solution must support represents a mandatory step towards making an appropriate and effective technology choice. On the other hand, failure to adhere to this tenet can easily cripple an enterprises network capabilities and also result in unanticipated and unwelcome expenses. IT executives should verify that they have identified the explicit business requirements a technology must meet and support prior to issuing any request for proposal (RFP) or request for information (RFI).
  • In some cases, enterprises may not be familiar with the steps required to identify business requirements for a network technology selection. In this case, business application profiles (BAPs) and user application profiles (UAPs) should be constructed to identify the salient points with which any technology must comply. IT executives should not overlook the overall importance and value of conducting a highly focused workshop on how to craft and utilize BAPs and UAPs when planning new technology implementations.
  • Typically, many network services and/or product selections are assumed to have a three-year life period, even though both shorter and longer-term timeframes exist in many enterprises. Regardless of the timeframe, IT executives should consider several key factors to assist them in charting the compatibility index of technology solutions against specific and ongoing business needs. IT executives should look ahead, at least for an eighteen month period, to verify that a technology solution complies with the required availability, costs, flexibility, performance, and security mandated by business needs.

In various instances, the premature failure of a selected network technology to perform as promised remains something of a mystery to many enterprises until a closer scrutiny of the problem is performed. The problem is even more perplexing because most IT executives certainly possess the required business savvy essential to running their IT operation effectively and efficiently. Likewise, in most cases, IT executives should have prepared a well-crafted request for proposal (RFP) that addresses their issues very succinctly. However, upon closer examination of the situation, the facts indicate that many executives fail to include or consider the network technology selection process as a fundamental part of their operational charter. Similarly, concise RFPs are not always prepared or utilized as a critical part of the technology selection criteria.

Moreover, in numerous instances, network technology selections are based predominantly on obtaining the lowest cost that can be negotiated for either a two or three year timeframe. In numerous cases, technically astute subject matter experts (SMEs) are given the lead and sole responsibility for selecting a suitable network technology. Although SMEs may be experts in specific technology areas, many lack the broad business acumen IT executives possess. When it comes to identifying and considering the operational and business related requirements a new technology solution must deliver, additional support is needed. For example, some SMEs may be unfamiliar with the life expectancy of the application(s) the technology solution must provide. In this scenario, not including critical information during the technology selection process could be crippling to the enterprise. IT executives should be aware of this potential problem situation and be prepared to step in and provide the required business perspective and guidance SMEs may not have.

Furthermore, although SMEs are undoubtedly a valuable enterprise asset, when it comes to selecting business critical technology solutions, they should be part of an enterprise technology team chartered with evaluating and selecting technology solutions holistically. From a best practice perspective, when considering important technology choices, IT executives should charter a cross-functional technology selection team comprised of members from accounting, contracts, development operations, technical support, and the user environment. The network technology selection team should be held accountable for reporting their findings to senior management and for obtaining executive approval prior to moving forward with any technology contract negotiations or implementations.

As previously mentioned, any failure on the part of IT executives to adopt a holistic viewpoint when evaluating potential technology solutions will likely result in unplanned problems that should have been identified and resolved. RFG has discovered, based on client experience, that a failure on the part of IT executives to consider several straightforward questions listed below can generate significant problems for the enterprise as time goes on.

  • What are the specific availability and performance requirements that the selected technology must meet for both the application and the user environment?
  • What is the estimated lifespan for the specific business application(s) the network technology solution must support, and are they congruent over this time period?
  • What compatibility issues exist between the technology solution, including the service level agreement (SLA), and enterprise requirements, and how will they be resolved?
  • Does the selected technology solution provide adequate enterprise security?

In addition, IT executives should consider that a multi-year contract, or product amortization period, represents a long interval for todays dynamic technology offerings. Consequently, it is important to verify that the selected technology solution and its associated life cycle will remain synchronized with enterprise needs. The end result is that countless network services or product solutions fail to remain congruent with enterprise business requirements as time goes on and problems quickly occur.

RFG has also established that a failure to properly construct and utilize BAPs and UAPs is one of the principal reasons why network technology solutions consistently fail to deliver the value proposition expected over time. In many instances, it is also challenging for the enterprise to organize cross-functional team members to work together to evaluate and select new technology solutions because of time constraints and the lack of specific experience in this critical area.

Accordingly, RFG has developed a concentrated methodology that includes an evaluation framework and a hands-on workshop to assist those companies that require a fast-path approach to rapidly identify and develop the deliverables and the associated best practices required to choose new technology successfully. A few highlights of the important areas on which RFG focuses and which should be incorporated in any formal workshop that addresses network technology selection include the following items:

  • Description of the methodology that will be used for technology selection purposes
  • Identification of the value proposition for selecting new network technology
  • An overview of the importance of BAPs and UAPs and how they fit into the selection process
  • Network technology refresh planning and best practices
  • Alignment of technology delivery capabilities with enterprise requirements
  • SLA development and best practices
  • Construction of a technology selection roadmap
  • IT executives already recognize the fact that most important enterprise technology decisions can easily run in the hundreds-of-thousands to millions of dollars range. Therefore, a fast-path workshop approach that minimizes executive resources and analysis time to successfully complete a technology evaluation/selection process can deliver a strong return-on-value proposition.

Another critical misstep numerous enterprises make in the technology selection process is failing to align the application(s) requirements with the technology delivery capabilities over the required time period. As an example, if the need for data transmission rates will increase over time, the technology must provide a compatible and cost-effective upgrade path to support this requirement. This example becomes more critical for large, geographically dispersed networks because an upgrade to a higher speed service or technology may not be available in all locations. Unless these types of issues are addressed early in the evaluation process, problems will result. IT executives should verify that network technology refresh planning is successfully completed and that the selected technology choice is viable, or has an acceptable upgrade path, for both the short and long term.

Predicting and tracking enterprise business and application requirements versus a technology solution’s capabilities is an iterative process that must be revalidated on a yearly basis. Although it is still possible to encounter a gap between the two items at some time during a multi-year period, the impact is likely to be far less severe and interruptive. A condensed list of some of the salient points to consider and flush out is listed below.

  • Verify that accurate BAPs and UAPs are constructed, validated, and updated on a regular basis.
  • Include a life cycle for all business important applications that will utilize a new technology solution including the performance requirements that are essential over time.
  • Compare the requirements above to the service provider or vendor’s network technology refresh plan.
  • Identify all significant gaps and do not proceed until they are fully resolved.
  • Ensure that an effective and enforceable SLA is negotiated that covers all penalty situations, performance metrics, service guarantees, and upgrade requirements.

RFG believes unless enterprises effectively identify and translate business and application requirements into key selection criteria for new technology solutions, trouble will quickly occur. In many instances, technology selection is based primarily on cost and technical parameters while important business aspects and application needs are overlooked. IT executives should take the responsibility and initiative to ensure that important technology selections are based on a holistic view of the enterprises requirements and are not simply the result of overall cost and esoteric technical considerations.

RFG analyst John Stehman wrote this Research Note. Interested parties should contact RFG Client Services to arrange further discussion or an interview with Mr. Stehman.