This article is the first in a series on best practices for service delivery as it relates to translating customer needs into network services.
Network services can be defined many ways. Some examples include deployment of VoIP (Voice over IP) and video over IP services or business-critical applications like SAP, customer relationship management (CRM), or Citrix, which depend on the network to function. The majority of organizations today rely heavily on the network and network service delivery capabilities to run their businesses. In most cases, there are usually technology modifications or deployments required to enable those network capabilities and services.
Business requirements drive technology initiatives. Therefore, understanding and capturing the customer's most important business requirements and translating those into technical requirements and technology solutions is a critical aspect of successful network service delivery.
Gathering requirements is an intensive process. In general there are three key areas of requirements that need to be addressed. The areas are:
- Business requirements
- Technology and technical requirements
- Integration requirements
Business requirements focus on understanding where the customer is going in terms of future expansion into new markets, deployment of new service capabilities, funding and executive vision for the organization. In most environments, it is a business decision that drives IT initiatives.
The IT department is responsible for network reach, support for mission critical application delivery and uptime and performance of the network. Sometimes the IT department communicates with the business units and vice versa, but at other times, IT is in reactive mode.
It is recommended to define and capture business requirements up to three years out to determine what network services will be needed to support the customer's business.
Technology and technical requirements
Technology and technical requirements are defined after business requirements and are, in fact, driven by the business requirements. Technology requirements include determinations of vendor alignment and standardization requirements. The technical requirements are details of the design of the solutions that will be deployed to support the business services. The business is enabled via applications delivered over the network, so there are key technical requirements that must be addressed, including:
- Architecture requirements: These provide input to decisions around major network technology decisions in key areas such as LAN and WAN, data center and operations. Examples include Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) for WAN transport, data center consolidation, and centralized versus distributed IT operations.
- Bandwidth and scalability requirements: These define where application services need to be delivered and how much bandwidth is required. This drives decisions around WAN reach and remote access as well as infrastructure sizing.
- Integration requirements: These requirements drive technology decisions such as vendor functionality and interoperability with the current systems.
- Management Requirements: These define how the network will be managed from a fault, configuration and performance aspect.
- Security requirements: These define how application services will be secured. With new federal and state regulations, requirements for restricting access, authenticating users and encrypting data in transit and at rest all need to be defined.
Integration requirements define the deployment process, timeline, tasks and resource allocations necessary for the customer. Some key questions to ask related to integration include:
- Does the customer require project management for deploying new network services?
- Has the customer defined all of the tasks that are necessary to deploy new network services?
- Has the customer identified the timelines for deploying the new network services?
- Does the customer have the internal resources necessary to deploy new network services?
- Has the customer developed a detailed project plan to drive the execution of the project?
Each and every one of the requirements above must be defined and understood. These requirements drive actual decisions or activities related to deploying new network services and can go a long way in facilitating success.
About the author:
Robbie Harrell (CCIE#3873) is the National Practice Lead for Advanced Infrastructure Solutions for AT&T. He has more than 10 years of experience providing strategic, business and technical consulting services. Robbie lives in Atlanta and is a graduate of Clemson University. His background includes positions as a principal architect at International Network Services, Lucent, Frontway, Callisma and SBC Communications.