Perhaps the most important part of gathering information for any network design project is determining an organization’s business goals. While implementing a new network that supports a variety of new applications and services may be the main deliverable for a project, this outcome is usually driven by business needs. Very few companies have the resources (monetary or otherwise) to implement technology for technology’s sake. Instead, they have specific organizational goals, which technologies like a new or redesigned network are implemented to support and enhance. In almost all cases, business needs drive technology, and not vice versa. This is an important distinction that many IT people often overlook.
The bullet points below outline some common business goals that you should be familiar with. Others certainly do exist, but almost all can be broadly characterized with the categories provided.
- Increase productivity. Increasing productivity is a central goal of just about all organizations. For example, a company may want make employees more efficient, helping them to spend more time on their core responsibilities. Similarly, a manufacturing company may be looking to implement new communications processes for advanced monitoring, thereby reducing downtime. Anything that relates to increasing productivity or efficiency can safely be considered a business goal.
- Improve customer support. All organizations rely upon their customer base in order to survive. Regardless of industry, a company without customers soon ceases to be one. As globalization makes competition fiercer, companies need to look towards improved methods of communication with and supporting their customers. For example, perhaps the goal of a company is to consolidate customer management functions, or shift all order processing and procurement to a new online system. Both would be examples of a business goal, namely improving customer support.
- Reduce costs. One major reason for implementing a new or redesigned network is to help reduce costs, both in the short and longer term. Although implementing a network generally involves a fairly large initial capital investment, it may have a significant impact on reducing costs in the long term. For example, perhaps a company is looking to implement a Voice over IP solution in order to reduce costs associated with long distance calls, or a new VPN in order to allow staff to work from home, reducing the need for office space and related equipment.
- Improve partner relationships. For many companies, managing partnerships or associated relationships effectively is critical to their line of business. For example, an automobile manufacturer relies upon potentially hundreds of suppliers to ensure that it can produce completed vehicles. When companies have different internal processes and methods for exchanging information, this can become a daunting task. As such, many companies now look to implement systems to tie into those of their partners, streamlining processes and communications. While implementing an extranet might be a technical goal, improving and streamlining processes between organizations would be the associated business goal.