Achieving Unified Oversight of Your Mission-critical IT Infrastructure

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1 Achieving Unified Oversight of Your Mission-critical IT Infrastructure By Jim Huebner, Director, CompuCom Network Solutions Portfolio Big Data, cloud, mobility, social interaction: These mutually reinforcing trends place the network at the center of the enterprise. But because of the size and complexity of their operations, many organizations struggle to manage their networks effectively. An overburdened IT department expends significant resources simply staying afloat, with limited ability to respond to rapid change or focus on financial and operational impacts. Given these inherent challenges, how can you better manage complexity, drive strategic success and position your network operations for innovation and growth? 1

2 Every organization has a network. For large enterprises, midsize companies and small businesses alike, the network is the foundation of all operations the bridge that binds together employees and connects with customers. Moreover, as data becomes pervasive, workers become more mobile, and everyone becomes more digitally empowered, the network s importance is only growing. The trouble is many organizations lack the human and financial resources to effectively manage the network. This is true for small businesses with limited IT departments, midsize organizations grappling with budgetary constraints and large enterprises facing rapid market change. The IT department would be the first to admit this reality. It s not for lack of skills or desire. Rather, IT increasingly must enable strategic business initiatives, respond to rapid technology change and empower demanding end users. And, it must achieve this within tight budgetary restrictions. These factors become a particular issue in the face of network problems hardware outages, performance slowdowns, network downtime. IT scrambles to react, while vendors and service providers point fingers. Network hardware vendors look to blame the circuit. Telecom carriers say the problem must lie with the routers or switches. Meanwhile, business grinds to a halt with measurable monetary, competitive and customer service repercussions. The solution is straightforward, but for many organizations it has been difficult to achieve. What s needed is a single point of accountability for network effectiveness. And, given the constraints of nearly all IT organizations that means working with a managed services provider. By identifying and working with the service provider that s the best fit for your enterprise, you can make sure IT becomes a strategic partner of the business and that the network becomes an enabler of your success. Who s Running IT? Power is shifting. Stakeholders outside IT are increasingly involved in sourcing for solutions that enable new digital services, according to Gartner. 3 For example, marketing organizations are involved in network solutions that impact customer experience, Gartner says. Sales organizations have a say in network services for enterprise customers. How can IT maintain governance and control while delivering the reliability, flexibility and capabilities the business demands? Through a single point of network accountability that delivers key advantages: Performance metrics and monitoring that make sure the network supports business goals. Effective management of physical and virtual infrastructure. Ongoing network optimization that identifies potential problems before they happen and continually tweaks network design and performance. Minimization of network incidents and poor network performance. Responsiveness to rapid change and greater demands for IT agility. A progressive shift in IT focus from merely supporting operations to actually enabling business strategy. 2

3 Doubling Down on Networks Your customers are increasingly connected, engaging with brands across online, mobile and social channels. Your employees are equally network-enabled, demanding anywhere, anytime access to the data and tools that empower them to do their jobs. As more Millennials enter the workplace, the always-on, ever-available imperative will only increase. That means IT needs a laser focus on network performance and availability. At the same time, IT is being asked to lower its costs, and to change the way it spends. Spending on infrastructure and operations (I&O) is being reduced as a proportion of the overall IT budget. In fact, in 2013, I&O was at its lowest proportional level since 2007, according to Gartner.1 But that isn t enough. In 2013, organizations dedicated nearly one-third of their IT budget to infrastructure, according to a survey of 800 executives by McKinsey & Co. Yet executives expect their IT departments to reduce infrastructure to less than one-fifth of spending by (See Figure 1.) IT Spending Breakdown % 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Infrastructure Core Applications User Collaboration Security Analytics Innovation Other Figure 1: Executives expect their IT functions to spend less on infrastructure and more on innovation. 1 Building an Agile Operation Means More Than Just Keeping the Lights On, Gartner, July

4 As IT spends less on infrastructure, executives expect the function to shift its focus to strategic issues. In fact, the role of IT is evolving from a supporter of basic IT operations to a critical enabler of the business, suggests Gartner data. (See Figure 2.) Top 10 CIO Business Priorities Top 10 CIO Technology Priorities 1. Increase enterprise growth 1. Analytics and business intelligence 2. Attract and retain customers 2. Mobile 3. Reduce enterprise costs 3. Cloud 4. Create new products and services 4. Collaboration technologies 5. Deliver operational results 5. Virtualization 6. Improve efficiency 6. Legacy modernization 7. Boost profitability 7. IT management 8. Attract and retain talent 8. CRM 9. Build marketing sales effectiveness 9. ERP 10. Expand into new markets 10. Security Figure 2: The role of IT is evolving from a supporter of basic IT operations to a critical enabler of business. Source: Gartner Executive Programs In response, many IT organizations look for outside help. Often that means engaging multiple vendors for network equipment and carrier service, resulting in multiple contracts and inefficient billing processes. At a time when IT needs to be more strategically engaged, it can mean added administrative concerns. These realities present IT with several challenges. You need to work with providers focused only on the functionality of their own solutions. You have to monitor and maintain network health across platforms and locations. You must interpret monitoring results in disparate vendor formats. And, you need to do all that while managing costs around growing demand for state-of-the-art data and applications. The repercussions are numerous, including: Greater costs to monitor and manage your network Higher likelihood of IT performance issues and network downtime Lower end-user satisfaction and productivity Measurable impacts on process performance, customer service and other issues that can directly affect business results Not surprisingly, organizations aren t pleased with this situation. In fact, 58 percent want more proactive support for continuous improvement from their IT providers, according to Gartner.2 And 78 percent expect more flexibility from IT providers in ongoing engagements. 2, 3 CSP Digital Crisis Signals Opportunities for IT Service Providers, Gartner, September

5 Where the Buck Stops The solution should be straightforward: A single point of accountability for distributed network monitoring and management, whether that s for the network hardware behind your four walls, or the long-haul circuits that connect your disparate operations. But in general, network hardware vendors and telecom carriers aren t set up to provide that breadth of management and control. Instead, organizations need to identify a provider of managed services that offers the right combination of service level agreements (SLAs), flexibility, reach and responsiveness that meets their business needs. Most crucially, they need a service provider that offers a single point of accountability across the distributed network, including: Sales and installation. Ongoing management of network hardware such as routers and switches. Implementation and management of distributed network circuits. Integrated management tools and monitoring capabilities across the infrastructure. The benefits of this approach are fairly self-evident and straightforward to measure: Reduced complexity First, a single point of network accountability should help you reduce the complexity of managing your network, cloud and mobile infrastructures. That should reduce your total cost of ownership, and position IT to be more responsive to evolving business priorities. Improved IT management For the IT organization itself, you ll need fewer resources to manage daily network operations. That can enable you to reduce staff not an uncommon directive in today s economic environment. Or it can equip you to redeploy IT talent on engineering and architecture, and on your strategic approach to how IT will meet business needs. Better business enablement Finally, standardized reporting and greater insight into network availability and usage will help IT better prioritize network resources, adapt the network to changing needs, predict problems and respond to them before they occur, and optimize capacity planning and performance. In short, you ll be providing the right resources to the right people at the right time. That will help maximize end-user satisfaction and productivity, and it will help the network do what the business needs it to do: empower workers, optimize operations, serve customers and help grow the business. Single Point of Network Accountability CompuCom Network Access Solution Enabled by AT&T takes an integrated approach to network life cycle and carrier services to offer you a truly complete, single-source network solution. Key functionality and deliverables enable you to: Benefit from any-to-any connectivity backed by industry leading SLAs. Leverage pre-integrated, ready-to-deploy network toolsets and best practices. View daily graphical reports that display your traffic profile, with average and peak statistics. Deploy a network solution with the right products and services for wireline, telephony and mobile. Establish capacity trends for both circuits and devices so you can purchase the right bandwidth, prioritize traffic and avoid capacity shortfalls. Improve overall costs through faster problem resolution and higher uptime. Enable strategic business objectives by optimizing the way your distributed network communicates and responds. 5

6 Virtue of Necessity What should you look for in a single point of network accountability? Each organization will want to assess the capabilities of a service provider against its own unique industry, market and competitive needs. However, there are several standards of effectiveness that any provider of such managed services should measure up to: Hardware certifications Your service provider should offer a depth of resources certified in network hardware from leading vendors, such as Cisco Gold Certification, and should work directly with the vendor s support team, such as the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC). That will give your provider the access and processes to quickly drill down to the source of any network problems. It will also enable your provider to resolve issues quickly for example, by getting patches installed remotely. Carrier partnerships Your provider should also work directly with major telecom carriers such as AT&T. That will enable it to troubleshoot not only your internal infrastructure but also the carrier circuits. Few providers offer this capability, but it s crucial to ensuring a single point of network accountability. Monitoring and reporting Your vendor should offer a robust portfolio of network monitoring tools that can quickly get to the root cause of problems. It should also possess the tools and experience to offer both performance and capacity management. That will enable you to optimize your environment, cost-effectively expanding or reducing bandwidth to reflect changing needs. Network performance portal Your vendor should also provide a network performance portal to give you a clear picture of your network in near real time. That visibility should include alerts if capacity thresholds are exceeded, so you can address potential problems before they become critical, and so you can track trends to determine if your network requires reconfiguration or expansion. Incidence response Your vendor should be able to not only to monitor your network 24x7 and give you near-realtime performance analysis, but also to immediately take action in response to a network outage to rapidly get you back up and running. What s more, it should be equipped to take that action end-to-end, for your local-area network, your wide-area network, your wireless network and every switch, router and circuit along the way. Coverage and reliability You don t necessarily have to work with the largest service provider. But it should have the resources, experience, coverage and stability to treat your network like the mission-critical infrastructure it is. The company should offer an SLA at the same level you d expect from a leading network-hardware vendor or telecom carrier. Your service provider should go beyond the SLA to understand your unique environment and your business objectives so that it can help align your network with those goals. Regular business reviews should help you analyze network issues that have arisen and recognize business changes, such as data growth or new locations, which could affect network performance. Finally, look for a service provider that provides flexibility to reflect your business needs. For example, you might require network monitoring but not incident management. Or you might want incident management but not capacity planning. Your vendor should offer services the way you want them, so that they support your business. How will you know your investment in a single point of network accountability is paying off? The key performance indicators should be clear. You should see an overall reduction in the total cost of managing your network. You should notice measurable improvements in network performance and availability. And over time, your network should become more responsive to the business, with payoffs like improved employee satisfaction and better customer service levels to prove it. In summary, networks are hardly new. But their importance to the business will only continue to grow. Engaging a single point of accountability for your end-to-end network monitoring, management and optimization can position IT to respond to rapidly changing imperatives and become a key enabler of the business. 6

7 ABOUT COMPUCOM CompuCom Systems, Inc., a global company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, provides IT managed services, infrastructure solutions, consulting and products to Fortune 1000 companies committed to enhancing their end users experience. Founded in 1987, privately held CompuCom employs approximately 11,500 associates. For more information, visit CompuCom Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. CompuCom, Solution Café and ClientLink are registered trademarks of CompuCom Systems, Inc. All other trademarks and product names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners in the United States, Canada and/ or other countries. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. 7

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