Whether you're providing services, consulting or software development, it's all the same, success in network projects comes down to organization: developing processes and sticking to them. Throwing money or time at an organizational problem just adds fuels to the fire – it doesn't control the fire.
One of the things we've been doing that's recommended in network projects is developing a way to monitor projects. There's a lot of open source software, such as Nagios, that can help you to keep track of systems that you installed. You can set up monitoring and make sure you have operations that set up a timeline and track the project from logistics to completion.
Successful service providers spend the extra time to make sure the project's done right, that all the steps are covered with a checklist that they have to go through. I can't tell you how many times we've seen companies work on a project, get 95% of it done, but then have the last 5% become a time and money sink. Things start to break down and they have to do extra work because that 5% wasn't thought out.
It's very easy to hop into a network project because you're on the clock, and once you close the deal you want to get it done as quickly as possible to be able to move on to the next one to realize that income. But the fatal flaw for most of these tech companies is that if it's not done the right way, it will come back to haunt you every single time. When that happens, the project will end up as a total loss in the long run because there were problems in the design that could have been avoided.
We've developed a four-phased approach to avoid such problems. When you first meet the prospect and it's a decently sized project, you cannot come up with an accurate bid without a good amount of data collection first. This way, service providers can head off a lot of the inefficiencies in a network architecture project. A lot of time midmarket IT projects fail or don't go through because of that lack of organization by the service provider.
Our methodology is a recipe for success in network projects because it involves the minimal amount of people and the minimal amount of resources and lets you to get a maximum return. There are four billable phases:
- Discovery: You document the present and future state of the network. The deliverable is a written report documenting the present state of the network and what is expected for the future state in a phased implementation approach. The customer could theoretically take that report and go to a different vendor, but we've seen that most customers appreciate our due diligence. Plus, the customer doesn't have to drop $200,000 off the bat for a good-sized network project; they can take it in bite-sized pieces.
- Design: You specify in detail the equipment and labor requirements to achieve the future state of the network. We spend a few days, again on an hourly rate, to spec out the project – what equipment we'll need to buy, how many hours it's going to take and define the project to the last detail. The deliverable is a project specification report. I've never seen a case where we do a design, and the client goes off to another company.
- Deployment: This is the phase where you schedule and execute the project to achieve the final state.
- Maintenance: This final phase of the project involves monitoring and maintaining completed systems for continued operations.
By following this project lifecycle, staying organized and defining everything along the way and setting expectations straight, the customer knows exactly what they're going to get by the time they're done. There's no rework that needs to be done because the network project was all done the right way in the first place.
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