Aligning Your Network to Business Objectives

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Just as wheel alignment is critical for a vehicle to travel correctly, network-business alignment is vital for organizational success. In its most basic form, wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. Network-business alignment consists of linking the configuration, management, troubleshooting, maintenance and installation of a network to company imperatives.

“Organizations purchase network equipment to achieve some sort of goal with the business—whether it is to make something easier and faster or secure. If you are trying to manage technology, the key thing for IT professionals is they should not to manage it for technology’s sake, but to manage if for business’ sake,” said Jasmine Noel, principle analyst for Ptak, Noel & Associates, an analyst firm that addresses converging IT trends and how to leverage them.

According to Noel, in order for an IT department to align its network to set business objectives, IT pros must understand the key metrics that keep senior leaders awake at night. “For instance, if it is an e-commerce system, the business folks might be saying, ‘We really want to have every transaction to take place in eight seconds,’ or ‘We want the ability to process 1,000 transactions in a minute.’ IT pros must try to understand what those business metrics are first, find a way to measure them and translate them back to the technologies that are in place for e-commerce. Then they must see how they can measure the performance of the technologies, measure it against the key identified business metrics and see how they can link those together,” she said.

Because networks are critical to the business—meaning if the network is slow, so is the business—the network should be deemed a strategic investment and all network initiatives should coincide with company goals and objectives. If IT professionals can wrap their minds around this concept, an organization’s network is likely to perform optimally and support organizational goals. “An organization’s network will be operated in a way that actually supports the goals of the IT department and overall business. The department will have better problem management with such alignment as well. For instance, a network will not go down for a 17-hour stretch because the network has all of the strategic pieces in place to make sure that does not happen,” Noel explained.

“In terms of other benefits, the entire process of proving whether an organization needs more technology to support a specific goal completely tightens up. So instead of an organization’s reaction being, ‘Let’s just go buy more products, gear or technologies,’ it will be, ‘Let’s try and figure out what kind of products, gear or technologies we actually need that will improve our network performance in the way that we want it to improve.’ So spending actually gets sized to business goals and therefore companies make better business decisions.”

Noel said that when an organization achieves network-business alignment the different tiers of IT professionals reap benefits as well. For an IT manager or director, Noel said, “Their job becomes more about aligning, funneling and changing the resource allocation to make projects happen. IT becomes much more about planning and strategies.”

At the CIO level, according to Noel, this executive will no longer constantly hear people complaining about the IT department and will be able to act as a strategic business leader and partner of the organization. “They will be able to set an IT agenda for what the business wants to be done next year instead of it just continuously reacting to problems and issues. Now they are actually involved in creating actual new business capabilities, new opportunities, so you can beat the competition.”

Overall, Noel said that workers’ stress levels go down because they are working in a more proactive way rather than reactive way. “Professionals can proactively handle potential problems before they actually come to fruition,” she said. “So a bulk of their day becomes optimization. And optimization is generally more challenging and more interesting for people.”

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