When you decide to buy a vehicle, what would you look at first? There can be several answers - some may say price, some may talk about features, some may talk about the comfort of travel; however all will acknowledge that the engine and other pieces of machinery under the hood should be close to perfect. If this is not so, none of the other points matter. However, we should realize that quite often we overlook such hygiene because we assume that in today's world this is not something that a maker of the vehicle would compromise with. In my view, it is important that we have a checklist that includes such stuff as well.
A Vehicle Called Network Managed Services
This is also something that we should look at when we look at the business vehicle called Network Managed Services. Let us delve into what you would one look for when they talk about Network Managed Services.
Some would say “skills and expertise”. In today’s world, there cannot be a more specious feature that you may want in your vehicle. Why? Because, despite the pace at which technology is changing, it can be seen that skills and expertise cannot be static. They have to be refreshed every 3 years. So, what you need is the ability to demonstrate this ability to refresh, rather than skills and expertise of one kind being demonstrated, but static.
Some would say “ability to fund capex” or “ability to ‘opexify’ capex”. An operator is the last brave link to the final consumer of the value-chain and command a certain respect from the rest of the value-chain. Operators too, by virtue of having bought capital equipment previously, have long-standing relationships with their suppliers. With all this, if they are not able to broker a deal-structure that suits this purpose without having to buy the Network Managed Services, I would say that they are in an abusive relationship with the supplier and should take appropriate measures!
Some would say “faster time to market”. I would agree. With so much riding on the availability of the network in the competitive market, both roll-out and maintenance responsiveness will need to demonstrate remarkable agility and fleet-footedness.
And yet others may say “lower cost of the service”. I would agree with this too. After all, what use is a business if the costs are high?
What IS under the hood?
Both “faster time to market” and “lower cost of service” have one thread that unites them - the degree of automation that could be brought into roll-out and maintenance processes. And this degree of automation should come as a natural process of delivery – not something that the operator has to figure out and indent for. Under the hood, we need Information Technology – systems of software pre-developed / semi-developed / pre-conceptualised – that can be brought into play even without the operator asking for it (or “IT”).
Anyone who has been contracting vendors for services over the last decade would also identify that “lower cost of service” is dependent on the right-shore availability of skills and expertise. So, under the hood we need a provider who can position people in the right places across the globe to get the best cost and a demonstrated capability to make that global machinery work on smallest of tasks.
Regarding the possibility of getting stuck in abusive patterns – it is always recommended that the capital equipment be sourced from multiple vendors so that there is a choice to walk away from an unsuitable deal. However, such a policy can be pursued only if, under the hood, there is a provider with vendor neutral capability to qualify and certify fitness to use / pin-point failure - in other words, a provider who has established credentials to test and certify a multi-vendor environment on an end-to-end basis.
Lastly, I would also add that under the hood we need a player who has a demonstrated commitment towards developing new skills and expertise as demanded by the state of technology.
Under the hood of the Network Managed Services vehicle, I would expect to see a robust IT strategy that need not be dictated by the operator; the ability to provide resources from the right-shores; a vendor-neutral and yet, a multi-vendor oriented technology qualification capability; and, of course, the ability to adapt to changing demands in skills / expertise.