In establishing the business need for an effective Network Management function, it is useful to understand what Network Management is, and the benefits it will provide. In short, to ensure maximum return on investment (ROI) of a Network Management tool, it should be operated by skilled professionals. A good Network Management function requires a combination of people, process, and tools (systems) to ensure the delivery of an effective IT solution.
In return, an effective Network Management function should provide the organisation with a measured delivery, and governance, to ensure the ongoing success of the communications infrastructure in support of, and aligned to, organisational goals.
In order to do this businesses must ensure that they have the right skills on board, either in house or through outsourcing to a specialist IT service provider. Keeping pace with the business demand and technology innovation is a tall order for many IT professionals; and therefore many organisations inevitably have skill gaps. This perhaps explains the resulting statistic that 40-45% of network downtime is caused by configuration error (human error); evidence that appears to suggest that skills aren’t keeping pace with IT innovation or business demands.
The question organisations should seriously consider is ‘have we got the resource to sustain and manage change within the context of our network infrastructure, one which is increasingly complex to manage, but is ever more business critical’?
The Network Management function requires performance measures and statistical metrics (KPIs) to benchmark normal operational specifications of the network before abnormal events can be observed and acted upon. The goal of a proactive Network Management function is to plot metrics for optimum and standard performance through benchmarking, and isolate working and failing states so they can be restored or re-configured to an optimised operational state.
The Gartner Networking Maturity Model is designed to allow network teams to identify shortcomings, to establish priorities, and to set goals for improvement (Pultz, 2005). The model describes network maturity in terms of five phases: Chaotic, Reactive, Proactive, Managed, and Optimal (Chen, 2009). Only in the Managed and Optimal phases of the Networking Maturity Model can the Network Management function be a positive business asset; contributing to financial planning and success of the organisation; providing visibility and availability of its mission and associated critical IT applications, which in turn allows the possibility to optimise employee and business productivity.
Due to the increasing need for change and improvement in business process; perhaps using lean disciplines to ensure economic security and success; organisations are often turning to IT to drive productivity and change working practices. Now as never before, an effective Network Management function, whether completely in house or with elements outtasked, has to be essential to supporting change and to enhance operational success.
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