Modern Network Architecture

May 6 2012   12:00PM GMT

Modern Network Architecture – Building stage for business

James Murray James Murray Profile: James Murray

In technology there is an order.  In business there is also an order.  Business owners and technologists have one thing in common in that they tend to want to do things out of order.  Business owners, CEO’s and management teams in general know that they only have a limited amount of time to be successful.  The build stage is the tedious part of business growth.  For the business owner it’s a time to put the vision on paper.  Build a working model of something that will be as big as his / her dreams.  There will be false starts, re-organization, mistakes and eventually solid success in this stage.  For the temptation for the modern network architect is to just build it.  The obvious problem is that in building the technology before the business is ready, the business could end up in a technology. 

When building a new building, the subcontractor needs the blue prints.  The subcontractor could try to anticipate the building and begin construction before the plans are finished.  In that scenario the subcontractor may even begin pouring a foundation long before the blue prints are ready from the architect.  If the walls begin going up before the architect has the blue prints ready, what happens if the blue prints don’t match the work that has been done?  Everything needs to start over again.  All the work that had been done will need to be demolished and rebuilt based on the new architectural specification.  This is often the way business technology is built. 

As a Seattle IT Consultant, I walk into business scenarios where the technology was built long before the business itself has matured.  Imagine building a beautiful 10 story office building.  Yet what the business needed was the world’s biggest airplane hangar.  These are the types of situations I walk into when the build stage was improperly planned or skipped all together.  What has happened is a business team trying to understand what they need, taking the first available suggesting and implementing a plan before the plan was ready.  At the same time, the technical team doesn’t understand the nature of the build stage.  Instead of pushing back and saying “Why?” they say.. “Sure we can do that.”  Then excitedly building exactly what the owner asked for. 

In the building stage of business the owner doesn’t really know what they want.  It’s a stage of trial and error.  It’s a stage of prototype.  It’s too early to begin building the technical foundation for the business.  Instead the business is in a state of evolution.  The architect needs to anticipate this when a question is asked like, “Can you build this….?”  This question is often asked long before the business owner understands the real problem.  Often before the business owner has figured out that the question he/she is asking the technologist is the wrong question.  Rather than anticipate and build it, the technical team needs to wait.  The architect needs to push back and ask ” … but why would you want that?”.  

Often this question is being asked because the business owner is trying to solve a strategic problem with a tactical solution.  Technical experts love solving problems.  Most technical experts only solve tactical problems, so are happy to provide a tactical solution.  The problem with tactical solutions is that as the business grows, the tactics need to change.  If the tactic is required for the strategy to work, the business cannot grow.  This is the biggest pitfall for the business in the build stage.  In building a business model based on tactics, the business is unable to create a repeatable process that can scale.  Without scale the business stays in the build stage, never able to scale past the present business size.

Some mistakes owners make during the build stage…

  • Maintaining the business vision in their head
  • Building solutions that solves today’s problems without considering scale
  • Asking technical questions instead of business questions
  • Forgetting that systems get old and not planning for their replacement
  • Assuming technology has infinite capacity
  • Looking for shortcuts in the build process 

The build stage is exciting.  Executed properly business the business is busily maturing a business process that will eventually be become very stable.  Technologies that support the build stage, such as cloud network architecture, enhance cooperation (Collaborative tools like Intranet, file services and collaborative platforms) and communication (Unified Communication (UC) strategies, Email, Intranet, Websites, Blog sites).  Limiting growth means delegation and communication across the organization.  When the owner wears too many hats the owner is distracted from the job of owning that vision. 

The build stage is a frantic almost exhilarating time of changing priorities.  When completed, the build stage has changed from a chaotic storm of priorities to a more process oriented duplicable standard.  Old timers in these businesses often miss this time period.  For the architect the technology needs to be free flowing and be able to change with the business very quickly.  This is a much different model from the Fortune 500 enterprise model requiring highly documented standardization. 

Your comments about your experiences in during this business stage are welcome

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