Your speed of change is one of the best competitive advantages but how fast you can move depends on the responsiveness of your technology providers.
I wrote in my last article about the importance of network services being complementary to network infrastructure: you need services, systems and processes that are geared to support modern connectivity infrastructure to get the most out of new technologies.
But there is another element to service: attitude
This is harder to define. I’m not talking about Tim Tams in reception or bundles of add-ons that are ‘nice to have’. I’m talking about a spirit of collaboration between enterprise and corporates that affords the right level of cooperation and flexibility.
For many years, enterprise businesses opted to purchase WAN as a fully managed service.
But by completely outsourcing the responsibility to deploy, manage, troubleshoot and update their network, enterprise organisations often lost out on:
1) Management responsiveness
2) Control of who staffs or for how long
Many customers I talk to feel scarred by vendor-lock-ins of the past. Rigid commercial contracts meant there was superficial visibility and no room to move; no spirit of collaboration.
If a customer needed to re-route network access or make changes to a security layer, their request was usually denied, if it was even heard. Slow service and offshore service centres made it a bigger headache than businesses bargained for. The consequence, too often poor internal and external customer experience that still burns.
Many of you will have seen the recent press of the job losses within Telstra - and more losses are expected. What also appears to be hidden in the background is adoption of the management consultancy approach ‘agile’ within customer facing groups. Agile for customer care at the same time as significant job cuts to people dedicated to enterprise service. What a challenge for them and risk for existing enterprise accounts.
Over the past decade, leading companies have applied agile methodologies to IT, software development, and project management. However, the human element of customer care introduces variability and unknowns: enterprise customers demand service tailored to their needs and want ongoing support from people who understand their network.
Customer relationship and service management functions require continuity, corporate memory, ad hoc availability etc - none of which agile delivers. So agile is fine in the right context but becomes (fr)agile when used across the board.
“So many internal complexities and problems have historically been managed through the glue of people, yet this glue is being removed.’’
A fragile service ecosystem for customers may well result. The reality may be that the sprints we continue to see are from disillusioned employees, frustrated management and exiting enterprise customers.
There’s no place for fr-agile methodology in Superloop’s vision. We believe in dedicated account management and resourced support. We're open to working with customers on defining how we can design and manage their network and give them access and flexibility, and we explore this as part of our process.
The trade off for reduced complexity in the fully managed service model is meant to be lower cost from standardisation of the offer. But this doesn’t have to be a binary decision - the telco/MSP way. Customers don’t have to just accept what they’re given.
The "lock-in" of traditional telco networks has been removed through the work of the nbn and the retail contestability it brings.
The co-managed model is growing in popularity as IT teams, busy serving enterprise needs around remote work, look for assistance to manage and update SD-WAN.
With a co-managed approach, customers can distance themselves from the administration complexity while still retaining control of agreed parameters.
Often they choose to retain control over security and routing policies. They might want to take an application over a particular link and secure it in a certain way. Or make changes to the way their network traffic moves. It’s configuration on the go.
The ‘who does what’ is critical here. At Superloop we work with customers to define this in detail at the start of a co-managed services agreement.
As Masergy notes in this great paper, it is so important when choosing a co-managed model, that your network partner is set up to execute on your needs.
How those services fit in with the controls of your IT team versus what services require a ticket (that should be subject to strong SLAs) is also important to consider in a co-managed model.
Beware of what I call the ‘restrict and secure’ SD-WAN providers that simply add a high price tag for their managed service which in fact only limits your IT freedom. They might lock you into specific networks, connectivity types, and internet service providers to receive the full specifications and SLAs of the product.
Advances in SD-WAN and cloud services decrease the complexity of SD-WAN setup and network performance management without removing the customer’s level of control.
Coupled with ubiquitous access to fibre, this will shake up expectations and attitudes towards enterprise network service in Australia.
Customers are ready to move to something else but are still scarred and worried about a telco divorce. They want to make sure they get married to a new partner who is not going to be the same as the last one; restrict and control them and cause them to have another divorce.
To ensure they don’t, customers shouldn’t just accept what they’re given. They can be an active part of their contract design. They can have a say in what’s important to them and what they want control over.
Customers don't have to be experts to benefit from this collaborative approach. A true partner takes care of the expertise to run and monitor the network performance, and bring best practices in terms of the ongoing design of that particular service.
The difference is they treat customers with the respect they deserve and the flexibility they need to move fast and succeed.
If you are of the same opinion we would welcome the opportunity to talk with both employees and enterprises that value enterprise support. Drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org