From the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) to increased virtualization, agencies today are presented with great possibilities - and faced with complex network demands. Despite the availability of networking technology capable of handling digital transformation’s network pressures, many agencies continue to operate on aging, legacy networks as a result of damaging network acquisition practices and agency acceptance of the status quo.
How are network acquisition processes limiting innovation? A recent Forrester report outlined eight toxic network vendor selection practices and flagged warning signs that managers are failing to pursue the best solutions for their needs. These toxic behaviors are impacting the ability to leverage cloud, consolidate data centers and increase the efficiency of IT. They do so by adding risk to projects and programs, thus restricting mission outcomes and the services provided. The issues reflected are largely relevant in federal government, but can be remediated by strong leadership, open standards and refreshed workforce expectations.
Innovation Starts with Strong Leadership
Removing toxic approaches to network selection begins with agency leadership. The status quo – brand name requirements and vendor selection based on familiarity and perceived market leadership – cannot support the demands of digital transformation and is unacceptable in today’s government. IT decision makers need to take a step back, conduct appropriate market research and define requirements based on needs linked to mission outcomes. Market research allows government to benefit from industry insights and identify solutions that support unique agency missions.
Forrester points to examples of business leaders, referenced in the report as “unicorns,” that challenged the notion of simply choosing perceived market leaders for their data centers. Facebook and Google, two of today’s most well-recognized and successful businesses, each operate data centers that deal with colossal quantities of data. These companies developed infrastructure from the ground up, not based on the limitations of a brand name, but based on knowledge of what is possible in the marketplace and their true needs.
Open Standards Enable Flexibility
Today many federal agencies are locked in to aging infrastructure due to proprietary standards. Proprietary standards stifle innovation by limiting competition. They make other vendor’s technology either incompatible or cost prohibitive and increasing costs for agencies, as maintaining aging systems require expensive support. The solution to this is to require open standards, which can simplify the network, enable multivendor networks and support seamless interoperability. The use of open standards increases competition, accelerating innovation and increasing agency mission agility.
While government is taking steps towards multivendor networks, tech industry leaders understand the value of open and are already realizing the benefits. Forrester’s unicorns benefit from open standards’ flexibility. Forrester explains further that, with every upgrade and rebuild, these companies reassessed their partnerships and contracts to ensure they were receiving the best products for their business. With proprietary standards in the way, this would not be possible.
Talented Professionals Empower Network Progress
Another damaging vendor selection myth is that the workforce limits network vendor options. While professionals may have a prior experience with the protocols of a particular brand, individuals with a strong, adaptable networking foundation are more beneficial to agencies in the long run. Just as a patient wouldn’t want a doctor who was only trained in one, outdated medical procedure, agencies shouldn’t settle for the network professionals who are unable to adapt and take full advantage of technological advancements.
Newer approaches are changing networking fundamentals. Agencies need an agile workforce to ensure that they can properly utilize and access these new approaches. Rather than letting employees that are unwilling to enhance their skill set define the success of your agency, offer your workforce opportunities to work on more innovative network technology.