The Business of Networking
How might information technology (IT) play a role in supporting their
What sorts of automation do they think might help them accomplish their
How is the work in their area accomplished? For instance, do most of the
employees do mechanical work, like on a production line, or are most of them
so-called "knowledge workers" who generate documents, analyze information,
and so forth?
What are the key inputs for the functional area, in terms of information or
materials, and what are the key outputs for the functional area? What processes
convert the inputs into the outputs?
Your objective in asking these questions, and others that may occur to you, is to get
a good understanding of each functional area: what it does and how it does it, as well
as what it wants to be able to do in the future. With this knowledge, you can then start
to analyze the impact that the network--or improvements to the existing network--
might have in those various areas.
Beginning from a business perspective is absolutely essential. Networks are
not built and improved "just because." Instead, any particular network or network
upgrade needs to be driven by the needs of the business. Justifications for networks
or improvements to existing networks should clearly show how they are necessary to
the proper functioning of the business, or how they will play an important role in the
company achieving its objectives, consistent with the cost and effort involved.
How Will the Network Benefit the Company?
After getting a good understanding of the company, its objectives, and how it
accomplishes its work, you can then analyze different ideas that you may have for the
network, and how those ideas will benefit some or all parts of the business. In doing so,
you need to consider at least the following areas:
Are there any areas in which the lack of a network, or some failing of the existing
network, is inhibiting the company from realizing its goals or accomplishing its
work? For example, if an existing network is undersized and this causes people
to waste too much time on routine tasks (such as saving or sending files, or
compiling programs), what improvements might address those shortcomings?
Or maybe the network and its servers are unreliable, and so people are frequently
losing their work or are unproductive while problems are addressed.
Are there capabilities that you could add to the network that would provide
benefits to the business? For example, if many people in the company are
constantly sending faxes (for instance, salespeople sending price quotations
to customers), would adding a network-based fax system produce significant
productivity benefits? What about other network-based applications? (Chapter 3
lists some common network features that you may want to review to help in
answering this question.)