The network transformation ends that justify the means

At the recent Canadian Telecom Summit, Allstream COO Mike Strople talks about two essential benefits businesses will realize by taking an all-IP approach

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a decade since that famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Nick Carr article proclaiming that “IT Doesn’t Matter” and that the industry should in fact be spending less on IT budgets.

Flash-forward to today, and “the question of putting IT firmly into the broader question of business strategy” arguably still holds true, particularly when it comes to the network.

And if there’s one constant in the telecom industry, it is change. Indeed, the industry march of access line evolution— from fixed to voice-over-IP and mobile — has proven to be a competitive driver for many. And in this context, network transformation should be viewed as “a means to an end” according to MTS Allstream chief operating officer Michael Strople. He made the comments at the recent Canadian Telecom Summit conference in Toronto.

“It’s very important to understand what the end goal of network transformation is. It really comes down to the questions of how and when,” he said. Whether it’s changing from TDM networks to IP networks, coping with new wired and wireless access issues, to facilitating new SIP trunking or cloud-enabled services, there is a need for strong security in any new network approach from a carrier perspective.

“Network transformation really comes down to two things in terms of it being a means to an end: better products and services, and more productivity gains internally,” said Strople.

Today’s carriers, as industry expert Lee Doyle notes, are understanding that providing new services and reduced pricing are strategies customers are looking for in transforming the network infrastructure. In fact, successful carriers “must move beyond their traditional ways of building networks and overcome the inhibitors of politics, regulations and their large bureaucracies to be successful,” according to Doyle.

Network Transformation Matters for Business Success

So, ten years removed from Carr’s provocative piece, IT still does matter, especially around the network architecture. And it’s not about if network transformation will and can occur, it’s all about the how: Strople offers that in a perfect world, a “greenfield” or blank slate approach — one where business is built ground-up around an all-IP network — would be a software-defined network environment that is inherently secure. But in the real world, companies are dealing with often decades old legacy environments — a TDM to IP migration — necessitating a more nuanced approach as end users may still desire the old services.

In the case of Allstream’s network offerings, Strople noted that network transformation is largely contingent on customer readiness; from a end customer perspective it is through the external lens of “what else can they purchase and what transformative services can be offered to improve the end business and end goals….network transformation is both a necessity and an opportunity.” And thinking about productivity gains internally across the organization, network transformation becomes centered around applications for improving the efficiency of operations.

The rate of network transformation thus involves understanding the end user base in terms of who responsive they can be in adapting to network change and using IP-enabled services to their full potential. This is where the “means to an end” comes in, said Strople, particularly around services that enable “more reliable networks, networks that are more supportable, networks that are easier to order, and solutions that are more consumable by the end user.”

In this instance it is all about customer readiness as, “the transformation is not instantaneous, it happens over some period time. It may be months, it may be years, it may in fact span decades. So understanding this timeframe in between, as you transform from something to something else, is very important as you make the decision of what, when and how to transform,” said Strople.

“We’re in constant mode of network transformation, and that’s really capturing the possibilities offered by the various technologies — how do we turn that into value from an end customer perspective.”

 Take the next step and download ‘The Converged IP Network: Your Future Productivity Depends On It,’ a white paper from Allstream. 



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