Before starting a new Information Technology project, it is important to do everything possible to make sure it will be a success. It is exciting to thing about how a new application or system can improve productivity and reduce costs. It is also exciting to be responsible for putting in place something new, and imagining the positive comments and admiration from everyone else at the company. Since that is the goal, it is definitely worthwhile to put together a solid plan that takes everything into account for the entire project.
This process should actually start before budgeting for the new project. I have seen many customers who budget for a project, then when it comes time to start it and get quotes, they find out that they have severely underbudgeted the required upgrades, especially any new hardware and the accompanying professional services, and they have to reset expectations before they project even begins, or go back for more funds. Make sure this does not happen to you by laying a solid foundation for success.
The common factor in many upgrades that go sideways is that the organization assumes their systems are ready to go, when in fact the underlying data systems are in no way capable of supporting the requirements of the systems for the new project. A good way to prevent this type of mistake is to get a network capabilities assessment, and to determine what the additional network requirements of the new project are.
A network capabilities assessment is the best place to start before deploying any upgrades that make substantial use of the data network. Examples of these types of upgrades are a major application upgrade, Virtual Desktop deployment, video collaboration rollout, and of course a VoIP phone system upgrade. These are all application deployment that add additional stress and demands on both the Local Area and Wide Area Networks. Even something as straightforward sounding as an ERP system upgrade could cause issues if the new version uses substantially more bandwidth. As traditional command line or green screen applications get upgraded to graphically based versions, the bandwidth requirements may go up, and if there are many remote users in an organization, this can cause performance issues that have a negative effect on application performance, and will rapidly degenerate to a mass of unsatisfied users.
The most appropriate organization to perform the assessments is the same type of organization that conducts the actual full system installations. These organizations have the experienced technicians or engineers that know the ins and outs of the requirements, and they are also up to speed on the latest technology that maximizes the capability of the new system. For example, SIP is a VoIP technology that has been an excellent method of bringing in the primary phone numbers to organizations of any size since 2007, and in many cases it engenders considerable monthly cost savings, yet there are still consultants and organizations that recommend the use of the substantially older and more expensive PRI circuits.
Some of the things an organization could expect from a good network capabilities assessment are a network diagram, a network table listing all routers and switches, operating system vulnerability recommendations, bandwidth choke point identification, unusual interface errors, and a check of the capabilities regarding Quality of Service (QOS), Power over Ethernet (PoE), performance, and manageability. In most cases it is not necessary to run bandwidth tests; these are usually appropriate when an organization suspects that a service provider is not delivering as per their Service Level Agreement, which is a business and contractual issue, not a technical issue.
Make your next IT project a success by identifying all the factors that can possibly cause issues in the planning stage. For a project that involves application performance across a network, it is very important to include a network capabilities assessment before completing the budget for the new project.