August 9, 2011

The Strategic Network

In business, it is very tempting to focus on the tactical - the next big deal, the numbers for this quarter, the current competitor's actions. However, virtually all CEOs know that it is strategic thinking that sets the long-term direction for the company, and that tactics should be in support of a larger strategy. It is the difference between being reactive and proactive.

So it is with networking. Shrinking budgets and staff, and the constant pressure to reduce operational costs, may have some IT leaders setting their sights very low. Approximately 70 percent of IT investment is spent on "keeping the lights on" - providing basic connectivity and security - leaving precious little for strategic projects to enhance the business. While such tactical thinking is understandable, it also contains many pitfalls.

Strategic thinking, especially regarding the network, has real-world implications for business. Traditional print publications are rapidly being supplanted by online news sources. Digital photography has rendered established film techniques largely obsolete. Reasonably priced cellular service is causing landlines and payphones to disappear. In short, innovations in technology are changing markets and business models. Companies that were able to anticipate and adapt to these trends have continued to thrive, albeit with new business models. Others - those who failed to anticipate these trends and took the tactical approach of trying to protect their existing business - have fallen by the wayside.

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1 Comment

"Strategic" versus "Tactical" networking is one of my favorite topics.

As I tend to characterize the difference when looking at the ROI, a move that simply does what you're doing now but at a lower cost is provides a "tactical ROI."

On the other hand, a "strategic ROI" provides a capability to perform tasks that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive and/or technically impossible. In other words, the strategic ROI provides for increased productivity.

Thus, I totally agree with the statement in the paper, "The allure of the tactical is always present in any business. A “good-enough-for-now” network may solve some of the problems of today, but does it set up businesses to solve the problems of tomorrow? When the network fails to adapt to the challenges of the future, the business follows the same path. Taking a strategic approach to the network is not just a good idea. It makes business sense."

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