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There are many network consulting companies, so how do you go about vetting them and deciding which one is right for you? It ultimately comes down to the selection criteria.
The network has become a critical IT resource in virtually every industry, enabling the interconnection of many components of business processes. Sure, the details of each type of business are different, but the fundamental requirements are extremely similar, even between radically different companies. Supporting the business is paramount, so any work that involves the network should result in better support of business functions.
Let’s consider some of the key qualities that a good network consulting partner should have, and how you can assess whether the ones you’re considering possess them.
How current does the prospective partner stay with new technologies? Ask your partner to tell you about some of the key emerging technology trends that are likely to shape how business gets done over the next few years. (And take it as a bad sign if they don’t mention SDN, which is a new way of doing networking that is going to change networking over the next few years.)
Also, ask your prospects how they go about keeping themselves current. What do they expect of their employees, and what do they provide to them when it comes to ongoing learning opportunities? Do they conduct regular technology briefings to share information among their consultants? Do they participate in technical seminars, webinars, or conferences? Are they asked to speak at such events? Do they lead them?
At NetCraftsmen, for example, we hold internal technology briefings on a regular basis, send our staff to conferences like Cisco Live to stay current and to learn new things, host the Cisco Mid Atlantic Users Group for regional networking professionals, and write extensively here and elsewhere on technical and business topics.
How long has the prospective partner been in the business? And more important: How long has its senior staff worked in the industry? Experience matters, especially when you are trying to diagnose and solve the kind of difficult technical problems that come up only rarely. And a company that has senior industry leaders on its staff is typically one that is better than most at attracting and retaining top talent, a fact that you’ll come to appreciate if your technology needs ever become more than pedestrian.
Reputation speaks a lot about the capabilities of any consulting company. A good reputation is built over many customers, many engagements, and years of effort, so a good way to begin your search is by asking business colleagues whom they have used. Also, when you get to the stage of interviewing prospects, make sure you ask them for references, and check them.
Make sure you ask networking prospects to cite specific occasions when they’ve put their client’s interest ahead of their own. Have they ever recommended a delay in the introduction of new technology because it doesn’t fit well with that customer? I’ve noticed, for example, that some networking companies will recommend an equipment refresh even for businesses that only recently made a large technology investment. That may not be necessary, and the client may not be ready.
Also, ask your networking partner prospect how it will go about recommending new technologies. Make sure you understand its process – and be sure that process includes plenty of collaboration with you and your internal business and technology teams who will implement and use the technology. The result should be a joint decision, not a decision that is “thrown over the wall.”
Of course, price comes into the decision at some point. Should you just go with the cheapest bidder? I certainly don’t think so, especially since “price” is a fluid concept when it comes to business technology. It’s best to pick a partner you trust to competently implement solutions that are right for you. Then you begin a conversation about money before you finalize any agreements.
I don’t mind saying that I think NetCraftsmen is a fine choice for all of the above reasons, and we’d be happy to have a conversation about your own organization’s networking needs. Just contact us.
Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.
Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.
John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services. Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.
He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.