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Avoiding Network Incrementalism

by Andrew Lerner  |  December 5, 2016  |  Submit a Comment

As organizations transform towards digital business models, many enterprise networks lack the agility their businesses need. This leads to frustration, slows time-to-market, and drives shadow IT. Often, this is due to the fact that many network organizations are hamstrung by a strong culture of risk aversion and the corresponding preference for “safe,” short-term\incremental changes.

Unfortunpoleately, this often leads to the longer-term accrual of “technical debt,” making networks increasingly difficult to manage over time. Simply put, network incrementalism is a strong preference for making small tactical, iterative changes with a focus on short-term benefits, over foundational and/or strategic changes that often provide longer-term benefits.

While incrementalism can be good during periods of technology stability because it fosters risk minimization, during periods of technology disruption, it significantly increases the risk of overlooking innovations that can support key business initiatives. Overcoming incrementalism is challenging, and one mechanism (used by Amazon) is to set unattainable “stretch” goals that force out-of-the-box thinking. This can compel network teams to look at things in a new light, and can help to overcome constrained thinking. Examples of constraint-removal thinking that can be used in the networking realm could include:

  • The solution must be built without using components from an existing network supplier
  • The solution must be operated by an app developer with limited network experience
  • The solution must be completed at no cost or from open-source components
  • The solution must be built on standard x86-based platforms

Sanjit Ganguli and myself cover this topic (and more) in a recently-published research note that identifies specific recommendations regarding network design, implementation, operations, and staffing for enterprise network teams. Further, in most cases, these practices do not require heavy capital investments, and can be implemented without breaking the bank. 

Take These Six Steps to a Better Network

Summary: The task of maintaining highly available network infrastructure, while simultaneously preparing for new business and technological requirements, is daunting. Senior network leaders should use these six steps to improve agility, increase uptime and reduce operating costs within their networks.

Regards, Andrew

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Category: culture  just-published  networking  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
6+ years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio

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