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Shaping the Solution

Shaping the Solution

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I once led a study to define a strategic LAN architecture for a whole government department. The Invitation to Tender (ITT) was clear about what was required. Divisions within the department were purchasing a variety of LANs from different suppliers and the IT Division felt that a strategy was needed to prevent the proliferation of LAN products from getting out of hand. The LAN architecture had to be compliant with UK Government Open Systems Interconnection Policy (GOSIP), which was attempting to promote open, rather than proprietary, protocols. This was in the days when TCP/IP was labelled 'proprietary'and was to be avoided at all costs by the purists. We found out which LANs were currently in use in the Department and what they were used for. We found that it was possible to define a range of typical LAN configurations for different types of workgroups. We then evaluated products to establish the degree of compliance with GOSIP requirements. This narrowed the field down substantially basically to one product, and a new one at that. Following the brief, we prepared a recommendation, submitted the report and waited for the accolades to roll in. They didn't arrive. The customer was unhappy with the recommendation. One large division, which had invested heavily in Novell networks, was very unhappy about the prospect of moving to a new 'strategic' network which did not offer many of the features of their existing network. It turned out that users were not prepared to sacrifice usability and functionality on the altar of Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) purity. Whose fault was this? It was mine! The fact that there was a basic disconnect between the demands of the GOSIP policy and the real day-to-day needs of users was a problem that I should have realised and discussed with my client. This was not my natural style. I did all the thinking and the client followed my recommendations. This was the way it was done and it had always worked. It was not until I joined a management consulting firm later in my career that I learned the value of the 'workshop' approach in securing the buy-in of the client every single step of the way.

Inspec keywords: local area networks; equipment evaluation; open systems

Other keywords: UK government open systems interconnection policy; strategic LAN architecture; LAN products; Novell networks; invitation to tender; government department

Subjects: Computer communications

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