California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 38, No. 1
December, 1997-January, 1998
Network Technology Planning

Process: Multi-stepped approach helps to define and achieve goals.

George Sullivan, Northrop Grumman

Editor's note: This is the first installment of a multipart series on Network Technology Planning.

Planning is the process of setting realistic goals, and implementing the means of achieving them. Planning addresses the following issues.

Establish the goals

Planning begins with decisions about what the organization requires; identifying priorities and specific aims helps to focus resources effectively.

Define the present situation

What is the distance from the goals? What resources are available to reach them? Open lines of communications between upper management and those responsible for implementing the plans are required in this phase. Broad-brush financial and demographic information form important sections of the situational assessment.

Identify aids and barriers to the goals

What internal and external factors will help the organization attain the goals? What are the problems (challenges and opportunities) that must be overcome? Forecasting and trending interact in this phase of planning.

Develop a set of actions (plan) to reach the goal

Devise alternative plans, evaluate them, and select the most satisfactory. This is an iterative process and will be repeated over and over again.

The Planning Process

The planning process can be divided into three parts:

This article will discuss the elements of network strategic planning. Strategic planning is a continuing activity; it is the pattern of decision making that pervades an organization.

Strategy has the following attributes:

Strategic Planning is the Vision Statement for the overall organization. It should be a High Level view, not nuts and bolts. To encompass a broad scope, and to allow flexibility it can't get "bogged down in details". The strategy must be customer centered; it should describe the goals that the organization wants to achieve a few years down the road.

Network Strategic Planning

Network strategic planning is the iterative process of establishing a comprehensive network architecture that addresses overall requirements for voice, video, and data communications for a three-year or longer duration. The architecture will be driven by the technology available, the requirements of the user community, and the availability of resources to satisfy user's needs. Inputs to the plan start with stakeholder interviews, in which their visions for the organization's goals are stated. This is a high technology endeavor; therefore the interview process satisfies the "High Tech -- High Touch" element to achieve "buy-in" from the users.

The type of goals that we're looking for are those anticipating the results of information technology, and deployment "rules" to be followed. For example, key elements might include types of applications to be used, the number of students to a classroom or lab PC ratio, access to the network from homes, etc. These high level requirements should describe the goals that the network design much achieve. Elements of cabling, PC platform selection, protocol choices, and topology dominate the technology selection processes. At this point we must integrate available technologies into infrastructure alternatives, and make a selection that we will be comfortable with going into the future.

At this point, we must pause, write the plan down, and present it to the stakeholders. Show the alternatives that you evaluated, and your reasons for selecting them. Listen to the users, modify your plans if necessary, and communicate the results to your user community.

Next Step: Tactical Network Planning

George Sullivan is Senior Network Architect at Northrop Grumman. Bob Shupe is Major Accounts Manager for Northrop Grumman and can be reached at (714) 838-9649, by FAX at (714) 838-7479, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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