Midsize firms from every region and industry are finding themselves under increasing pressure to improve productivity and business performance. Firms with 100 up to 1,000 or even 2,500 employees are still agile enough to respond to new opportunities, but they typically lack the comprehensive resources of larger companies to empower workers, manage processes, and generally drive successful customer engagement.
Consider the major technology megatrends affecting firms of all sizes today — the merging of mobility and cloud. Beyond bring your own device (BYOD) is now an all-encompassing mobility: business-to employee mobility, with anytime and anywhere access to relevant business applications from any device, and business-to-end customer mobility, with personalized experiences. While large firms have a variety of homegrown and external solutions that they can develop or acquire, midsize firms typically lack access to solutions that effectively correspond to their needs. This challenge of “rightsizing” solutions can take three different forms:
- Is a firm’s network ready for the increased demands of mobility and cloud?
- Are management resources in place to ensure effective operation and control?
- Are security safeguards in place to support company- and employee-managed endpoints in a way that encourages productivity advances while not opening up the company to major vulnerabilities?
A Strong Network Is Essential to Support Next-Generation Resources
While exciting new cloud and mobile applications get growing attention from the general business and technology press, basic network fundamentals continue to be at the heart of technology deployment for midsize firms. In fact, IDC research shows that interest in improving network capabilities has been increasing as a technology spending priority for midsize firms.
It is with good reason that mid-market firms are increasing their focus on improving their network: IDC’s Business Value research shows the mid-market firms that upgrade their networks boost agility and related factors that can drive competitive advantage. Today’s IT model is complex and not fast enough as network configuration is done on a box-by-box manual basis with difficult to provision and troubleshoot network wide security, path optimization, QoS, and policy compliance. As a result, network administrators spend a lot of their time on network operations, with little time left for anything else.
Networking Cost Benefits of SDN
Business benefits resulting from the enhanced network capabilities include faster time to market and increased operations productivity. The organizations were able to get new applications to market 34% faster. At the same time, providing a more reliable and standardized environment elevated end-user productivity by 5%.
With an increased density of endpoints, particularly mobile endpoints, there is an increased burden and focus to enhance servers and network infrastructure capabilities. For midsize networks to grow, it is essential they:
- Build for mobile device growth: The midsize network should hold up to the increasing mobile bandwidth load.
- Build employee productivity: The midsize network must sustain wired and wireless connectivity dynamically.
- Build for customer experience: The midsize business must be differentiated with customer-personalized mobile experiences.
The midsize firm, with its modest IT staff counts, can tackle mobility and cloud with an infrastructure that is focused on consolidated management and security. The difficulty is in prioritizing and planning for a network that can grow with the mobility and cloud era, yet be secure and managed without overloading IT.
Finding the Right Security Balance — Empowerment of Workers While Maintaining a Secure IT Environment
The next generation of cloud and mobility resources has put security issues front and center for midsize firms. IDC has been tracking a major shift in SMB attitudes toward security. Midsize and smaller firms once looked at security as a cost of business, like insurance, that was needed but didn’t really help advance business objectives — the cheaper the solutions that met minimum standards, the better.
But now, more progressive firms are realizing that security is actually an enabling technology that deserves careful consideration and investment. In effect, solid security resources can make possible the kinds of mobile worker empowerment that can set the stage for significant productivity gains.
Moving to Effective Midmarket Solutions — The “Aspirational Ideal” of Resource Deployment and Management for Competitive Advantage
Many midsize enterprise decision makers look at the cost of network infrastructure as a necessary expense of doing business in a modern, connected economy. However, some may not view the network as a source of competitive advantage. In reality, the right networking solutions can provide opportunities for differentiation in a midsize enterprise. In addition, optimized IT systems streamline operations, freeing up capital so that the business can focus on what it does best — as well as create pathways to do those things better. Examples include:
- Education (K–12): Enhancing the connected classroom and interactive applications, and ensuring the successful execution of Common Core requirements
- Retail: Deployment of “smart shopping” programs via location-based service applications that provide customers with targeted communications and automated in-store assistance
- Healthcare: Implementation of electronic medical records and medical imaging devices that communicate via Wi-Fi
Reducing Risk for Peace of Mind
As mentioned, enterprises in the midmarket are increasingly reliant upon network applications to achieve business objectives. From CRM to inventory management to internal business reporting, the network allows you to enable your business to thrive. Thus it is important for your network infrastructure to have the high availability and resiliency to be “always on”— from end to end. A network outage for the modern enterprise can result in lost sales, delayed payments, and a tremendous loss of productivity. Similarly, when the network is on, it needs to avoid throttling and latency — to this end, your network should provide the tools to visualize and optimize total performance.
IT organizations in the SMB space and midmarket looking to refresh, upgrade, or grow their networks should evaluate the value of converged wired and wireless networks that are engineered for their specific needs. The benefits of such rightsized deployments can be significant and include improved manageability and performance, a unified security policy that can be pervasive across the entire network, and the ability to transition from reactive network management to leveraging the network to create competitive advantage.