How to run a successful SD-WAN project in 10 steps

10 steps to success

1. Explore the market

While this sounds obvious, this stage is often forgotten.  Some customers have blind confidence in their current supplier and migrate with them without looking for other available solutions in the marketplace.  Others explore the market, but their search doesn’t go beyond the traditional WAN suppliers, because they don’t have a clue or knowledge where to look.

2. Assess your As-Is

Before thinking what you want, you need to realize what you have.  Bringing together different stakeholders and analyzing together the current state, will help you to see some improvements you may need.  It might be there are known issues or frustrations within your organization’s level of service (e.g. particular applications running slow).  Talk to the business and the end-users and capture their frustrations.

3. Define your To-Be

Once you have a clear view on your current situation, it’s time to think about your future network.  What is going well today, where is need for improvement and in which areas are gaps that need to be addressed?  As you will contract for several years, a well-thought plan, underpinned by the overall IT-strategy of the company, is a must.  Avoid the pitfall to make your wish-list too big, as suppliers will thank you with an out-of-range budget.

4. Source the best fit solution

Now that you know what you want, it’s time to go shopping.  Define and communicate clear your requirements to a set of selected potential suppliers.  This phase is a growing process and you need to take your time here. Several discussions and workshops will lead to a final set of requirements, which will be comparable to select the best supplier specifically for your requirements.

5. Proof of Concept

While a solution can look brilliant on paper, experience learns that reality can be quite different.  Therefor we advise to organize, together with the supplier(s) of your choice, a proof-of-concept, where you can test and validate the design and capabilities of the platform of your choice.  The use cases and scenario’s need to be well defined prior to the proof-of-concept and success criteria need to be clear and measurable.

6. Tailored contracting is key

SD-WAN asks for another approach on how these services are contracted.  Specific new topics, like flexibility and end-user experience must be part of contracting.  In this phase it is a matter of defining the right clauses to be part of the contractual agreement.

7. Go live with a pilot

Before rolling-out the solution on a broad scale, it’s advisable to take your time and start with a pilot in a few sites.  Purpose of this pilot is to learn from practice and synchronize the processes between the supplier and your company.  Like the POC phase, criteria for a successful pilot need to be defined prior to implementation.  Only when all parties agree that the pilot is successful, the mass roll-out can start.

8. Finetune + blueprint

The pilot phase must be a learning curve, for both supplier as well as customer, to adapt some processes to make the collaboration optimal.  Also, in this phase, some minor changes to the technical design are possible as well.   Purpose is to create blueprints, that will be the reference designs during roll-out.

9. Mass roll-out

When there is an agreement on the blueprints and way-of-working methods, and all is well documented, the mass roll-out can start.  The time spent in the pilot phase can be regained in this phase, as parties know by now what to be expected by the other party and the risk that something goes wrong, is smaller, since we have defined together some reference designs.

10. Contract lifecycle management

Something that is often forgotten, is the contract management part.  A lot of time and effort is spent in getting the right clauses and the correct governance model in place, but once the network is implemented, nobody is looking at the contract anymore.  This is a pity.  By actively using the contract, you not only safeguard the correct execution of it, but you get most out of it and probably will work more in a partnership approach with your supplier. Afterall, a partnership is much more beneficial for all parties evolved.

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