The events of 2020 are radically transforming our lives. Behavioral and economic changes that were already underway have been drastically accelerated, and technology is at the core enabling many of those shifts. Communication and digital services have been instrumental in responding to the crisis and adapting to the new scenarios. But taking a lead role in supporting this acceleration means extra pressure on the technology infrastructure of service providers and additional challenges on planning its evolution.

So how do you find your way to a state of continuous and sustainable business progress amidst so much uncertainty? After gathering insights from some of the leading network strategists around the globe, we compiled this list of 5 consistent best practices for network planning in times of uncertainty.

1)      Keep operations simple

Often, in operations, less is more, thus network simplification is becoming a big mantra for service providers. Leaner IP architectures are getting the spotlight, focusing on eliminating unnecessary protocols on the IP stack to minimize security risks and configuration complexity.

Maximizing the productivity of the technical staff is becoming a top priority. It’s not just a question of cost control but providing flexibility so operators can quickly respond to occasional surges in the demand of service orders, keeping customer satisfaction unharmed. Smart IP troubleshooting and scenario simulation tools are being adopted to drastically reduce staff time involved in diagnostics and change-management. Providers are favoring platforms that support zero-touch-provisioning to increase site deployment agility, as well as investing in improving the quality of their inventory to equip their staff with the best possible information.

Another approach to minimize operations complexity is to tackle legacy inefficiencies. TDM (Time Division Multiplex) and DACS (digital access and cross-connect system) platforms are great examples of it. The 30-year-old technology of T1s/E1s and SONET/SDH systems is becoming harder to support, but there are still many applications and customers relying on these connections. Tackling TDM modernization is a chore that operators have been postponing for years, usually only acting when an end-of-support is announced by the vendor. Once they finally get to it, most report that the migration of those legacy interfaces to convergent packet boxes equipped with the necessary pluggables or modules not just simplify and de-risk their operations, but also frees up fiber strands and space, and saves energy. Anticipating the efforts and investments to modernize these older infrastructures is a sure way to start collecting the operational benefits earlier. 

2)        Make safer bets  

In scenarios of uncertainty, where the future value of most variables is highly unpredictable, it is wise to play it safe on the few variables we can control. One of the surest trends in the telecommunications market is that bandwidth demand will continue to go up, so being ready to scale capacity is a no brainer. As the recent surge of digital interaction and content demand depleted the bandwidth reserves of most service providers (which were expected to support the growth of the next couple of years), there is no question that upgrading capacity throughout the entire network is critical. But it is necessary to do so thinking a few steps ahead, planning for the long term, selecting platforms that are highly scalable, preferably in a pay-as-you-grow model.

Choosing technology partners well-positioned to support your long-term evolution is another major factor in minimizing your risks. They need solid financials to sustain the investments that continued innovation – both yours and theirs.

3)      Go flexible

One of the greatest lessons from the recent crisis is the importance of flexibility and adaptability to quickly react to changes. Technology service providers not only need robust business continuity plans for their operations, but they also need to be able to dynamically allocate resources to help their business customers build their own contingency plans and responses when needed.

Flexibility also means being free to shift paths as scenarios evolve. Open architectures with standards-based solutions built for interoperability become key assets to make infrastructures highly adaptable, responsive, and cost-effective as the demand and technology evolve. Programmable and highly scalable platforms are vital resources to enable the development of new services and create new revenue streams, furthering a healthy evolution of the business.

4)      Focus on the Customer Experience

In the era of cloud and digital services, there is no room for not delivering the committed service levels, not providing online portals and full visibility, or not allowing the customer to be in control of their experience. Investing in deployment agility, service level assurance, and visibility tools is crucial to sustaining customer loyalty.  

5)      Embark on a journey, and have your map

Planning a resilient and adaptable network to withstand economic and technological disruptions is not a one-time project, but an ongoing journey. It is a vision towards which we advance in small but steady steps, building capabilities, adding resources, always fine-tuning the course. A detailed map and a well-planned itinerary are valuable tools to succeed in a journey, and for the network evolution, it is no different. Setting a coherent framework that establishes the course, with a detailed vision and a comprehensive set of guidelines, is essential to enable your continuous progress in the right path.

This evolution journey involves multiple investment decisions, platform selections, and architecture choices. Each of those should be consistent with the vision to help you advance towards a clear and univocal direction. A good example of a solid evolution framework is Ciena’s Adaptive Network. It is a blueprint based on three basic principles to guide investments into lasting business success - Programmable Infrastructure, Analytics and Intelligence, and Software Control and Automation.

At our times, future-proofing investments is a pre-requisite for any technology project, otherwise, the odds are too high that a platform will be outdated before its payback period. And futureproofing it usually boils down to choosing solutions that are open, scalable, evolving, and carrying the DNA of the most likely future requirements.

2020 may mark a major transition in the pace of economic and behavioral change in the world. When the future is becoming faster, having a clear vision and actions consistent with it is vital to thrive. Examine your plans, keep operations simple, make safer bets, go flexible, focus on the customer experience, and embark on a journey to success!