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Analyzing Organizational Structures

Analyze the existing and planned organizational structures. Considerations include management model; company organization; vendor, partner, and customer relationships; and acquisitions plans.

These are very important considerations when designing a network infrastructure center around the organizational structures within the company. The various organizational structures already in place usually determine the distribution of network resources and the type of network management strategy that will be implemented.

Proposed changes to the company's organizational structures might have a significant impact on the network's effectiveness. You must plan for these changes and design the network with the flexibility to accommodate them. Solicit the client for input in this area. Try to get an understanding of what the current structures are and how effective they are within the organization. If there are areas that do not seem to be working from an organizational point of view, try to find out if there will be a change in that organization in the future. Always get the details of any known changes that are scheduled to occur in the future so that you can incorporate those details in your design.

In the exam objectives, Microsoft lists the following organizational structures for you to consider when creating your design:

  • Management model

  • Company organization

  • Vendor, partner, and customer relationships

  • Acquisitions plans

Each of these organization structures will be discussed in the following sections.

Management Model

First, determine if there is separation of ownership and control. Is there a board of directors, shareholders, and a chief executive officer? Alternatively, is this a family-run business? Is the CEO the founder and primary stockholder?

The former, separation of ownership and control, describes the majority of large American industries. Smaller businesses may still be owned and operated by the founders.

Even a large, publicly traded business or organization may be run as if the CEO were simply pursuing power, fame, or gratification. Many times this quest will mean success, recovery, or advancement, but it does require a charismatic individual who often maintains control by his very essence. Dissention is just not imagined.

Is the management style bureaucratic and authoritarian? Does it stress accounting and close control? Is it democratic, encouraging initiative and enterprise? Does it follow the tried and true, or is it willing to take risks?

Getting Work Done in Spite of an Autocratic Management Style

I once worked in a medium-sized company where the owners had sold the company and then agreed to stay on to run it. The former owners maintained close control while pretending to encourage initiative and discussion. Weekly management meetings were held in which each manager was required to discuss his or her progress in meeting rigid goals and to offer suggestions for improving the business.

Managers learned to sit to the right of the CEO, because he always started to his left. There was not usually time for everyone to speak. Any manager who had not met goals was castigated. Managers whose ideas were considered frivolous, impossible, or undesirable were belittled and mocked. Sometimes it did not seem to matter if the new idea reduced cost, increased productivity, or created new markets. Initiates soon learned to offer only ideas that reflected the CEO's thoughts (or those of his cronies). It was a contest in presenting old ideas as if they were new. Others spent time seeding the field, or somehow introducing ideas in short segments outside and prior to the meeting, and then bringing them up as something the CEO had mentioned. It was old psychology developed by the old-fashioned wife—to get what you want, make him think it was his idea.

Nevertheless, progress was made in introducing new ways of doing things. The trick was to balance something radical with something only slightly variant from the norm. This, of course, was the desired step. The radical item was ranted about; the other was ignored, but not turned down. The second part of the process was to keep introducing the desired change from other directions and to be in the right place at the right time. (Bragg, Roberta. MCSE Training Guide (70-220): Windows 2000 Network Security Design. New Riders Publishing, 2000)

Company Organization

The organization of the company will prove to be a major consideration for your network infrastructure design. The distribution of resources will closely follow the company organization.

Some companies are organized along the lines of business function. The various business units or departments are physically segregated. Here are some examples of ways that you might find a company segregated:

  • Different departments in separate sections of a single floor

  • Different departments on separate floors of a single building

  • Different departments in separate buildings on a single campus

  • Different departments in separate buildings in different sites

As the company organization becomes more widely segregated, you will find that you will often need to design your network infrastructure so that network resources are physically located nearest to the groups using them most. You will then build in communication paths so that other groups who need the resources less frequently will gain the access that they require.

Another typical scenario is a company that is organized along geographic lines. In this scenario, multiple business functions occupy the same space, but resources are distributed based on the location of each office that the company occupies. For example, a company might have offices in three cities: Boston, San Francisco, and Tampa. In each of these cities are representatives from the legal department, the sales department, and the accounting department.

In this scenario, you cannot simply locate accounting resources in one office, sales resources in another office, and legal resources in a third. This would result in less-than-efficient access to resources for two of the three departments in every office. In this case, you must plan your network infrastructure so that resources for each department are distributed equally to all offices or are centrally located so that each office can access them with the same efficiency.

Vendor, Partner, and Customer Relationships

The relationships that a company maintains with its vendors, partners, and customers will have an impact on the types of services the company wants to provide on its network. For instance, suppose a company maintains a call center to provide support for its customers. The company requires database servers to log the calls and provide access to customers and product information to the call center technicians. If the company sells merchandise over the Internet, it will likely want to use servers on the World Wide Web to provide an interface for its customers in business-to-consumer e-commerce (B2C). This will require that the company have a connection from its internal network to the Internet. It will also require that its internal databases provide product information to outside customers through that Internet connection.

Relationships with partners can create even more demands for network resources. In many cases, two partner companies will connect each other's networks together in some fashion for business-to-business e-commerce. The expectation of senior management (on both sides) is that the networks will interoperate. Of course, there might be significant technological, business, and political issues to overcome in order to provide that interoperability. For example, integrating a partner's network might require you to overcome interoperability issues between Windows 2000 and other operating systems, such as Novell Netware or UNIX.

Often, a company will have a relationship with one of more of the vendors supplying the materials necessary for the operation of the business. It is desirable to automate many of the repetitive tasks associated with purchasing materials and paying invoices. In order to accomplish this, special internetworking technologies might need to be applied. Knowing the relationships that exist will help you design a network infrastructure that supports the required connectivity and interoperability.

Acquisitions Plans

When designing a network infrastructure, it is always prudent to inquire about any plans that the company might have to purchase other companies. In many cases, the company might hesitate to reveal confidential business plans to an outside vendor, but these can be crucial. If a purchase is planned for the very near future, or if it is already underway, you might be able to get some details on the matter. You will greatly benefit from being aware of any acquisition plans before you create your network infrastructure design, and you should be able to communicate this in financial terms to the customer. Variations on this should always be covered in a proper project risk analysis. Furthermore, you cannot effectively deliver an internetwork design plan if you are not informed of all the requirements for that network. Company management must fill you in on all the details they can regarding any planned acquisitions.

In most cases, when one company acquires another, the network of the latter company is absorbed into that of the former. Sometimes the entire network is eliminated and replaced with an infrastructure that conforms to the standards of the purchasing company, but this is often impractical and expensive.

Usually, the company that is purchased possesses some product or information that is of extreme value to the purchasing company. The associated data and supporting network infrastructure become invaluable assets that must be preserved. Nevertheless, interoperation with the purchasing company's existing network infrastructure is crucial.

When examining a company's acquisition plans, consider the following questions after you understand the current environment:

  • Which of the new company's systems and services will need to be retained? Why?

  • Which of the new company's systems and services will need to be retired? Why?

  • Which of the new company's systems and services will replace existing systems and services?

  • Which of the existing systems and services will need to be extended into the newly acquired company?

  • What are the support structures for the systems and services, and how will they integrate or conflict?

  • What are the barriers to integrating the two companies' network infrastructures, and what is the magnitude of these barriers?

If you are informed of the intended purchase of another company, you can research the specific issues you will face in integrating the two networks and can design solutions to those problems from the beginning.

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