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Analyzing IT Management

Analyze the structure of IT management. Considerations include type of administration, such as centralized or decentralized; funding model; outsourcing; decision-making process, and change-management process.

Your network infrastructure design should include an analysis of the current and proposed IT management structure within the organization. It is important to know what areas of responsibility have been established and who represents each area. You will want to solicit input from each of these representatives to ensure that each area is represented in the finished design. This input also ensures that the network infrastructure ultimately implemented delivers all that is needed to each of these groups.

Microsoft identifies the following areas for consideration in its exam objectives for this test:

  • Type of administration

  • Funding model

  • Outsourcing

  • Decision-making process

  • Change-management process

Each of these considerations will be discussed in the following sections.

Centralized and Decentralized Administration

The company's approach to IT management will have a significant impact on your network infrastructure design. The company might take a centralized approach to administration in which network resources are centrally located and controlled. On the other hand, the company might take a decentralized approach in which resources are widely distributed and responsibility for administering each resource is distributed as well. In still other cases, you might find a hybrid approach in which some resources are administered centrally and the administrative responsibilities for other resources are decentralized.

Make sure that you are aware of any proposed changes to the IT administration model. Planning for these changes ahead of time will save you the effort and cost of having to make accommodating adjustments in your design.

Corporate Funding Models

Before you begin your design, you might want to consider who will pay for the network. The company's approach to funding design and implementation projects will directly impact what you can and cannot accomplish with your design.

If the company has a simple funding model in which projects are funded from a single source of money, the approval process is often simplified as well. If funding is distributed across the organization through a complicated charge-back process, responsibility for approving the project is often distributed. Under this model, each business unit is charged for a portion of the network infrastructure based on the demands that each unit places on the infrastructure. This funding model can make securing approval for your network infrastructure design a long and arduous process.

Outsourcing Network Responsibilities

In many industries, an organization's focus is not technical in nature. The employees do not have the technical expertise to design, install, administer, and maintain a network infrastructure. In the past, organizations had to hire one or more people to perform these tasks, usually at great expense.

These days, a popular alternative is to contract with another company whose focus is entirely technical. This trend is called outsourcing. When network responsibilities are outsourced, the contract transfers the responsibility for technical tasks that must be performed to an outsource company. The outsource company maintains the expertise to accomplish tasks with the greatest efficiency. The contract might transfer all responsibility, or only a portion of the responsibilities, for the technical work that must be performed.

In the design process, you need to ascertain whether the company for whom you are designing a network infrastructure is currently outsourcing any part of the responsibility for installing, administering, and maintaining its network. You will need to contact the company representatives who have been charged with the networking responsibilities and involve them in the design process. These people are intimately familiar with the issues currently associated with the company's network infrastructure and can be of tremendous assistance to you as you document the existing infrastructure. They can make you aware of any current issues and help you prioritize them so that you can design your new infrastructure to resolve these issues or at least accommodate them.

The Decision-Making Process

As mentioned earlier in this chapter, each organization has decision-making processes. Sometimes these processes are simple, and other times they are very complex. You will need to examine many of the company's decision-making processes while creating your network infrastructure design, but you will probably become most familiar with the decision-making process followed by the company's IT management. This is the process that your design will go through in order to gain approval and be implemented. Each proposed change to the design will be the result of this decision-making process.

In smaller organizations, the IT management's decision-making process might be as simple as discussing an issue with a single IT manager, who makes a decision on the spot. In larger organizations, you might find that the decision-making process involves many different managers or even committees with representatives from all parts of the organization. Often in large organizations that have formal and complex decision-making processes, the process that is required to be followed by IT management is very time-consuming and slow. It can often take several days or even weeks to get decisions made, even relatively insignificant ones. Being familiar with the decision-making process and planning ahead can help make the design process flow more smoothly, and bring you to the approval stage more quickly and with a great deal less stress.

The Change-Management Process

Whenever a change is made in a production network environment, however slight, there is an associated risk. The risk is that the change will result in the loss of functionality in one system or another on the network.

Loss of functionality might be due to human error of one type or another. Loss of functionality might result if the change is implemented incorrectly.

Loss of functionality might result even if the change was implemented correctly. Change might result in an incompatibility with another related system. Many times, administrators responsible for a particular system are highly knowledgeable in regard to that particular system but are not as knowledgeable when it comes to other systems. While performing configuration changes on their own systems, they might inadvertently cause a negative impact on another related system, resulting in loss of functionality. This can result in downtime and troubleshooting costs as the team responsible for the nonfunctioning system attempts to determine what happened.

In order to avoid situations like this, many companies have implemented a formal change-management process. In some organizations, the process might be a very simple one in which proposed changes are submitted to a manager for approval before being implemented. In others, the process might be very involved, in which proposed changes must be thoroughly documented. Proposed changes are presented before a large group of managers from each area of the company. The proposal is discussed by these managers, allowing each department to voice its own concerns before the proposal is finally approved and scheduled for implementation. In some companies, changes that have been implemented are still reviewed by a board of managers to determine the level of success associated with the change and to evaluate whether the change was implemented with the greatest possible efficiency.

No matter what the change-management process is, its main purpose is to eliminate downtime resulting from changes made to the production network environment. You need to be aware of the change-management process that is in place when you create your network infrastructure design. It can often be beneficial to put the design through the change-management process well before you approach the implementation of your design. This offers you another opportunity to determine some of the obstacles your network infrastructure design will face as you seek approval from senior management to implement your design.

Essence of the Case

Here are the essential elements of this case:

  • The company has divisions in Paris, Hong Kong, and New York. They are on the verge of acquiring two large organizations and are planning for further growth.

  • To support the merger, a new WAN must be developed.

  • To facilitate some of this growth, the company wants to integrate its network with its suppliers and distributors via the Internet for the purposes of e-commerce.

Scenario

Whirled Foods, Inc. is a large parent company with five operating companies under its umbrella. Each of the five operating companies has its own network infrastructure and Information Technology standards. Each operating company is currently responsible for its own Information Technology administration. Three of the companies have hired Information Technology administration staff, and two of the companies have outsourced all of their Information Technology administration to the same Information Technology management company. The operating companies comprise a worldwide operation with multiple international sites. Whirled Foods, Inc. would like to connect each of the sites together in order to form a WAN that will facilitate more effective communication between the operating companies. The marketing department of Whirled Foods, Inc. would also like to sell its products over the Internet and allow each of the operating companies to better communicate with their suppliers and distributors. There are plans to acquire at least two more operating companies in the next year. Given its current sales projections, it is expected that Whirled Foods, Inc. will hire at least another 200 employees in the next two years.

Whirled Foods, Inc. senior management has hired you to create a new network infrastructure design to help them implement Windows 2000 throughout the entire enterprise.

Analysis

Whirled Foods, Inc. and its multiple operating companies pose several challenges to a network infrastructure designer. The individual operating companies each have their own IT standards and administration. There is also the IT management company that is responsible for the outsourced IT administration from two of the operating companies. This management company should be involved in the design project in order to adequately assess the current issues that the operating companies face.

Implementing a WAN to connect the operating companies across international boundaries will necessitate the involvement of each company's legal department to determine the impact of any laws and regulations local to each company's sites. In order to allow the operating companies to interact with their suppliers and distributors, you need to address any integration issues with those network infrastructures. Internet connectivity must be included, and you must address the issues concerning the information flow from inside the corporate network to the outside through the Internet, and vice versa.

The company plans to acquire two more operating companies, so you must address all the issues surrounding the integration of those networks. Finally, you must develop a set of Enterprise-wide IT standards for implementation and administration.

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