Optimizing network administration processes

In the business world, where processes are typically evaluated from the customer's point of view, optimizing procedures is critical for maximizing customer benefits. The same principles apply to network administration. However, managing network administration processes is harder than it may seem at first -- mostly because they often don't stand alone, but interact with one another or cross department boundaries.

CTO for Alentis, an online business-to-business marketplace uniting ASP buyers with ASP sellers (www.alentis.com), Bernd Grohmann suggests optimizing the network administration processes that drive your customer satisfaction first. "Implementing these solutions will give you a big boost in perceived quality throughout your organization," Grohmann said.

Many network administration processes are made up of a number of tasks that are performed repeatedly. Grohmann said, "If you can reduce the time it takes to perform the most common tasks, you can improve your efficiency and better utilize your staff, as well as respond more quickly to meet customer requests."

A number of tools are available to help you, working together with your team, analyze the processes having the greatest opportunity for streamlining. Flowcharting the process, for example, will give everyone a visual representation of the steps involved. Once the process has been defined, your team can brainstorm what might be slowing the process down and recommend changes. A cause and effect diagram, such as the fishbone diagram, can clearly illustrate the various causes for inefficiencies: people, equipment, policies, methods, etc. Once the root causes have been identified, various solutions can be considered.

Prior to updating a process, it's important to establish a baseline measurement for each of the critical processes, "The more quantitative the measure, the better you'll be able to evaluate improvement," Grohmann said. "And, baselining has the additional benefit of allowing you to compare your performance to published key performance indicators to see how well you're doing."

Quantifying processes translates relatively easily into costs. "Sometimes it's difficult to justify the overhead for certain processes," Grohmann said. "In these instances, you may want to consider an outsourcing solution."
This was first published in December 2000

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