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What the swan did next

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Earlier this year my colleague Jonathan Birch wrote a blog that featured a rather neat analogy, comparing our business to a swan. In a rather poetic vision, he noted that “Managed services is all about delivering a calm, serene experience up top, while the engine room drives purposefully and energetically away below.”

Having just concluded an intensive three-month long round of network improvements, without any negative impact on services, I’m of the mind that Jonathan was spot on in his assessment! But I also thought it would be a great opportunity to actually take a look below the water and give you a real-life example of what all this paddling effort is about.

As you can imagine, the infrastructure that underpins our business is large, complex and powerful, and the foundation, the beating heart, is our nationwide network. Everything - every single bit of data and voice traffic – transits this network, so it’s unsurprising that it sits front and centre of our Planned and Preventative Maintenance work (PPM).

The PPM typifies that purposeful engine room: controlled, measured, ordered work on-going through the year at some level, but punctuated by twice-yearly ‘missions’, concentrated programmes of works that have clear objectives for the networks team. We’ve just now come off the back of one of those, and it’s an interesting one to analyse.

Every mission tends to have a distinct flavour – they are characterised either by optimisation, making the best of what we already have; reengineering, where we make required tweaks and changes; and improvement, where we invest and add significantly to capacity or functionality. So twelve months ago, we were improving, upgrading connectivity speeds into our data centres. Six months ago, we were optimising, completing a nationwide ‘tidying up’ tour of our network assets to ensure that everything was as good as could be. And today, we’ve just completed a reengineering round, undertaking essential configuration work to support our accreditation to the Public Sector Network (PSN).

What all three types have in common is that they are proactive initiatives. I guess the clue’s in the name – this is all planned activity, and as a result it is done meticulously and methodically. For example, we knew we were working towards PSN status and early on, we were factoring in the change requirements to one of our ‘mission’ windows. The advantage of being on the front foot, of course, is that you are able to focus fully on the planning and delivery phases, which in turn minimises the risk of impacting services.

It also gives you real confidence in what you have got, the knowledge that you have a properly engineered network (with the onus on resilience and availability) and that even if issues do happen (and they inevitably do) the likelihood is that a client won't even notice. I think they call that ‘blissful ignorance’, and committed as we are to maintaining that state for clients, we’d also just like to highlight that it takes some serious effort to keep it that way.

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