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Tue 15 Apr 2008 02:51 PM

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All that you want

Establishing enterprise requirements is easier said than done, says Sathya Mithra Ashok

Over the last two weeks I have been working on a feature concerning storage virtualisation that will be included in the May issue of NME. This article, which follows April issue's feature on server virtualisation, will discuss the various elements that enterprises need to consider when they choose, implement and manage a storage virtualisation solution. The article will also explore the common mistakes that enterprises make when they move to virtualised storage. (Read the full article in the May issue of NME).

I have been researching for the article and having conversations with many industry-leading vendors in the field of storage and virtualisation and one mistake that everybody agrees enterprises often make relates to understanding their own requirements and knowing exactly what they want the solution to deliver.

Now, that sounds really simple. Can't be that difficult to know what an enterprise wants, right? Wrong. Getting requirements in place for any project that encompasses various departments within an organisation can prove to be one of the most exacting tasks for enterprises large and small. It involves bringing together the collective and disparate needs of everything from HR to on-the-ground sales personnel and analysing them to understand the needs that merit an inclusion in the project, the ones that should be re-considered and the others that are better left out of the entire initiative.

To understand the scope of that, let us consider the example of purchasing a mobile phone. The normal purchasing pattern is that the individual in question has a vague concept of what he wants out of the phone. These will be basic parameters with which he will guide himself when he goes shopping. However, when he arrives at the mobile phone counter and the sheer number of choices in phones and features are presented to him, chances are he will get confused and unsure of the features he really needs, the ones that would be nice to have even if he does not strictly require them and others that he will never use. Keep in mind that the amount you pay for the phone increases with the features it comes packed with and if you are not too careful, you will end up paying too much for a set of features you never have an opportunity to use.

Imagine that confusion and budget considerations on the scale of an enterprise with thousands of workers, hundreds of remote locations and tens of departments each with its distinct needs.

Getting requirements right during the initial phases of the project is crucial to ensuring the successful deployment of an IT solution and its acceptance among end-users in the organisation. This process is also essential to avoid too much tinkering in the later stages of the project. It is not unheard of for enterprises, which did not get their requirements set in the beginning, to make constant changes and modifications to the solution when it is in the implementation stage, causing not only undue delays but also over-running assigned budgets.

Often, requirements are better set by a disinterested third party rather than the enterprise itself. A consultant will be able to survey the enterprise with the wisdom of experience whereas an enterprise based team might be led astray by biases and pre-conceptions. Many vendors recommend the practice of calling in consultants to assess needs before the start of any project to ensure the best results for the enterprise.

Whether an enterprise decides to call in help or concludes on doing it internally, organisations have to put in effort and resources in establishing the right requirements for a project or solution. For if an organisation does not know what it wants, it will get something totally different from what would be actually beneficial to it and what's more, it really cannot complain!

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