How enterprises can catch up on user experience – by reengineering the network

In today’s digital marketplace, business agility is praised above all else. Agility, after all, provides the opportunity to change services on a dime and ensure that customer needs are met, and expectations exceeded. But agility is a big concept and often it can be ill-defined and poorly executed upon. However, if your company wants to keep its competitive edge, it has to achieve this goal. As such, the question becomes, how do you do it?

The answer might be simpler than you think. It lies in better user experience. By dramatically improving how employees and customers interact with websites, applications and devices within the business — you can potentially change, and at the very least enhance, your company’s fortunes. This is because good user experience allows employees to be more productive in the work environment, and it affords them the ability to quickly evolve with changing customer requirements, thereby helping your company to deliver better customer engagement. New technologies play a major role in achieving great user experience, and therefore business agility. This is also the reason why so many organisations are pursuing a digital business strategy, shifting away from legacy IT services, and adopting cloud-based services instead.

The difficulty most companies face in delivering a good IT user experience, despite building more agile systems and moving data centres, applications and storage to the cloud, lies in their networks. While the digital world is moving rapidly forward, not much has changed in networks in the last 20 years. Two decades is a lifetime in technology terms, and this is why so many organisations find themselves restricted in their ability to change fast enough to support their digital growth and agility ambitions.

To achieve business agility, and deliver on the promise of better user experience of applications hosted in the cloud, companies must take a new approach to network connectivity in the enterprise. The time for change has come — and the right technology is already available. SD-WAN is the key to meeting agile business needs efficiently and effectively.

Challenged by infrastructure

The reality is, your business is only as agile, flexible and user focused as your network allows it to be. The majority of companies, and their IT departments, are still struggling to stay in control of complex networks. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, a large number of organisations are building applications and storing information in the cloud as well as on on-premise systems — these hybrid models are popular, but they do require complex changes to existing antiquated networks, which many simply can’t handle. The manual changes and hundreds of commands to configure the network can be an incredibly time and labour-intensive effort that can take months to carry out, and are prone to error, severely increasing the risk of network downtime.

Another reason can be found within your end user pool. This is because employees within most organisations are now using a range of devices to access more and more cloud-based applications and services. The thing is, across all these platforms and applications, end users expect consistent levels of network availability and performance — even when they are spread across the globe in remote locations and branch offices. Networks can strain under these circumstances, which in turn affect application performance levels, and bandwidth availability for business critical applications, and ultimately impact user experience. In fact, Riverbed Technology’s Global Application Performance Survey revealed that 89% of executives said that poor application performance negatively impacts their work on a regular basis — and this is no way to foster productivity or agility.

The key to optimisation

These problems require more than a patchwork approach to upgrading legacy network architectures. Simply reacting to network hotspots and user complaints is a recipe for failure; the only winning strategy is to get out in front of the challenges.

Providing effective long-term solutions requires a rethink of networking itself. Today’s organisations need a resolution that fundamentally redefines the way networking is done to better align with new, cloud-centric business practices. It needs to be more than an incremental approach of replacing manual processes with automated ones, and should take the form of a holistic solution that supports business-aligned orchestration and management of the network.

This is where SD-WAN can be of help, as it enables organisations to make on-the-fly adjustments to network performance and application delivery using embedded services such as application optimisation and QoS from a centralised location, and therefore can meet businesses’ ever-changing needs, when they need them. Ultimately, this translates into reduced costs and operational complexity, as well as increased agility to deliver superior-performing applications and experiences to users.

Technology delivers user experience

SD-WAN allows businesses to streamline and simplify how hybrid networks are deployed and managed. This in turn enables organisations to provide fast and secure delivery of applications hosted on-premises or in the public cloud to employees — boosting end user experience, agility and also productivity.

SD-WAN also enables organisations to direct traffic and deploy advanced network services from a centralised location, with mere clicks of a mouse. Reducing the time to market through efficient configuration and provisioning is vital in a world that is constantly evolving — and the good news is much of this can be automated. What’s more, an app-centric SD-WAN will automatically identify the applications in the organisation’s network and group them into logical categories based on business criticality, and apply network-service policies to those categories based on built-in best practices.

These benefits of flexible reengineering of your company’s network are endless. Application aware SD-WAN can automatically route user sessions to cloud hosted services, send voice traffic to their highest-quality network paths; segregate employee traffic from that of partners and customers; and send recreational Internet traffic through the most rigorous firewalls — all adding to risk mitigation.

SD-WAN can offer organisations a much more holistic approach that makes orchestrating enterprise and cloud connectivity easier and more cost-effective, which is why the SD-WAN market is expected to grow significantly in the next several years. According to Gartner, by the end of 2019, 30% of enterprises will use SD-WAN products in remote branches, up from less than 1% at the end of 2015.

In today’s digitally-driven world where business velocity is increasing, and end users have higher expectations of technology, it is imperative to rethink the way things have always been done. Until organisations rethink their network structure, they will struggle to deliver user experience and find agility unachievable.