Companies should consider their networks as competitive business assets and use them to further corporate goals, according to advice given at a presentation made here yesterday at IDC's European Telecoms Forum.
"Those companies that succeed in the next millennium will be those that leverage their networks to their competitive advantage," said Joe Solari, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) president at Cabletron Systems.
Network time and resources should be spent judiciously to avoid wasting resources, Solari suggested.
"Users should be assigned priority and value" in reference to the corporate network, Solari said. "Every company has that one employee who kicks off a non-critical application that slows down the entire network," Solari said.
Assigned rankings for users will help to avoid that, as will billing back costs for special network needs to individual departments, encouraging managers to "assign network use to a business value."
Networks are a business resource that "need to be more aligned to business functions", Solari continued, adding that companies should build smart networks that can "forge new bonds with customers".
One of the greatest networks a company can use to strengthen its bonds with customers is the Internet, which smart companies today are using to shape greater product choices for their customers -- a trend sometimes called mass customisation, Solari said.
For example, Net users can configure their own PC when ordering from Dell Computer and can select a custom version of blue jeans from Levi Strauss & Co over the Web. Next month, Solari said, doll lovers will be able to log on to barbie.com and design and order their own Barbie doll, and "Reebok is looking to do the same thing for sneakers," he said.
"But these next-generation services will place new demands on networks," he said, making it increasingly critical for companies to know what the most important uses are for its network. By prioritising network needs, St John's Hospital in the midwest of the US has made sure that the network in its emergency room operates on a high priority over less critical hospital services, Solari said.