Not Provocative, but Indispensable: Knowledge Transfer within SDN/NFV Services Engagements

Summary Bullets:
• Knowledge transfer is a relatively dull concept with regard to services engagements, but remains a business imperative for telecom services vendors
• The concept has grown in importance as optimization and consulting engagements have grown more complex
• Considering the complexity surrounding SDN/NFV projects, it stands to reason knowledge transfer abilities will become increasingly more important

One of the projects we took on this year at Current Analysis was a report determining the current state of professional services offerings for SDN/NFV and what is to come in the future. Looming virtualization projects are something of a different animal for the telecom industry, requiring new skills, talent, and portfolios. Vendors have done well to incorporate these changes into their messaging, but there’s an aspect of transformation that has flown under the radar. We felt we should shed some light on it.

Rarely highlighted in vendor messaging, but implicitly acknowledged as a component of professional services engagements, knowledge transfer is a critical part of most services engagements, especially when those projects deal with deploying and/or optimizing new technologies. As optimization and consulting engagements have grown more complex, the ability to transfer knowledge obtained or actioned during a service engagement has grown as well. Ultimately, if the operator is left with a less than complete understanding of what was done, and, more importantly, what must be done going forward to keep the network running optimally, a project can fail.

Nevertheless, it’s no surprise then that something as mundane as knowledge transfer is largely left out when discussing professional services for virtualization. For something as important as SDN/NFV the conversation has revolved around the benefits tied to the technology like scalability, flexibility, and improved time to market. Furthermore, the services requirements and organizational transformation to achieve these benefits are considerable, daunting even. It’s understandable that the concept of knowledge transfer might escape top-level services messaging.

The road to virtualization is enormously complex; few will deny it. As operators struggle to define ROI for SDN/NFV adoption, it is easy to understand why vendors are focusing their services messages on consulting and SI-type services that can help overcome some of these fundamental challenges. Nevertheless, SDN/NFV deployments will progress in 2016. As this happens, not only do operators need to fully understand the up and down stream operational and service impacts of a virtual network architecture, they also need to further comprehend how these virtualized networks will interact with their physical networks. Enter the importance of knowledge transfer. As operators face the mandate to undertake comprehensive staff re-training, a services vendor’s ability to document processes and train personnel will become an increasingly important part of any SDN/NFV services portfolio.

We’ll be paying attention to how this aspect of vendor services portfolios evolve; and we trust that all of the operators who are considering SDN and/or NFV deployments in 2016 will be as well.

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