Wide Area Network services such as Frame Relay, MPLS, and Internet connectivity are fairly fundamental commodities at their most basic level. If you’re in procurement, and you are not familiar with these types of services, here’s what you need to know: 1) WAN connections are the data connections allowing site-to-site data sharing, 2) fundamentally, WAN services are pretty straightforward and consistent across carriers 3) Even so, there are still opportunities to secure excellent pricing and terms & conditions, as well as lay the groundwork for tech adoption. It's easy to overlook three simple ways to do more in the marketplace than simply maintain connectivity between sites and the outside world.

1. A network RFP should not only include network services. Every major player in the network space has a complementary portfolio of services including TDM voice (local, long distance), SIP, conferencing, and PBX, routing, and other equipment. By taking the time to review and include your other services, you are able to leverage more volume, and accomplish more with minimal additional effort when soliciting proposals. In other words, you can get better pricing and discounts on both your voice, data, and other services vs. data alone simply by creating a comprehensive RFP. Not all your services need to end up with a single supplier, but harmonizing the supply bases and services purchased will ultimately save money and make management much simpler.

2. Involve other departments in your go-to-market approach. For the reasons above, it's necessary to align the networking team with the voice services and information technology groups if they are not already one in the same. This way, it's possible to get the visibility needed, and make the best decisions about how to present the opportunity to bidders. For example, if voice services would like to adopt SIP in the next 3 years, and IT would like to do a router refresh, all three parties will need to collaborate to identify the requirements for network, SIP, and equipment.

3. With the team fully engaged and maximizing the opportunity for the supply base, it's also important to not only nail down today's requirements, but the plan for the next several years. Again, IT may be thinking about moving the data center -that could have huge implications to cost and timing for a new network rollout. Once the voice group rolls out SIP, bandwidth to many facilities may need to increase, which could warrant a provisioning of Ethernet vs. T1-based services. Gaining alignment for the "day 1" network as well as for a few years down the road will not only help you to ensure you use your total spend volume to leverage pricing and discounts for services you're buying today, but also will make it easier for you to rollout services you may want to roll out in the short term or long term future.

While WAN services may seem like low hanging fruit in terms of cost reduction, a great deal of opportunity can be easily overlooked. It's always worth taking a step back and making sure you are maximizing your leverage in the marketplace, planning for tomorrow and the long-term, and getting the decision makers and end users involved who will ultimately have to own or deal with the results of your sourcing initiative.
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David Pastore

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