IT managers challenged to convince execs of IP benefits

TORONTO — Canadian enterprise IT managers are beginning to reap the benefits of IP networking, but say it can be an uphill battle to convince business leaders to make the investment.

Representatives from Kraft Canada, Scotiabank and Mountain Cablevision were on hand at the IP World conference,

held earlier this month, to discuss the business case behind IP.

Business leaders “”really look upon technology as an evil that we have to deal with. Every time we spend a penny, it reduces their bottom line,”” said George Lewis, vice-president network engineering and design at Scotiabank.

It’s best to pitch the decision-makers not only on short-term gains and ROI predictions, but on future benefits, said Lewis.

Lewis said Scotiabank is in the midst of a migration to IP architecture. “”The biggest challenge is making all those separate, disparate networks work as one,”” he said. “”Then this IP thing came along.””

For Patrick Kiely, director of business operations and development at Mountain Cablevision, switching to IP networking was a decision based not only on potential cost savings, but on surviving in a business dominated by massive cable and telecommunications companies.

Mountain Cablevision, is a family-owned business that has operated in Hamilton for about 45 years, Kiely said. The cable provider began offering broadband access to its subscriber base about five years ago. “”It seems like a lifetime ago,”” he said.

Now Mountain Cablevision is looking at providing local phone service to Hamilton residents over IP. The company will offer a bundled solution with consolidated billing, much like Rogers Communications or Bell Canada.

Playing with the big boys

“”We live in a world where the big boys play the game,”” he said. “”We have to be a lot sharper, we have to guess better than the big boys.

“”Our survival depends on where the world is headed,”” he said of the company’s push towards IP infrastructure. “”I think the No. 1 motivator is survival.””

For Kraft Canada, IP isn’t about survival, but more of a means to an end. “”Survival for us is CRM linked to the supply chain,”” said Dale Stilwell, business systems manager, network services at Kraft Canada, based in Mount Royal, Que.

The food giant uses IP networks in-house for connectivity and data-sharing. “”IP plays a huge role. We started off simply saying it’s saving money. (Now) the business is starting to see there are things there that you couldn’t do before,”” he said.

It’s possible to sell management purely on the cost savings associated with IP networking, he said, but it’s better to demonstrate that there are business improvements to be realized in making the switch. Now Kraft uses its IP networks for process management, organizational development and training opportunities, he said.

Switching to IP has been a gradual process, he said, but that isn’t a bad thing.

A great many bugs and security flaws have been discovered in Microsoft Windows products within a short time, Stilwell said. Had those products been installed on a purely IP architecture, potential security problems could have been worse, particularly if data and voice share a network.

“”We all got the wake-up call,”” he said. Most of the security problems can be mitigated while networks are still in the design phase, he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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