(Rao) eloquently outlined 10 best practices to improve NOC operations. The Best practices are as follows:
- Implement a Tiered Organization/Workflow
- Track Meaningful Operational Metrics
- Develop a Strategy for Hiring, Training, and Retaining Top Talent
- Implement a Standardized Framework for Process Management
- Develop and Maintain a Business Continuity Plan
- Develop an Effective Customer Experience Management Program
- Develop Platform Integrations and Consolidate Data for Action
- Support Each NOC Function with Proper Documentation
- Design Your NOC Operation for Scalability
- Budget Your NOC Operation Appropriately
Within the “Implement a Tiered Organization/Workflow”, (Rao) outlined the importance of “Organizing your NOC activities and workflows based on your specific technologies and skill levels is one of the biggest hurdles to success”. Workflow should focus on clearly supporting the business goals and products. This can be achieved by creating a tiered workflow for each line of business, as illustrated in his “tiered noc support structure” below.
Several other companies ( (Splunk), (Alertops), (Kavaliova)) within the industry illustrate similar design principles of a tiered structure with clearly defined roles. Where, teams may dissect the structure either vertical or horizontal, which may be based on several factors, e.g. organization size, SLAs, etc.
Using a tiered structure for a NOC framework, we can wrap the framework within a TQM model.
The Total Quality Management model is the continual process of detecting and reducing/eliminating errors within a system. The system comprises input(s), transformational processes, output(s), and feedback for continual improvement.
Wrapping the system within a TQM model allows for activities and tasks within the NOC framework to maintain a desired level of excellence within a business and its operations. There are many TQM models that can be adopted with an organization, examples: Deming, Juran, Crosby, Feigenbaum, Ishikawa, European Model, etc. The adaptation of a TQM model will also foster sustainable innovation within the system. For Example, Deming TQM model has 14 points as listed below (The Deming Institute) :
- Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
- Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
- Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
- End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
- Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
- Institute training on the job.
- Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
- Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
- Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
- Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the workforce.
- Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute with leadership.
- Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship, and eliminate the annual rating or merit system. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
- Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone
- Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation
In the first point, Demining emphasizes the aim is to “become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs” (The Deming Institute). In order to stay competitive within the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) industry, it is imperative that innovation lies within the organization’s culture. Without creating a learning organization and innovation culture within the organization, the organization can potentially lose its resource base strategic advantage of “value, rareness, imitability and organization” (Barney).
Similarly, Deming also stressed the point of improving “constantly and forever the system of production and service” which is also echoed by (Rao), “NOC teams must measure service quality and provide quality assurance on a continuous basis or risk damaging customer satisfaction and compromising the NOC’s reputation”.
Within the processes of constantly improving, it should be noted that one of the challenges many NOCs face is the support of legacy systems and managing multiple inputs. As elaborated by (Rao), “NOC personnel are faced with tracking and managing multiple screens for event information; manually collecting information from multiple sources for the purposes of documentation, notification, and escalation; and then attempting to manage workflow toward service restoration. This makes it nearly impossible to monitor and report on SLA metrics, let alone optimize performance. The results inevitably include operational inefficiencies, missed SLAs, and undue stress on staff.”
Today, many NOCs and vendors are looking at solving this challenge through automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) to be capable of producing a “single-pane” of glass. Hence, the technologies, SLAs, organizational structure, and culture vary within each organization. These factors open avenues for NOCs to innovate through automation, AI & ML for successfully meeting business goals and improving customers’ experiences.
In conclusion, over the years in consulting/managing various ISP’s technical operations, continuous improvement and building capacity within the NOC are crucial in supporting and improving customer experiences. In many cases, focusing on sustainable innovation within the NOC often gives the business its competitive advantage in improving customers’ experiences. For example, purchasing an off-the-shelf platform (e.g. an NMS) and tailoring the business operations to best-fit the limitations of the platform is not innovation, as it is driving the business processes. Rather taking the platform/technology and tailoring it to fit within the business processes to support its competitive advantages is a form of sustainable innovation.
Alertops. “Network Operations Center Best Practices (In 2021).” Network Operations Center Best Practices (In 2021), 2021, https://alertops.com/noc-best-practices/. Accessed 9 10 2021.
Barney, J. B. “. Looking inside for competitive advantage.” Academy of Management Executive, vol. 9, no. 1, 1995, pp. 49-61.
The Deming Institute. “Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management.” Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management, 2021, https://deming.org/explore/fourteen-points/. Accessed 10 10 2021.
Kavaliova, Veranika. “Network Operations Center: Definition and Top 4 Best Practices.” Network Operations Center: Definition and Top 4 Best Practices, 2020, https://www.scnsoft.com/blog/noc-overview. Accessed 9 10 2021.
Rao, Prasad. “NOC Best Practices: 10 Ways to Improve Your Operation in 2021.” NOC Best Practices: 10 Ways to Improve Your Operation in 2021, 2020, https://www.inoc.com/blog/noc-best-practices-10-ways-to-improve-your-operation. Accessed 9 10 2021.
Splunk. “What Is a Network Operations Center (NOC)?” What Is a Network Operations Center (NOC)?, 2021, https://www.splunk.com/en_us/data-insider/network-operations-center.html. Accessed 9 10 2021.