AT&T of the last century controlled most of telecommunications in North America with significant influence on the rest of the world. Ultimately, its products became very expensive, less responsive to market changes and the company developed an arrogance that alienated its customer base. The North American carriers reached out to Ericsson, Siemens, Nortel and others to develop alternative choices for better pricing, product strategies and support. This created major problems for billing and operational support systems and required significant interoperability testing. Clearly, the single vendor networks are easier to operate but they do require a leap of faith in putting all of your proverbial eggs into one basket.
Given the cost of switching vendors, a decision to proceed with an end-to-end or single vendor solution is significant and must be considered highly strategic. Vendor selection must look beyond capabilities available today and, in fact, must look beyond the vision of the proposed vendor. Product or architecture life cycle plans need to communicate how a vendor plans to support a variety of service and infrastructure changes over time and demonstrate both the willingness and methodologies to incorporate unknown technologies that will disrupt the life cycle plan. Consider the change in dominance in the wireless market from RIM to Apple to Android which requires IT departments, large and small, to establish new rules for device approval and introduction. Operational Support Systems, security software, application interfaces, process flows and databases are all affected by this shift towards BYOD.
The answer as to which to choose, single vendor or multi-vendor, best-of-breed or trusted entity, is more tied to the nature or value of the solution. However, there are a few considerations that can assist in the deciding which direction to choose:
- What is the breath of the vendor offering? Is it a one off or does it represent and integrated solution or suite of products/applications?
- Does the business have the technical resources to support a multivendor environment which requires greater training and more diverse product knowledge?
- What is the cost? Which presents the best TCO?
- What is the long term viability of the supplier? Do they have the resources (capital and personnel) to develop competitive and desirable products long term? Do they have enough market share to sustain them through unpredictable market swings and changes in customer buying behavior?
- Can they support your business? Are they prepared to offer SLAs that ensure your business will be operational and your customer base satisfied?
After careful consideration and analysis, the answer is…