Network Design - Requirements Gathering

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with a large government agency for what I thought was going to be a Requirements Gathering meeting for their network design. It turned out that they were almost a light year away from discussing the actual requirements of the network, so my part of the discussion was very brief. Prior to the meeting, I thought to myself about the fact that I had never put any sort of requirements gathering process on paper! Like...At all.

Then I realized that I couldn't recall ever even seeing documentation on what types of questions should be asked at these meetings...

What are these network architects working from? Are they just hip-firing questions and writing down answers? Were they working from some super secret design guide?

Either way, I needed to put something together quick! Here are the results of an hour sitting on my surface in my car across the street from the building prior to this meeting!!!

Business Application Requirements

The designer must determine which applications the customer is planning to use and the importance of each of these applications. Using a table helps organize and categorize the applications and services planned; the table should contain the following information:

■ Planned application types: Include e-mail, groupware (tools that aid group work), voice networking, web browsing, video on demand (VoD), databases, file sharing and transfer, computer-aided manufacturing, and so forth.

■ Applications: Specific applications that will be used, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Cisco Unified MeetingPlace, and so forth.

■ Level of importance: The importance of the applications—whether critical or important or not important—is noted.

Questions to Ask:

■ What are you trying to accomplish with this project?

■ What business challenges are you currently facing?

■ What are the consequences of not resolving these issues?

■ How would you measure or quantify success if you could fix or correct the identified problems and issues?

■ What applications are most critical to your organization?

■ What is the major objective of this project?

■ What is driving the change?

■ Do you need to support any government or safety or legal mandates?

■ What are your main concerns with the implementation of a new solution?

■ What technologies or services are needed to support your objectives?

■ What other technology projects and business initiatives will affect your group in the next two to five years?

■ What skill sets does your technical staff currently have?

■ What is your goal for return on investment?

Organizational Constraints

When assessing organizational goals, it is important to analyze any organizational constraints that might affect the network design. Some sample questions the designer might ask to help determine organizational constraints include the following:

Questions to Ask:

■ What in your current processes works well?

■ What in your current processes does not work well?

■ Which processes are labor-intensive?

■ What are the barriers for implementation in your organization?

■ What are your major concerns with the implementation of a new solution?

■ What financial and timing elements must be considered?

■ What projects already have budget approval?

Technical Goals

The technical goals of the project must also be determined before the design starts. Some sample questions the designer might ask to help determine technical goals include the following:

Questions to Ask:

■ What are your technology priorities?

■ How does your technology budgeting process work?

■ What infrastructure issues exist or will exist related to your applications rollouts?

■ What skill sets does your technical staff need to acquire?

■ Does your current network have any performance issues?

■ Which portions of your network are considered mission-critical?

■ Are other planned technology projects and business initiatives compatible with your current infrastructure and technology solutions?

■ What qualifications does your current staff have? Do you plan to hire more staff? If so, for what roles?

■ Do you have a budget for technical development for your staff?

■ Are there any policies in place that might affect the project?