$28B network consulting market becoming more efficient

Network consultancies that have worldwide coverage are starting to work smarter, which has positive effects on enterprises looking to employ such services, IDC experts say.

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Globally-focused network consultants are becoming more efficient in their work, which opens the door to considering how technology implementations may impact other parts of an organization, according to a new report.

International Data Corp. analyst Leslie Rosenberg said her report, IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Network Consulting Services 2017 Vendor Assessment, explains that speedier and less expensive network consulting means more time and effort can be directed to involving a company's non-IT staff and perhaps even employees of partner companies. Traditionally, network consultants only worked with a client's technology staff who may not appreciate the wider scope of their decisions, Rosenberg explained.

Rosenberg said the report builds on her 2015 edition of the Worldwide Consulting Services Vendor Assessment and also follows a forecast from early June 2017, co-authored with IDC analyst Curtis Price, finding the worldwide network consulting market at $28.7 billion this year and growing to an expected $35.2 billion by 2021. For the US, the market is $12 billion this year and expected to reach $14.6 by 2021, she said.

The new report covers Accenture, AT&T, British Telecom, Cisco Systems, Dimension Data, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Huawei, and IBM.

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"This is a really strong group who've been in this space for a really long time. There are a lot of market leaders in this study," Rosenberg said. "What we're seeing here is that the bar continues to raise for capabilities in service delivery," including tools, automation, platforms, people, and processes, she noted. Consultants are assessing, designing, planning, and deploying networks faster than ever--sometimes in days or weeks, rather than weeks or months.

"We're also seeing that because you're automating things that people go away. Your people can be much more strategic. [Now] it's not just IT and network managers. We're seeing these conversations move upstream into the business," Rosenberg added. That is a valuable service for clients, not just a way for consultants to justify their profit margins, she said.

The report explains many things that such companies are doing well: "A key worldwide finding is that network consulting providers are generally quite capable with the delivery of critical capabilities by providing the required spectrum of consulting services, leveraging resources appropriately, and integrating processes and toolsets into the engagement. They are also investing in tools and technologies to help clients identify and implement options for growth, expand into new markets/geographies, and innovate around the network for greater efficiency, competitive advantage, and business models," an IDC representative stated.

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But all is not rosy: "Another key finding is that according to this evaluation, generally, network consulting providers have work to do to strengthen their ability to have consistent global knowledge transfer and exchange--an essential component of many projects. The participants were also evolving the way they commercially engage with clients, by offering a broader spectrum of consumption, payment, and risk sharing options based on customer needs and business requirements."

Rosenberg said she's preparing a similar report to cover somewhat smaller players including HCL Technologies, Juniper Networks, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, and others. That report is scheduled for December 2017.

Companies should consider their own size, along with geography, goals, and existing providers, when considering which kind of network consultant to hire, Rosenberg said. Many global network consultants are also starting to ramp up their Internet of Things expertise by hiring experts or acquiring specialists, she observed.

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