Technology Development Process

A Good Process is Needed to Make Engineering Successful

A little over 3 years ago, I wrote two blogs on network design process:

In those blogs I referenced Cisco's PDIOO (Plan, Design, Implementation, Operations, and Optimize) framework for design.

This framework and the blogs were helpful, but not something we could use ourselves. It was advice, not a process. So, after those blogs got me motivated, I spent some time with my team, using the PDIOO framework as a model, and developed our own Technology Development Process. This 7 step process is used to engineer a new technology.

  1. Requirements - the first phase is requirements. This is where the assigned engineer works with the customer or user to define what is needed. This may be difficult but often it is not. Plus, the engineer may have to develop his/her own list of requirements based on existing knowledge. A lot of times customers won't know what to make into a requirement. This is where the engineer can add significant value, adding to requirements that he knows should be included. The biggest thing to remember in the requirements phase is to ensure you document all requirements by writing everything down.
  2. Research - once the requirements are set, the engineer moves into research phase. This is where the engineer investigates technologies that will achieve the requirements. This research could be via vendor meetings, webpages (like Cisco.com), basic lab testing, or books. RFPs and RFQs can also be done during this stage if competiive bidding is necessary. Anything that can provide information about possible technologies that may meet the requirements. At the end of this phase, a technology is chosen.
  3. Design - this is where all the traditional network engineering work is done. A network engineer in this phase is figuring out how this new technology, researched and chosen in the previous phase, will fit into the existing network ecosystem and also be configured to achieve the requirements set in the first phase. Network design diagrams, proposed configurations, and IP addressing, etc. are the outcome of this phase.
  4. Testing - once the design is done, it's time to test it. All good designs fall apart when first tried out in the lab. Testing is often one of the most important phases, but it does take time. Be prepared with a good test plan with identifiable goals and a documentation plan for testing results. Be sure to capture all configurations from the lab since they are needed in the next phase.
  5. Standardization - this phase is where the final documentation is completed. The diagrams and configurations created in the "Design" phase were tested in the previous phase. In this phase, all of that information is finalized. If this will be a reference design for a written architecture, then templates are created. Out of this phase should be all documentation that is needed to implement the technology.
  6. Implement and Operationalize - in this penultimate phase the new technology is implemented. All the design, testing, and documentation work comes together here to install and enable the new technology which will meet the customer requirements set in phase 1. Also, once installed, all network monitoring systems should be updated to monitor the new technology (as appropriate).
  7. Review - the final phase is a review of the process itself. Often during new technology development some requirements aren't met. Or, during the process, new features are found that could be used in the future. This possibly all feeds back into a new Requirements phase so the process can begin again. It's also important here to review with the customer that the requirements were met and the new technology is a success.

This is a process my team has followed for several years now with success. It forms the basis of how our future planning is done (a future blog) and how engineers plan their time. In the next blog, I'll take an example of a new technology through this process to add some context.

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