For enterprises considering an SD-WAN solution, one of the key choices will be who will implement and manage it.\nFor some enterprises this is a relatively straightforward decision; for others the choice may require more deliberation. In either case, best-practice sourcing dictates that this decision be made up front \u2013 to achieve exceptional results, the sourcing strategy, approach and execution following must be tailored to the desired self-managed or fully-managed solution.\u00a0\n\nIf you have a strong and sufficiently sized internal networking team with associated software\/routing and other engineering competencies, taking on the implementation of SD-WAN is more than feasible. There may still need to be development of new skill-sets to take advantage of the technology and fully understand the flavor of SD-WAN chosen.\nA structured vendor-selection process and a clear route to a meaningful pilot will be important for both choosing products that align with the enterprise\u2019s specific needs and continuing the internal team\u2019s education. The time should be used not just for the technical beauty parade and discussion of implementation challenges, but to consider any organizational adaptation that will be required. This should include consideration of how the networking team can better align with the application teams given the promise SD-WAN offers to more optimally serve the needs of applications.\nSourcing SD-WAN is a more iterative process than it is for more mature technologies such as MPLS.\u00a0 There is a strong case for a more flexible approach than the RFP of old \u2013 something that is quicker, still robust but allows you to be up and running sooner. We call this approach the \u201cRFI+.\u201d\nPart of the approach is to use your potential solutions live to address real pain points \u2013 a meaningful pilot \u2013 which also starts to convince stakeholders throughout the business of the benefits.\u00a0 Demonstrably improved performance is always valuable in re-affirming the decision to executives and business users, and, importantly, to further inform what your end-state network architecture should be.\u00a0 Contract for a degree of flexibility to allow you to capitalize on your experiences with beneficial adaptation of what were your day-one plans.\nIf you don\u2019t have a strong internal networking capability here\u2019s a health warning. SD-WAN marketing promises: zero-touch set-up; centralized control and rapid reconfiguration; reduction in engineering effort; easy optimization of application traffic management enabled through smart technology and a ready repository of ready-made rules and application policies; all supported by unparalleled performance, visibility and analytics.\u00a0 While to some extent all this is true, the unwary should not be seduced into thinking this means you can now take on self-management (including self-implementation). It just isn\u2019t that simple. Understanding what you have and what you need, and executing a transition is probably beyond your collective capability without third-party help. We don\u2019t see enterprises suddenly being able to take back control, even if it may be a downstream option to have more involvement.\nThe sensible path is to work to select a capable managed service provider (MSP) with whom you can work and to get someone to help you select the right MSP. The selection criteria are more extensive than just WAN transport connectivity. They extend to areas such as carefully assessing the candidate MSPs\u2019 capabilities, their fit with your organization, gaps in the scope of what they are offering and the commercial provisions (not just headline numbers) that will influence the success of arrangements you establish.\u00a0 Don\u2019t simply fall into working with your current incumbent network MSP without at least some comparative effort and sense of competition. Alternatives could be carrier MSP offerings or more specialist entities focused on fronting the SD-WAN technology.\u00a0 There are pros and cons for both.\nFor enterprises with networking architecture and support capabilities somewhere between the well-resourced, highly technical in-house team and the largely outsourced MSP model, things can be more difficult to navigate. \u00a0This is mainly because the range of go-forward options is increased.\u00a0 Enterprises with some capability (or surrogate capability if we include those with broader outsourcing arrangements that might cover such things as application support, desk-top management, facilities, networking devices, etc.) may need to compare more alternatives. This may be direct technology selection versus assessment of the technologies that MSPs work with (this is usually limited to one or two flavors of SD-WAN per MSP). The commercial models will not be directly comparable, and the potential pitfalls of each need to be unearthed.\nThere can be a wider spectrum of responsibilities split between the enterprise and third parties, so the rigor required to prevent gaps and define effective boundaries increases. Understanding the service, operational and commercial impact of these responsibilities and memorializing them is a material task.\u00a0 Again, this is an area that shouldn\u2019t be left to chance \u2013 get outside help if necessary \u2013 and consider what to document throughout the process from initial selection, any bake-off effort, piloting and final commercial arrangements.\nWhat you set up with the expression of interest and initial assessment (including commercials) will pay dividends for business-case development and final contractual close-down.\u00a0 It will be important to develop a view of your end-state network architecture \u2013 constrained among other things by your networking start-point and capacity for change, ambition (risk appetite), type of business (retail, financial services, manufacturing) and culture \u2013 and, hence, what you are hoping to achieve in the medium and longer term.\nIn all cases, the procurement approach should start with a more exploratory effort to narrow down the choices, secure some key commitments and bounds on the commercials. Preferably, it should also maintain some competitive tension but leave things open for ongoing collaboration. \u00a0Our RFI+ approach works well, but however you term it any final decisions and commitments should ideally be informed by and subject to the pilot effort that comes from the collaboration.\nMark Sheard (Managing Director - UK) and Jack Deal (Managing Director) are advisors with TechCaliber Consulting (TC2), a global IT and networking consultancy dedicated to helping enterprise clients develop and execute technology transformation and sourcing strategies. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.