Like so many companies, Community Health Network continued for years to grow, innovate, and expand, while putting greater and greater expectations on its IT department, which adapted… until it found itself truly constrained by the systems it was using. Various short-term fixes were tried, with varying degrees of success.
- Chris Cerny, Community Health’s Director of Enterprise Networking explained, “We are constantly trying to keep up with technology. As a result, an ‘upgrade’ eventually becomes ‘old hat.’ However, more specifically, it became increasingly clear that the service we were getting from our incumbent [fiber network] provider was not sufficient. Nor was their track record adequate, in furnishing new services or troubleshooting current services. We recognized that we needed a provider that would be more flexible as far as service delivery.”
Fiber wasn’t a new technology at Community Health. In fact, they have their own fiber; they lease fiber strands throughout the Indianapolis area, and they also lease lit services delivered to us via fiber infrastructure. The combination of these services comprised the Community Health Network Metropolitan Area Network, or MAN. But the Wide Area Network, or WAN, was becoming increasingly difficult to manage efficiently, due in part to that lack of flexibility on the part of a major vendor.
- They had to find a better WAN solution, one that would meet current needs and that had the flexibility and capacity to accommodate future system improvements. The WAN had to be reliable, and scalable to keep up with the changes in physical locations and bandwidth demands.
Investigation of options revealed that Indiana Fiber Network was one of only providers available in the areas where Cerny needed service, “So we requested more info and pricing from them. The longer we talked with them, the more we realized that IFN had the ability to deliver the bandwidth we needed to the locations we needed, in a manner we needed — at a very competitive price.”
But promises are easy to make.
- Cerny knew that, “Everything up to this point was only on paper, or from the mouth of a salesman. We needed some ‘proof in the pudding.’ We started small, with a simple order for one point-to-point circuit.” That first small order showed that “IFN was able to deliver that service very well, in a timely manner. They passed the initial test. So, our discussions took on greater scope for service to other locations.”
- Ms. Cerny found that “IFN was always able to listen to our needs and sculpt a solution, both technically and financially, that was suitable.”
The need for a new provider was readily apparent, and the preferred vendor was identified; the real obstacle, as is so often the case, involved what are known formally as intangibles. Cerny noted, “The ‘go’ decision was easy to make. It was the politics involved of removing the incumbent that took a lot of time. There were meetings, with spreadsheets with various justifications, lease examinations, etc.” But the exigencies of the situation and good sense prevailed, and IFN got the contract.
Then the “real work” began.
- Cerny said, “The hardest parts for us were waiting for the circuits to get built in and planning the transition with the end users.” Timing and keeping to deadlines was critical, and “IFN had a project manager who was assigned to this project; she kept us informed with every step of the builds. She also was able to articulate our priorities to the outside plant team in order to get installs made as quickly as possible.”
These transitions often take time, as old contracts expire and new needs are addressed. That is how a relationship with a provider can seem “ever new.” As Chris explained, “We have used IFN as a provider for at least 5 years. However, the bulk of our services from IFN have been installed in the last 2 ½ years.”
- There have been a few surprises along the way, but Cerny clarifies: “Bad surprises – NO! Pleasant surprises have been how nimble and flexible IFN has been to work with. There have been a few times that locations have changed or timelines have changed. I don’t feel like there were any surprises or unexpected concerns through our whole implementation with IFN. Even if there were something I didn’t think to ask about, IFN brought it to my attention. So we did not encounter any ‘unknowns.’ That fact alone made for a very successful project, and an even better framework for a partnership.” To sum up, Cerny says, “IFN has been able to accommodate those changes very easily. Their ‘nimble-ness’ is refreshing!”