Steering a transformational SD-WAN network upgrade for a UK county policing organisation
The National Policing Digital Strategy advocates for the use of new technology to protect the public in the digital age. For policing organisations, the challenge is how to deliver the digital policing needed to serve communities in the most efficient and effective way.
Our client, a county-wide policing organisation, has approximately 1,900 frontline staff supported by ten specialist departments and units, all working together to protect and serve the county’s population. Our client also works in close partnership with the county Fire and Rescue Service, with the collaborative aim of making the county safer together.
Our client’s executive leadership has developed a Police and Crime Plan, which aligns to the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC)’s Policing 25 vision, as well as the National Policing Digital Strategy. Both documents recognise the importance of harnessing new technology to protect the population, drive efficiencies, and enable better cross-organisation collaboration. Our client is one of the first UK policing organisations to tackle this challenge by harnessing the potential of SD-WAN (Software-defined Wide Area Network) technology.
At the beginning of 2020, our client’s fully managed legacy service was nearing end of life, while evolving technology offered new possibilities for an end-to-end network infrastructure upgrade. Our client’s spokesperson joined the organisation as IT Project Manager in early 2020, working with senior leadership and all stakeholders to coordinate the transformation.
“Our leadership team was clear that this upgrade should not just be like for like,” the IT Project Manager explains. “We needed a solution that will support our vision now as well as future proofing our networking capabilities. There were also operational drivers: guaranteeing uptime, equipping IT Services to work efficiently, enabling frontline staff to focus on public-facing work, and achieving cost savings. With thousands of network users, different stakeholders naturally had varying opinions on how to achieve these aims! We decided that an impartial, experienced view would help us clarify our collective ambitions. We also wanted expert support to generate market insights, define the programme scope, and evaluate the costs, risks and benefits associated with different solutions.”
Our client selected Mason Advisory to act as a facilitator, adviser and independent, authoritative voice in IT networking and telecommunications. “they quickly identified that we first needed to articulate our overarching vision for the network to align focus and direction across our plans,” says the IT Project Manager. “The starting point was a current state assessment across all existing network capabilities, plus the IT operating model. Mason Advisory then facilitated a requirement gathering process, seeking stakeholder perspectives on usage, demand, pain points and aspirations, and how these might collectively influence our digital policing strategy. That was a really worthwhile exercise. It allowed our team to have their voices heard and ensured that all of the options, risks and benefits were accounted for. From there, they helped us build out an initial supplier RFI (request for information) and gave us the supplier’s perspective, ensuring that the request was structured to generate the high-level information we needed at that stage. That equipped suppliers to fully understand our position and provide valuable insights into how the different options might deliver our desired outcomes. We didn’t want Mason Advisory to simply recommend a one-path solution. We wanted to understand and evaluate all of the possibilities.”
Mason Advisory then helped our client’s team to develop a forward networking strategy, supported by a Target Operating Model and roadmap including an options analysis, costings, dependencies, and risks. “We had many complex factors to consider, but they helped us to bring all of those into a single proposal to present to our senior leadership,” the IT Project Manager explains. “That document gave them the data and assurance they needed to approve a preferred roadmap and instruct us to move forwards. They were very positive about Mason Advisory’s approach, which supported them to make evidence-based, pro-active decisions.”
Procurement began in early 2022 and Mason Advisory was again asked to steer the process. “They sat in on supplier presentations, supporting us with asking relevant questions and marking the responses,” the IT Project Manager says. “That helped us to identify a supplier with a flexible approach and the capacity to meet our requirements. For example, CCTV and body worn cameras can quickly saturate the network in rural policing areas. Our supplier is implementing a dual circuit network which guarantees uptime, protects sources of evidence, and saves frontline officers from spending time manually downloading data on site. Mason Advisory helped us to anticipate such scenarios and select a supplier with the right solution, the right price point, and the right culture to build a positive, transparent relationship.”
As of March 2023, the network rollout is progressing well, according to the IT Project Manager. “We currently have 95% of our sites migrated onto the core SD–WAN network, and WiFi First technology has been fully implemented. We have powerful new capabilities via a dashboard that gives us a single source of visibility and control. We can understand usage levels, prioritise bandwidth and applications, and manage hotspots. The network is essentially self-managing, freeing our technical teams from day-to-day manual intervention to focus on other project priorities. We have also significantly reduced our networking costs.
“Mason Advisory did not simply come in and dictate the way forward. They combined our people’s skills, experience and talents with their own market knowledge and technical expertise. The result was a strong foundation from which we have been able to action our own confident, assured decisions to prepare us for the future.”
IT Project Manager, representing our client