Countries differ in terms of their needs and funding mechanisms. This is why there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to developing a sustainable NREN. We therefore advocate a proactive and positive approach when preparing reports and submissions, rather than one that opens by describing the NREN and then defending the case for its existence. It is important to realise that an NREN is fundamentally a vehicle to tackle national challenges – outline these challenges first, and then present the NREN as the logical, cost-effective and most effectual way to overcome them.
The core of making a case for a sustainable NREN are the:
- business model, and;
- financial model.
The business model should include the mission, services and structure of the NREN. There is no straightforward, single business model formula as many factors depend on local circumstances. To be most effective, the development of this model should be an iterative process carried out in cooperation with stakeholders.
Recommended steps for developing a business modelStep 1: Identify your stakeholders and their needs
Concentrate on the needs of the various stakeholders in your country. Stakeholders encompass a significantly broader group than just the higher education and research communities, as is often perceived. They usually include government agencies, other funding bodies, national telecom operators, national healthcare and economic development organisations, and many others. Consequently, we have developed a needs/stakeholder matrix table that can help you identify your stakeholders, their needs and also map their priorities.Step 2: Offer value-added services
Identify and determine the services needed to satisfy your stakeholders’ needs in order to develop the optimal NREN model for your country.
To compete with commercial ISPs, NRENs need to ensure that their development focus is targeted on the supply of demand-led value added services, that are characterised by at least one of the following differentiation criteria*:
- Gap reduction
Reduce the distance between network services and the needs that have been identified.
- Service uniqueness
Offer services that cannot be supplied by commercial ISPs.
- Economy of scale
Exploit the economies of scale that the research and education networking community offers (NREN members are often from large communities that, if joined, represent major buying potential).
Provide services that members can customise to the particular needs within their communities.
The resulting service portfolio must truly support and meet the needs of potential members and other stakeholders, rather than serve as a ‘warm blanket’ to provide comfort. Multiple interactions are necessary to build this mind share and trust, and for members to feel ‘ownership’ over the services that an NREN provides.
An overview of NREN services, from connectivity services to collaboration support services (e.g. cloud services) is available from the GÉANT Association Compendium.Step 3: Develop a Business Model and Financial Plan
The final step is to develop the Business Model and Financial Plan for the NREN. These will describe the organisation in terms of service portfolio, network architecture, organisational structure, governance and finances.
*adapted from the GÉANT publication GÉANT Value Added Services.