IPv6 – How to avoid failing

A single fallen leaf on Earth

One of these days I came across an interesting article called “Why Transformation Efforts Fail”, by John P. Kotter. He is a retired Harvard Business School professor, and published this article in his book “Leading Change”. The article outlines eight critical success factors. However, I will comment on the only first three ones. I am not saying the other five are less important, but these three ones are responsible for the majority of failure when it comes to major projects that shift a companies’ direction, like the deployment of IPv6.

As a consultant, I used to implement PMO (project management offices) and ITIL processes in varies companies. At the kick-off meetings with the project’s sponsors, I always ask if the executives are committed to the project, not only the CIO. Never mind if you have the right people, right processes and technology in place if you don’t have support from the executives. The odds for failure in these types of projects are very high.

This is exactly what Kotter states in his first step: “Establish a sense of urgency”. As he says in the article “just getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won’t help, and the effort goes nowhere.”

I wonder why the majority of companies did not start the process of adopting IPv6 address. Maybe people did not realize the impact of the IPv4 address exhaustion in business. It reminds me the same characteristic of a Black swan theory event.

Start thinking when there will not be more IPv4 available addresses. On the sudden customers will only be able to access IPv6 sites, and would your site be ready for that? Don’t underestimate the complexity behind this scenario; it would involve firewalls, database connectivity, load balancers, applications compatibility and IPv4 coexistence.

IPv6 is a spooky acronym in the enterprises. It is often related to deep technical skills, indeed it requires it; however, an IPv6 group should have a senior manager and other representatives from key areas advocating for them into the steering committee, in order to avoid having a bunch of geeks ruling the group. This is what Kotter had in mind when he wrote the second step: “Creating a Powerful Enough Guiding Coalition”. It is related to the group that will take over the transformation. It is crucial to build this group with power and authority - Power is defined as "the ability to influence somebody to do something that he/she would not have done", authority refers to a claim of legitimacy, the justification and right to exercise that power.

The last step is to create a Vision. Quoting Kotter: “Without a sensible vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all”. It has been said, be aware of vague vision like “Implementing IPv6 on the entire company” will not be a good pick. Try to focus first on a particular Internet or internal service that would benefit using IPv6 in the near future.

Take your time and go through the entire Kotter’s article, it is worth reading not only for IPv6 deployment but also for the major projects that you might be involved in.

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