So, you’ve identified that you’ve got a (strategic) network design problem. Now, where do you start? While network design does have a ‘usual’ workflow, every project will have its own nuances and can be slightly different. You are experimenting with a future that doesn’t exist yet. This makes the steps you need to follow a little fuzzy and they may vary every time. This is very different to operational and tactical planning, where you repeat certain well-defined tasks over and over.
If you do not know where to start, our best advice would be to avoid this approach: “Let’s get some data, push it into the app and see what happens.” This can lead to much frustration and inefficiency in all stages of the process because you have no sense of direction and purpose to what you are doing.
Instead, we recommend that you start with the end in mind. Try following these steps:
Write down the business question(s).
Figure out (together with your business owners) what questions you are trying to answer with network design and write them down. Picture yourself giving a boardroom presentation with the outcomes of the study and think about what slides will you need to present your story.
Design a list of scenarios that you will need to run to answer the business question(s).
This list is preliminary and will inevitably need to be adjusted as you work through the process and learn new things. After you present your first scenarios, new questions and associated scenarios will arise. If you're using a tool like AIMMS Network Design, that’s ok, because you can run as many scenarios as you like.
Figure out what data you will need to run the scenarios
The scenarios you want to run will help you define what data you need, and also guide you in deciding how to aggregate the data into something that makes sense for a network design exercise.
Collect the data you need
You now have a focused list of data requirements. So, gather the data that you really need. Validate, clean and aggregate the data with the business before capturing it in the model.
Work through the rest of the network design process
You are now ready to start modeling: import the data into the model, run the scenarios, prepare the boardroom presentation.
Download our full Guide for more implementation best practices.
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