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Striking a Balance: Navigating Unusual Requests in Managed Network Services

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In the dynamic realm of managed services, professionals are well-acquainted with the inevitable challenge of handling peculiar requests from clients. These situations are par for the course, given the diversity in expertise between managed service providers and customers. While it’s common to resolve these requests swiftly, a critical question lingers: how should such situations be approached? This article delves into the nuances of managing these scenarios, emphasising the delicate balance between accommodating client requests and imparting professional expertise.

The Dilemma of Firewall Policy Requests

Consider the scenario of a firewall policy request – a common area of contention. Clients often articulate their security requirements, but these requests can be ambiguous, leading to multiple interpretations. For managed service providers, the decision-making process becomes intricate. Do they break down the request into individual rules, implement it as is, or reject it outright for resubmission? Each option carries implications that demand careful consideration.

Avoiding Pitfalls: Navigating the Challenges of Ambiguous Requests

In the complex landscape of managed services, addressing ambiguous client requests, such as firewall policy submissions, requires a strategic approach to avoid potential pitfalls. One common response is to break down these requests into individual rules for precise implementation. While this method may seemingly tidy up the request and cater to the client’s connectivity needs, it comes at a significant cost. The extensive time and effort invested in dissecting and amending the rules divert valuable resources away from other business as usual (BAU) tasks. Moreover, this approach raises concerns about interpretation.

Implementing fragmented rules can lead to security requests being open to varied interpretations, diminishing the integrity of the original request and compromising the audit trail. This potential loss of clarity and accountability raises serious concerns about the effectiveness of the implemented security policies.

On the other hand, opting to deploy the request exactly as the client submitted it appears to bypass these challenges. However, this seemingly straightforward solution introduces a different set of problems. Implementing policies without refinement can result in security devices housing irrelevant rules that may never be applied. These discrepancies create vulnerabilities, allowing for unintended access and potentially turning the network into a haven for spoofers. From an audit perspective, such situations may be deemed as direct failures, posing significant risks to the client’s security posture.

In light of these considerations, there appears to be a single remaining option: rejecting the request and urging the client to resubmit in the “proper” format. While this approach ensures that security policies are not compromised and maintains the integrity of the network, it comes at a cost. The client, having been denied the requested connectivity, is left grappling with the intricacies of the resubmission process. This situation raises legitimate questions about the value of the managed service they are paying for.

However, it is crucial to emphasise that rejecting a request outright is not synonymous with dismissing the client’s needs. Instead, it opens the door for a collaborative dialogue. Managed service providers can engage clients in discussions, guiding them toward a better understanding of the requirements. This approach fosters a transparent partnership where clients are not only heard but also made aware of the nuances of their requests.

In summary, addressing ambiguous client requests in managed services demands a delicate balance. Service providers must navigate the complexities of client expectations, internal processes, and security concerns. By embracing transparent communication, engaging clients in educational dialogues, and proactively refining processes, providers can mitigate the challenges associated with ambiguous requests. This collaborative effort ensures that both parties are aligned, leading to a more secure and efficient managed service experience, fostering transparency, enhancing security, and ensuring client satisfaction.

Adapting and Innovating

Providers should be willing to reassess established processes, encouraging open discussions to refine them continuously. By actively participating in the evolution of these processes, professionals can enhance client relationships and improve service quality. Such adaptability not only benefits the current client but also enriches the provider’s knowledge base, enabling seamless integration of innovative ideas across various client accounts.

Standardised Proforma and Automation

In the context of firewall policy requests, the implementation of standardised proforma and automation presents a significant opportunity. Providing clients with pre-defined templates tailored to their security requirements is a proactive strategy that greatly streamlines the process, particularly for routine requests. Managed service providers can expedite the authorisation process for new applications by offering clients a structured framework.

Automation plays a pivotal role in this scenario. By employing automated processes to assess standard requests, service providers ensure not only efficiency but also precision in policy enforcement. Automating the validation and deployment of pre-approved security policies not only accelerates the client’s authorisation process but also empowers the provider to focus on intricate, non-standard requests that demand in-depth analysis and customisation.

Integrating automation and standardised templates into the managed services framework allows providers to strike a balance between efficiency and customisation. This streamlined approach enables service providers to promptly meet client needs while optimising their operational workflow. Furthermore, it fosters a collaborative environment where clients can independently make routine requests, ensuring that expert resources are allocated effectively, enhancing the overall quality of service.


Adopting these philosophies is imperative to view the dynamic interaction between clients and service providers from both sides of the spectrum.

Clients play a pivotal role in shaping the efficiency of managed services. To ensure requests are acted upon swiftly and effectively, clients can take proactive steps. When raising a request, providing clear and detailed information is paramount. Clearly articulating the desired outcomes, explaining any specific requirements, and detailing the context of the request can significantly streamline the process. By understanding the intricacies of their own needs and expressing them transparently, clients pave the way for service providers to address their requests.

Moreover, fostering an open dialogue with service providers can contribute to a collaborative environment. Seeking clarification on any ambiguous aspects of the request before submission ensures that both parties are aligned on expectations. This collaborative approach not only expedites the request resolution but also enriches the overall partnership between clients and service providers.

For service providers, adopting this approach involves more than just responding to client requests; it’s about guiding clients toward better practices. When faced with ambiguous or impractical requests, service providers can proactively engage clients in constructive dialogues.

Taking on a mentorship role, steering clients toward a better understanding of their requirements and offering guidance on how to structure requests for optimal efficiency and security not only resolves immediate concerns but also contributes to the client’s long-term progress. By prioritising transparency and awareness, providers cultivate a partnership where clients evolve alongside the ever-changing landscape of managed services.

In essence, embracing this philosophy becomes a shared journey between clients and service providers. Through effective communication, mutual understanding, and a commitment to continuous improvement, this collaborative approach ensures that each interaction contributes to the growth and success of both parties in the dynamic arena of managed services.


Jon Allan, CCIE#63685, is a Principal Network Architect designing network solutions for global energy and financial accounts at Systal Technology Solutions. He serves as a vital pillar in Systal’s technical leadership, contributing significantly to the company’s role as a dynamic and forward-thinking services integrator. Jon excels in delivering swift, adaptable, and customised support, aligning seamlessly with the unique goals and challenges of Systal clients’ businesses.

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