Managed services trend adding speed, flexibility, cost-benefit to IT operations
That phenomenon along with the flexibility and speed needed to address new capabilities such as mobility, social media, cloud, analytics, and automation, is driving dramatic growth in the demand for managed services.
The case for IT-as-a-service rather than wholly owned and operated is compelling. Besides meeting new application demands securely and reliably in a hybrid cloud environment, CIOs are also being asked to facilitate all kinds of new interactions between their organizations and customers, distributors, suppliers and the rest of the world. Getting the capital to build and own these continuous upgrades is usually a tough sell, jumping through hoops trying to win support from the CFO, CEO and board of directors who are looking for cuts in IT expense.
At the same time, most IT departments are turning a blind eye to shadow IT projects. These are rogues in many departments that are uncontrolled and unsanctioned by corporate IT. They are providing critical functions, often without any alignment to core systems. In most cases, it’s not a question of “if.” It’s a question of “how many?”
In fact, most organization have work on a public cloud even if that’s against policy because there are simply more demands on internal data centres than there are appropriately skilled staff and infrastructure to manage.
In this environment, adopting managed services is an efficient way to stay up to date on technology, to have access to needed skills, and to address all issues related to cost, quality of service and risk.
That said, and the rapid growth of managed services notwithstanding, there is sometimes a reluctance to adopt a new approach to IT. Some organizations are committed to maintaining everything in-house.
For them, there is likely benefit from having an independent assessment to answer a few questions:
- Is their IT running optimally?
- Are they getting the biggest bang for their buck?
- Where do they have shadow IT operating and what challenges might that create?
- Is there an opportunity to look at workload optimization, perhaps moving to a hybrid strategy?
Those do-it-themselves organizations can have completely self-managed IT-as-a-Service while moving some workloads to the public cloud, some to private cloud, and using automation and orchestration to ensure resiliency and disaster recovery.
Once they have realized those benefits, even if just using the cloud to enhance scalability, they are likely to find that adding managed service will increase agility, enabling them to respond faster and more cost-effectively to marketplace opportunities and risks. They are also likely to save time and reduce cost and complexity through managed services.
Certainly, every organization’s needs are different. The goal for each is to achieve the right access to innovation, flexibility, agility, speed to market, integration, optimization, and orchestration; for each to adopt a level of flexibility that suits their agility needs. For example, the definition of “always on” means different things to different organizations. In financial services, it likely means 99.999 per cent availability. For other organizations, it might mean having the ability to scale up or scale down as workloads demand.
The marketplace has decided that a managed services strategy is the most effective way to address those needs. They help companies adapt to changes in the market faster, through quick access to new cost-effective cloud-based services, such as platform as a service, infrastructure as a service, or software as a service.
They provide access to specific talent, and specific business unit needs such as sales, customer support, and marketing. And if you’re not meeting those needs, shadow IT will crop up to meet them.
With all the demands on IT today, the best way for CIOs to provide value is to adopt an open, framework-based model. Under this model, CIOs act as brokers of standardized internal and external services. They provide them faster. They provide them scalably, they provide them more cost effectively, and they provide them with full financial transparency and service level agreements.
The days of owning and operating everything from end-to-end are drawing to a close. Managed services are quickly becoming the new normal, just as the cloud has become pervasive. Every organization needs to consider them in today’s competitive and rapidly changing environment.
Michael Stephenson is a senior IT architect and leads IBM’s Managed Services business in Canada.
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