How managed services (MS) is optimising IT to drive sustainable business growth in 2021

By: Raymond Rea, Managed Services Delivery Manager at Altron Karabina

With the global health crisis having pushed businesses across sectors into a far more digitally-enabled operational model, C-suite discussions around Cloud computing have fundamentally shifted. Prior to 2020 and the sweeping impacts of the pandemic, many leadership teams and CIOs were contemplating some kind of gradual transition to the Cloud environment for certain parts of the business. However, when lockdowns around the world forced businesses to enable staff to work remotely (in many cases, with very little time to prepare) moving key business processes to the Cloud became a matter of survival. Now, as many of these ad hoc (and likely very rushed) transitions to the Cloud simultaneously yield both major productivity benefits and new IT headaches and challenges for leaders, C-suite conversations with CIOs and IT teams are centred around a new question: Do we have the required ability to run the business sustainably in the Cloud, while adopting the necessary platforms for optimal efficiencies?

In many instances, the answer is ‘no’, which is propelling forward-thinking CIOs to embrace the concept of Managed Services (MS) – which, in essence, places an experienced third-party provider in charge of the daily operations of your specialised applications and Cloud environment (thus providing the required capabilities to your company end-users/staff/teams and where relevant, clients and customers).

When working with a skilful and trusted MS partner, large and medium-sized enterprises can more quickly harness and expand the benefits of the Cloud, while also alleviating the daily burden on internal IT teams (and freeing IT decision-makers to focus on ongoing strategic objectives). Now, with Cloud computing and its associated digital capabilities becoming vital to enterprise sustainability and innovation in the post-Covid era, it is perhaps no surprise that demand for Managed Services is set to skyrocket. According to MarketsandMarkets, global demand for these services is forecast to grow from USD 223 billion in 2020 to USD 329 billion by 2025, with the ‘lack of skilled IT professionals, cost reduction and lower IT budgets’ listed as some of the key drivers for this fast-growing global demand.

The (unexpected) complexities of the Cloud

As with any major technology trend, it is critical for business leaders and decision-makers to consider how any new service or service provider can align with – and consistently deliver – business value. A Managed Service provider is no different, and in fact, assumes a central role in enabling its client (the business) to both deliver value, and remain relevant (i.e. competitive) in an increasingly digitised global business ecosystem.

When it comes to the Cloud environment (and the new, business-critical dependencies on it), many leaders and CIOs have discovered a host of new challenges and complexities that haven’t been a major part of ‘Cloud’ conversations in previous years. For instance, the Cloud is not necessarily a cheaper route than on-premise computing, it is merely a different cost equation that requires a new mindset and understanding to truly make it ‘cost-effective’. To unlock value, certain processes will need to be automated, requiring an understanding of AI and data analytics within the business context. In addition, the ‘always-on’ nature of the Cloud and its 24/7 requirement of running various, specialised applications at the same time, requires a level of IT skills, collaboration, experience and expertise that simply doesn’t exist in many businesses at this stage. Moreover, the heightened cybersecurity risks that cast a long shadow over the virtual business environment call for the constant and skilled monitoring of systems to keep businesses, employees and customers safe.

Put simply, savvy CIOs and leaders are beginning to recognise that specialised skills and resources are absolutely required to fully optimise the Cloud environment for business growth – and that failing to have these resources in place can severely inhibit sustainability and innovation in the near term.

Choosing the right MS partner to unlock value

With this context in mind, the next hurdle becomes choosing the right Managed Services provider to support the CIO and IT team in leveraging the Cloud environment in a way that directly aligns with business growth. Naturally, the first and most fundamental requirement is mutual trust, and the knowledge that this MS partner can manage your enterprise platform from end-to-end (security, productivity systems, core processes including ERM, CRM, etc.). To reach a point where this trust is established, it may be worth starting to work with an MS provider on one area of the business (instead of a big bang takeover of every area), and then build out from there. For instance, you can start with back-up and disaster recovery (DR) as a service – which is business critical, but easy for the customer to change providers if the relationship isn’t both symbiotic and seamless. 

In addition to building this foundation of trust with a strategic and incremental approach, it is also important to consider whether your MS provider is able to look at your Cloud and IT environment from a business perspective (e.g. can we scale IT services up or down according to the business growth; can we optimise this environment to cut costs while boosting productivity; etc.) – while simultaneously viewing the task through the technology lens. There has to be an inherent flexibility in the approach, and the ability to constantly monitor IT performance in the context of unlocking business value. Given that 2021 is likely to be the year in which Cloud computing expands and takes centre stage within innovation strategies, establishing an efficient and trust-based relationship with a skilled Managed Services provider can give businesses an invaluable competitive advantage in the years to come…