Getting back to normal with managed services
For a world that believed it had a handle on uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic was a crushing reminder that you never quite know what's coming next. The digital narrative was normally framed as looking for opportunities, digital being the conduit to get those advantages. Then the pandemic revealed the other side of this coin – digital is just as important, if not more so, for resilience.
"COVID-19 shows the importance of business resilience," says Neil Jackson, business unit manager for New Tech and Axiz Technology Services. "This resilience enables companies to meet present and future crises. But large-scale disruptive events are another matter. When crises come from the broader environment – whether political, cultural, economic or physical – companies are often unprepared. Now, the health crisis linked to COVID-19 has underscored companies' vulnerability to such external disruptions. This crisis has spared no company, regardless of size or industry. Companies seem almost to be helpless."
Finance vs resilience
So, at least a light bulb has switched on: digital transformation is as much about managing calamity as it can generate market share and revenue. Yet this does not solve another problem from the pandemic and instead creates considerably more stress: resilience isn't cheap.
Perhaps we should reframe that. Resilience can come in many different shapes and solutions, but it is often a necessary purchase where the value isn't apparent until you need it. In other words, have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it. This situation, though, comes crashing against the financial realities of the pandemic.
"By the end of April, it was reported that investors had already pulled out US$83 billion from emerging markets since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak," Jackson explains. "Such has the impact of the pandemic been that many analysts only expect an economic recovery to start taking shape from 2021. To this end, organisations across sectors and industries are rigorously evaluating their budgets, with long-term financial forecasts having had to be scrapped in many cases due to the massive uncertainties organisations are currently faced with. In these difficult economic conditions, it has become increasingly costly to employ permanent skills, especially in specialised IT areas."
This all plays off against a shifting backdrop. As the dust settles, companies and workforces are pondering their next moves: do they stay as remote workers, rush back to the office, or create a hybrid arrangement? How does this apply to different classes of workers? And how does it influence the culture and social capital accrued at offices? Practically all of these considerations have digital elements to them, yet so does everything else – and budget priorities have to be accommodated.
Managing back to normal
IT is an enormous cost-centre – often only second behind the biggest business cost, staff salaries. If something has to give, it's likely going to be here among the tech and techies. But how can companies keep their momentum, maintain digital transformation, and still solve the pandemic's many challenges? Through managed services.
Managed services is not a foreign concept anymore. Though comparable to outsourcing, it is a much more mature and integrated way for service providers to help support a company's IT estate and staff. Since managed services are service-based, they are easily tied to SLA requirements, operate on opex budgets, and can be scaled up or down. Thus companies gain considerable flexibility, translating into a type of resilience they need to navigate the post-pandemic return to what new normals are emerging.
"Today, decision-makers are reliant on having the ability to access services and solutions from any geographic location and need to work with service providers that enable them to do so as cost-effectively as possible. This is making managed services even more attractive than before, especially in the IT infrastructure and data solutions space, where technology and data are proving to be key assets to continued business sustainability."
The problems that managed services can address are staggering:
- Unpredictable, costly downtime;
- Overages, surprises and unpredictable IT support costs;
- Frustration with an inability to accurately budget for IT;
- Vital network service and repair costs;
- Expense and effort of hiring and managing an internal IT support staff;
- Risk and risk exposure;
- Security vulnerabilities;
- Data loss or theft;
- Compliance uncertainties;
- Strategic issues;
- Lack of accountability or ownership of problems;
- Lack of optimisation; and
- Business outcomes based.
These challenges make it harder for companies to make the right IT decisions under pressure – and there has rarely been as much pressure as finding our way back to normal operating procedures, whatever they might look like. Hence why companies need flexibility around IT services, budgets and skills. They can then assign resources more strategically, apply their internal IT resources to demanding problems and not keep the lights on across estates that are becoming more decentralised and granular.
"This is where managed services come into its own, even more so when it can be done remotely," says Jackson. "Not only does this save on resourcing costs, but people do not have to be in a physical office environment to make it work. Organisations can partner with service providers that facilitate this, ensuring that many of their IT project or data services requirements are fully taken care of, freeing up internal resources and leaving the business to focus on delivering on its core mandate."