Pandemic IT chaos? Managed services to the rescue
For several years, the managed services industry has been pushing to tackle IT estates on behalf of clients. It's an excellent value offering, yet one that the market sometimes felt apprehensive over. This apprehension has nothing to do with the offering, but rather other issues, explains Axiz business unit manager for NewTech and Services, Neil Jackson.
"Companies have gotten used to keeping their technologies in-house and they sometimes think managed services means giving up control. It's also still a misconception that managed services and outsourcing are the same thing, which isn't the case. Managed services focus more closely on core IT systems, infrastructure and services, and how these strategically bring value to the business without the customer losing control."
That was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies had to make the sudden jump to support remotely-located employees, prompting dramatic shifts to their technology infrastructure and services. For some, this has been very disruptive. But the companies already utilising managed services didn't encounter the same barriers.
"Overall, I think the market provided pretty well to companies when they had to make that change. By that, I mean today's technology choices could facilitate remote working and such ideas more readily. But that was only part of the challenge. Such a dramatic migration often exposed problems embedded in the IT estate and caused more complications as a result. And when you move hundreds or thousands of people to a new working arrangement, you also have many other challenges such as HR problems. I think if the market realised one thing over this transition, it's that consolidated and well-managed IT estates are essential if you want the rest of the organisation to be agile."
The new taste for managed services
Best of breed managed services offerings are all about consolidation and management - value that companies are starting to appreciate. Even though there were initial concerns that the pandemic would hurt the managed service market, the opposite has happened.
According to surveys from the Technology & Services Industry Association, managed service providers report that 76% of their audiences now hold a moderate to largely enhanced opinion of managed services.
Managed services focus on managing technology infrastructure and services through a single provider. This approach doesn't render an IT estate into a single-vendor space. Instead, managed services consolidate the oversight and management of complex IT estates, simplifying the customer's engagements and costs, and intensifying their visibility of the estate.
This cuts across cloud and services, networking and security, and many other types of technology orchestration and management. It also feeds relevant insights into the business's choices and strategy.
As the pandemic demanded change, consolidated and comprehensive management made it easier for companies to develop and execute migration plans. Due to the pandemic, this has become even more valuable as companies want to pick up the pieces and take stock of their technology needs.
"We see that there's been a wake-up," said Jackson. "I'd like to say it's almost like there's been a renaissance. Now the next big focus is security. Organisations have been wanting to get their networks and security beefed up."
Managing tomorrow's demands
The pandemic has also expanded managed services' value. As mentioned above, consolidation, visibility and a single point of contact are all significant benefits for organisations. Managed services are essential for companies planning their way forward while cutting costs and mitigating risks.
They are under pressure, for example, to augment their estate changes with new skills. But good IT skills are in high demand and costly. Managed services include skills so that companies can focus their internal IT skills on more strategic roles and not keeping the lights on.
"Customers want to focus on their core competencies and get back to work. But that's tough when almost everything about your technology and operations have to adapt. So, managed services bring a lot of relief, because there is more room to make the right skills choices and allocate their spending smartly. With managed services, they gain room to breathe and move."
Managed services are instrumental in addressing downtime, IT costs, technology risks, accountability and service agreements, chronic IT problems and preventative maintenance. The pandemic has aggravated all of those areas, so those companies using managed services are coming out better than their peers.
Fortunately, it's not too late. If a business is struggling with all the moving parts of its digital transition, this is the perfect time to look into managed services. To do so, Jackson advises: assess to find actionable items, onboard initial maintenance activities and projects, manage ongoing delivery, monitoring and maintenance, protect by applying best-practice security, and optimise the estate to reach future digitisation goals.
"The big risk now is that you must select the right type of managed services," Jackson added. "You have to look for all those points in the journey, as well as the other key areas: consolidation, visibility and cost management."