As the enterprise moves forward with digitization efforts, it inevitably reaches a juncture where decision-makers ask whether to go it alone or seek help. While organizations typically have in-house expertise to handle traditional systems, databases and development processes, digital transformation pulls in new elements of computing and integration that require different skills.
Organizations can step up recruiting efforts to acquire the talent they need, but that’s expensive, and the competition for technical skills has become fiercer than ever. Beyond that, there are the costs of building and maintaining data centers and in-house infrastructure to meet all of an organization’s IT needs.
For many enterprises, the better course of action is to leverage managed services. Tapping a managed services provider (MSP) brings you expertise you need without having to recruit, hire and pay the salary and benefits of expensive IT workers – or building, maintaining and scaling infrastructure for new IT projects.
Instead, you enter into a contract with a third party for recurring services – remote systems monitoring, broadband networking, Ethernet, voice, business continuity, managed WiFi, etc. – and pay a monthly fee for consuming those services. IT becomes a pay-as-you-go operational expense, rather than the traditional mix of capital expenditures and salaries.
Adopting managed services doesn’t mean you should get rid of your IT staff and all your in-house assets. While smaller companies with more modest needs can rely entirely on service providers, enterprises typically still need in-house resources to handle certain functions. Depending on your setup and arrangement with your provider, this may include cybersecurity, database administration, storage, application development and some strategic initiatives.
In a digital transformation context, those strategic initiatives likely consist of planning and executing a roadmap to integrate or replace existing digital assets such as legacy databases and business applications, with cloud-based implementations, new mobile systems and big data and analytics systems.
Managed services are becoming more and more relevant to the enterprise as construction of the “Third Platform” takes place. As defined by research firm IDC, the third platform consists of the interdependencies between four pillars of technology – cloud, mobility, data analytics and social business. IDC predicts “virtually all of enterprises’ new strategic IT investments through 2020 will be built on Third Platform technologies and solutions.”
Those initiatives impact how organizations interact with customers, how they innovate, how fast they introduce products and services to the market, their operational reliability, and what IDC calls “overall resiliency.” Thanks to third platform undertakings, IDC predicts by 2020 “the success rate of new product introductions improves by 70 percent and planning cycles are cut by 50 percent on new product development.”
How do managed services fit into this picture?
Digital transformation, and whatever the post-transformation world looks like, will require ongoing attention to strategy and basic operations. Managed services can play a key role in strategy by providing skills and talents to plan and execute digitization projects. But where the managed services approach can be most helpful for the foreseeable future is in handling repeatable and routine tasks. That’s where MSPs excel.
Managing the Infrastructure
Consider a scenario in which data arrives constantly into your network. Some of it has to be analyzed in real time to make split-second decisions while the rest is routed to repositories where it rests until needed to review historical patterns for predictive analyses.
In this scenario, data backups are scheduled regularly to ensure no critical data is lost forever should a momentary outage occur. All systems involved in data collection, including network wiring and routers, databases, applications and servers, have to be kept secure to prevent network intrusions, accidental data leaks and malicious breaches. All software and security patches have to be kept up to date to ensure maximum protection and plug security often created by outdated technology.
These are all tasks managed services are designed to handle. Anything that can be automated and monitored remotely with an eye to achieving maximum performance is best handled as a managed service. It’s no wonder IDC predicts that by 2018, more than 60 percent of companies will rely on managed services partners to manage most of their IT infrastructure.
Working with an MSP solves the problem many enterprises face as they undergo digital transformation – how to keep up with it all. Transferring routine, repeatable tasks to a provider lets you focus on your strategy to achieve the long-term goals that drive digitization efforts, such as speed to market and better customer service.Photo via VisualHunt