IT Complexity and Sprawl Driving Businesses to Managed Service Providers
By Ali Din
As companies grow, their needs become more sophisticated. To address the globally competitive landscape, reduce costs, and keep productivity up, businesses are embracing digital transformation.
While technology is entering virtually all disciplines within a business, and making a positive impact, it also adds complexity to IT. Not only is today's technology more complex, but because of its utility, it expands beyond traditional IT boundaries. This "sprawl" makes it more complex for the business - specifically IT - to wrap its arms around.
Previously, the CIO and IT had a solid grasp of what technology would enter the business and worked collaboratively on a solid deployment plan. Now, the sales team uses Salesforce.com, finance uses NetSuite, and other departments charge their services to credit cards. It can be overwhelming just to track the true number of technology solutions a business is using because it has become decentralized in many organizations.
What might have started as a self-contained request by the sales team now necessitates IT to intervene because the Salesforce app requires some integration to other business applications, or finance wants to create a local backup of its accounting system.
Examples abound with how technology has become more complex. Take for example a simple phone call and the technology required to enable that - a business now has a phone connected to the internet, and with it, many more features that lead to decisions and managing security. Looking at another device on the desk, we have the laptop.
An example of increased complexity is in the evolution of desktop management. Businesses are used to traditional desktops and laptops, with data stored locally on the end point's hard drive. Now, with virtual workers, cloud technology, a desire to protect company data, and deploy software securely, many companies are adopting virtual desktops. What was traditionally a single technology has now become reliant on other components and moved into the data center. To manage virtual desktops, you need knowledge of the interconnectivity between servers, storage, networking, and bandwidth - a rare skillset to find in the tech industry, let alone within a single company.
Taking on these technologies in-house, especially for smaller IT organizations, is akin to pushing a boulder up a long hill and hoping it doesn't roll back down.
For smaller businesses, a single IT department doesn't have enough resources or a wide enough breadth of expertise in all these different technologies. In order to continue providing quality service to the business, IT has turned to managed service providers (MSPs), which sometimes means multiple service providers because of the depth of expertise required.
For businesses that are in regulated industries, they might require an MSP who has technology expertise AND regulatory expertise. And for another set of technology, they might have to turn to yet another expert provider.
Managed IT Services
Techaisle, a research firm that keeps a pulse on the drivers of small and medium businesses' use of technology conducted a survey reinforcing this trend. They found that over 70% of firms find technology becoming more complex. This is manifested in both "sprawl and complexity."
There is a range of managed services available to businesses including:
- Voice-based, telecom, collaboration
- Business continuity and backup
- System monitoring services
- Data center management
- Desktop management
- Server management
- Network management
- Security monitoring
- Software specific management
There are many models of engaging with MSPs, from a per user price to a monthly rate for a set scope of work. As companies decide which service might be best to utilize, it's important to look at some of the benefits that MSPs provide:
- Formalizing support
- Reliability of service
In speaking with management and the business, IT can identify where there is the highest sensitivity to responsiveness and support. It isn't feasible for a small team of IT professionals to support every need within the business and provide it in-depth. Thus, mutually agreeing what can be handed over to a third party, and maintaining a collaborative engagement with that company as a partner, will help the business get the best of both worlds. Sometimes, this is best done in small steps and takes a nudge from someone inside the business to take the first step.
The New Role of IT
In essence, the role of the internal IT department goes from being solely responsible for deploying and managing in-house technology, to a project management office. In this newer role, a different skillset is required. Today's IT department needs a project manager that can interface with the internal business user's needs, figure out what services internal IT can provide, and then manage external managed service providers.
While technology sprawl and complexity might create challenges for many businesses, those that figure it out will be able to widen the gap that other mature adopters of digital transformation are realizing against their competition.