Managed services are all the rage and are springing up everywhere, be it access control, surveillance, or cybersecurity. And let’s not forget where it started, in the IT industry where companies are promised reduced costs and having their infrastructure managed by another company that only needs people on site on occasion.
Monique Williams, Hyland regional sales manager for southern Africa, says a good place to start when discussing managed services is to define it. She says the Technical Services Industry Organisation (TSIA) defines managed services as: “the practice of outsourcing day-to-day technology management responsibilities to a third party as a strategic method for improving operations and accelerating a return on their technology investment. Categories consist of a group of service elements that are designed to enable a customer to achieve an intended outcome” (https://www.tsia.com/blog/what-are-managed-services).
While this definition sets a great foundation to define managed services, it should be noted that managed services is often an umbrella term for a variety of different kinds of offerings, she warns. “A managed services model brings a new face and definition to the concept of technical outsourcing in the information management and content services industries. From the business perspective, it’s an excellent way to strategically support the maintenance, enhancements, integrations, development, automation and optimisation of key technology platforms and solutions.
“With industry standards, security requirements, regulations, digital technology capabilities and mobile consumer engagement ever evolving, it’s more critical than ever for organisations to keep up with the pace of change by continually improving their content services solutions. This includes ensuring information management strategy scales with today’s digitally dominant way of conducting business.”
The managed services difference
For many organisations, a content services platform is at the heart of digital transformation strategies because it extends data-driven capabilities, communications, case management and automated work to other critical systems and users wherever they are located, says Williams. When companies opt for a managed services model to support these platforms, experts in the exact area you need take on the heavy lifting of solution maintenance and ongoing configuration optimisation, including:
• Strategic advice and direction for accelerating transformation.
“A dedicated managed services team ensures your solutions continually meet the needs of your evolving business requirements for security, performance, functionality, interoperability and user experience – to achieve successful outcomes faster.”
Digital maturity and strategy
Ethan Searle, sales manager at LanDynamix expands on this, noting that there is no one-size-fits-all solution in managed services, the solution depends on a company’s digital maturity and strategy. The managed services model is based on transferring the IT service desk and/or parts of IT support to a third party. Managed services can be customised to include other components of IT such as security, hardware, data backup, recovery and management, network monitoring, HR, cybersecurity and payroll.
When it comes to technology, Searle says one of the biggest headaches for organisations is the unpredictability of cost. Technology changes rapidly and constantly needs to be refreshed; IT projects can be lengthy and often overrun budgets; and skilled IT personnel are scarce on the ground. This variability makes financial planning difficult. The managed services option moves to a fixed monthly cost, eliminating capex costs as well as the other costs associated with buying, maintaining and supporting IT, including staffing. Depending on the scope of the managed services engagement, one would also have to factor in the cost saving of providing IT facilities and physical security.
More than the software
Digital transformation is not limited to software and moving ‘stuff’ into the cloud. Searle notes that Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) permits companies to provide employees with fully integrated services, accessible remotely from their homes – an attractive prospect in Covid times.
“It is forecast that the global HaaS market will be worth upwards of £218 billion,” he adds, “which demonstrates the growing demand for this model. Hardware deserves to be highlighted because it is not only a significant capital expense when bought, it also has to be continually upgraded. Managing and funding a full-on hardware life cycle is both challenging and expensive – and can safely be left in the expert hands of a managed services provider.”
One of the primary benefits of a monthly payment service like HaaS is that customers can avoid the high upfront cost of hardware, as well as the additional cost of servicing and licencing fees. The subscription-style plan means that CFOs can monitor and forecast their outgoings month on month, allowing them to balance their budgets more effectively.
Williams also warns that we do not forget the cybersecurity question. No matter what we leave to others to manage, we are responsible for the security posture of our own company. “With more employees opting to work remotely, cybersecurity is a critical consideration for organisational health and resilience. It’s vital in combatting threats that are growing in their capacity for disruption.”
She notes that, according to The 2021 SIM IT Trends Study (https://trends.simnet.org/trends-study-archive), which surveyed IT executives from 454 organisations with an average revenue of $6,8 billion, security, cybersecurity and privacy ranked number one on a list of IT leaders’ top three most important IT management issues, which include:
• Alignment of IT with the business.
• IT talent/skill shortage/retention.
“These three areas of IT and organisational planning are increasingly complex and rapidly evolving. Staying on the cutting edge of their capabilities requires continuous education and training; something an in-house staff may not be able to prioritise when faced with competing strategic initiatives,” Williams states.
“In short, the benefits attached to deploying a managed services model are numerous and immense,” ends Searle. A seasoned and reputable managed services provider can provide essential guidance to ensure the decisions are taken and will also have an established programme of continuous improvement in place, a huge benefit to client organisations.”
Renergen achieves scale, continuity in cloud-managed service
Fast-growing helium and natural gas producer, Renergen, has supported its growth spurt and enabled a seamless transition to hybrid work, using cloud-based managed services by LanDynamix.
Renergen has made headlines in the past year for its proven reserves of helium rising sevenfold at its Virginia gas plant and is well-placed to supply helium into a growing and constrained market. Helium is a rare element necessary for medical imaging, welding, fibre optics plus electronics and national defence. As Renergen grew its team to support the new plant in Virginia, the company found its cloud-based infrastructure enabled its scaling up.
Ethan Searle from LanDynamix says: “LanDynamix migrated Renergen off on-premises servers into the cloud with Microsoft 365 and Azure AD some years ago. As their staff count increased six-fold, the cloud solution allowed them to scale their compute needs quickly and seamlessly. It also meant that there was no money wasted on hardware that they would quickly outgrow. The company’s IP around its Virginia gas plant is also critically important, so all of our security best practices have been implemented to ensure this data is kept secure.”
Mandy Stuart, head of information technology at Renergen Limited, says: “Our cloud-based computing strategy provided scalability and reproducibility, it made it easy to deploy resources and scale as our business grew and continues to do so. We don’t have a large IT headcount and being cloud-based allowed us to outsource to cloud computing providers, to free up our resources and focus on our key business objectives.”
The company’s headcount has grown from around 10 to over 70 across its Bompas Road head office and Virginia gas plant, making a hybrid work model necessary. “Being cloud-based works well for us in light of the increase in staff count, we simply would not have had space for all employees to be based in the office full-time,” she says. “The cloud-based system supported us as we grew. It also made adapting to lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic very easy.”
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