Getting the technology right is key to success

While finding the right partner and ensuring the contract is watertight are crucial, making sure the right technology is in place...

Your company may chose to go down the managed services path for many reasons, but scratch the surface of any outsourced project and you will usually find the pressure to cut costs – while increasing efficiency at the same time – at its core.

Buying in a managed service should reduce the internal headaches, staff costs and administration your company has to devote in order to oversee key elements of your everyday operations that perhaps you do not want to deal with yourselves. Once your company has made the decision to follow the managed services route and has engaged a provider, there are technology areas in which you will need to invest in order to drive best value.

According to Tony Cooper, Head of Services Marketing at Computacenter: “Once you develop your services and have the people and processes in place, you then need to consider your IT infrastructure. Future-proofing technology investment is essential, and flexibility and scalability should be the key characteristics of, any IT infrastructure. Otherwise organisations will find themselves in a costly ‘rip-and-replace situation’,” he says.

This point is echoed by Marc Perrineau, head of technology directive for managed operations at services provider Atos Origin. He believes a solid infrastructure is a major contributory factor to the success of a managed services project.

“Infrastructure is a key area that is often overlooked. A flexible, secure, highly available infrastructure must be in place for a managed service offering to be able to deliver efficiently and effectively,” Perrineau says.

Of course, the infrastructure is only the starting point in terms of the technology you will need to underpin managed services. There is plenty of available software that can play an important part in the very fabric of managed services delivery in terms of monitoring service levels and keeping track of other key measurables.

In addition, there are specific tools that can ensure a smooth managed services relationship. An end-to-end management system with the ability to report on network and device health, incidents, problem resolutions, availability, capacity and usage trends is a good starting point on which to base your infrastructure.

You can also combine this system with a service level agreement (SLA) assurance tool that can provide an accurate picture of how the managed services provider is performing against your contractual services. Such technology is specialist in nature and, it is fair to say, not universally available from technology vendors.

For Mark Herbert, MD of security-focused managed service provider intY, the technologies that you will need “should make the managed service accountable and integrated into the existing business”.

Technology such as remote fault diagnostics and resolution management, ticketing, telemetry, management reporting, technical support and content management are all necessary to support a managed service. Also, a stable, well maintained data centre is essential to the consistent operation of any service.

To complement the above list, and in order to address and ensure smooth delivery of your services, it is essential that you address two more technology areas – security and storage.

As with all businesses, security is paramount, so along with the almost universally deployed firewalls and virus sweepers you should consider implementing information security technology such as intrusion detection systems. As regards storage, a good quality back-up solution will be required. Thought should be given during the provisioning of the service as to what the expected timescales for recovery need to be, as this will impact heavily upon on the back-up solution that you finally settle on.

This may be all well and good, and clearly the right technology needs to be in place for a managed services provision to work well, but as is the case with any IT investment process there will be pitfalls as well as positives. Probably one of the worst things you can do is to try to dictate the solution to the provider.

Your managed services provider will have designed and implemented a tried-and-tested approach for the delivery of managed services, which, hopefully, is built on best practice, cost savings and alignment with your business. If you insist the provider has to adapt to a specific technology model and/or platform preferences, it is your company that may suffer the end.

Embarking on a managed services project is an upheaval for any company, but the advice for those of you considering this route is to make sure you have the right infrastructure in place. Look at all the available tools to help keep track of service delivery and measure results.

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