3 Business Benefits You Can Achieve Through Managed Services

Are you still tentative about dipping your toes into IT outsourcing? Perhaps you’ve yet to learn about the benefits you could start seeing today if you move to managed services for certain non-core IT functions. Here’s how and why managed services can have a positive effect on organisations large and small.

1. Lower, more predictable costs

There are several ways managed services allow organisations to better control costs. The most obvious cost efficiency is the potential for reduced overheads. No longer will you need to hire full-time staff for certain specialist IT skills or pay for training to skill up current employees. You’ll be able to leverage economies of scale, tapping into these skills on-demand via your managed services provider. Cost savings through managed services also come by way of a reduced need for repairs and maintenance. By having better upkeep on networks and servers, you reduce the chances of needing repairs.

Good managed services providers that offer flexible contracts and pay-as-you-go models with fixed monthly costs will also let businesses scale up and down when they need it. This kind of predictability lets organisations better control their budgets.

2. More streamlined IT  

The processes and automation that come from a managed services provider mean IT services can be supplied in a more organised way. The application of best-practice delivery models supplied by highly-skilled IT staff means there’s less a risk of a hodgepodge job being done across systems. The support of service-level-agreements also means you have a better guarantee of faster project delivery and higher performance. This equates to boosted efficiency, productivity and functionality for your business. In addition, consistent application updates, software patching and network monitoring mean you cut your risks of downtime.

3. Moving internal IT staff to more strategic pursuits

Nearly 80 per cent of IT resources go towards lights-on operations. With a full list of troubleshooting to-dos, it’s no wonder many IT departments still struggle to shift to strategic pursuits. Yet, these are the projects that can drive true innovation, which can lead to increased business value and, potentially, revenue. Bringing managed services into the loop can help fulfil the missing piece of your IT-business strategy. IT thus becomes less reactionary and more proactive, with the managed services provider supplying regular metrics and feedback that help guide business decisions.

Which of these three benefits — or others — are you hoping to achieve through managed services?

Dispelling the IT Department’s Top 3 Mobility Fears

Mobility, typically viewed as a consumer-driven trend, is a step forward for the enterprise for several reasons. It increases employee productivity, refines customer service and streamlines internal and external communication.

But even with its promised benefits, mobility solutions can be daunting to IT departments. New devices mean new security vulnerabilities, new protocols and new software.

These mobility concerns sprung from the widespread end-user movement, the “consumerisation of IT.” While enterprise IT managers once were concerned with high-level solutions to large-scale problems, some now worry that their day-to-day workloads will revolve around managing mobile devices and data vulnerability. But when these challenges are approached and dealt with appropriately, mobility solutions are powerful tools that can transform the workplace — and the IT department — for the better.

IT department challenge 1: Supporting Different Mobile Devices

Solution: Bring Your Own Device is less a buzzword than standard operating procedure these days. It has taken enterprises by storm, and it can be a headache to accommodate employees running multiple operating systems. The IT department should be sure to set guidelines for the types of devices it can support, whether or not it will provide one-on-one BYOD assistance and if employees will be charged for services.

If the IT department feels that BYOD supervision will detract significantly from the current workload, outsourced mobile device management may be an option to consider. Outsourcing a mobile device management platform leaves software security, application distribution and network monitoring to a third party, thus unloading a large burden off your IT department.

 IT department challenge 2: Integrating Applications with Other Enterprise Systems

Solution: Whether employees are bringing their own devices or not, the IT department should clearly outline which apps will be permitted and which ones won’t. There are thousands available through various app stores, some more secure or more functional than others. The IT department should set criteria for green-lighting apps, narrowing the field to apps that include a data reporting or business intelligence function, centralised management and adaptability. Providing training to employees on how to use these applications correctly and being wary of any abnormal app activity will promote successful mobility solutions.

IT department challenge 3: Combating Security Issues

Solution: The overarching concern about mobility solutions permeating IT departments is the potential for data loss and security breaches. While these are legitimate issues, there are clear ways to manage down these risks. Before implementing a BYOD policy, consider conducting a corporate device audit. Gathering important information about each device being used on the corporate network — the operating systems and serial numbers, for example — will make it easier to develop a clear policy employees can follow.

Second, make sure your disaster recovery strategy is up-to-date and dovetails with the new BYOD plan. Once the plan is in effect, continue to promote mobile best practices for IT managers and all employees to follow, such as regular data backups, consistent software updates and processes for wiping former employees’ devices of sensitive business intelligence.

These IT department concerns over mobility solutions are valid, but they don’t need to shut the door on BYOD or other mobility projects. By first establishing some guidelines around what kind of devices you’ll manage, how to provision apps and security configurations, your IT department will rest easier.

Mobility: A Chance for the Business and the IT Department to Collaborate

The ability to Bring Your Own Device and have access to the enterprise productivity apps of your choosing are increasingly becoming important factors in choosing an employer.

The Evolving Workforce, a three-phase project by TNS Global and commissioned by Dell and Intel, has noted that human resources and the IT department are starting to work closer together to attract and retain talent. If this trend continues, it means organisations that prevent employees from bringing in personal mobile devices over security and data loss fears will lose top talent to the competition.

The realm of adopting mobility solutions is where C-level business leaders and the IT department need to become the best of friends. No longer can the business or IT department afford this standoff against mobility solutions — they must stand together to come up with a plan for mobile management that allows employees to be productive and happy in a secure fashion.

Aligning mobility solutions with business and IT department goals 

The No.1 reason the business and the IT department both need to talk about mobility is because mobility solutions should be buoying business-IT goals. If one of the goals of the business is to improve productivity or speed up the sales cycle, the mobile management technology configured through the IT department can make that happen. Having a clear understanding of the desired outcomes will enable your organisation to get the most out of its mobility solutions.

Once your mobility goals are identified, the business and IT department will be able to map out the plan for cultural change together and define how mobile management will look. If you’re unsure of how to take these first steps, Datacom’s new mobility practice can consult your organisation on the different mobility solutions options and how to implement them.

Effective mobile management 

It’s easy to justify not wanting to introduce security threats into your organisation or further burden an already overloaded IT department with managing different devices. But what if you knew you were going to lose solid employees and possibly dissuade prospective ones from joining your organisation because you refuse to see the benefit of letting them answer email on their iPad?

Mobility solutions are only something to fear and protect your business from if you view them that way. The other way to look at mobility solutions is as enablers — enablers of better efficiency, more informed decision-making and faster time to market. CIOs and IT department managers should keep in mind that saying “yes” to one piece of mobility doesn’t mean they have to say yes to all of it. You can still retain a certain amount of control through mobile management — in fact, the only way something like a BYOD program is going to get off the ground is if there is a user policy that guides it.

The IT department and key business leaders will be involved in that mobile management policy creation. By setting clear guidelines and security policies for mobility solutions, you can ease your organisation into the mobility minefield instead of closing it off at every turn. And by having a mobility solutions policy in the first place, you’ll be able to educate these new employees clamouring for their BYOD rights.

Tell us how you’ve integrated mobility solutions and implemented mobile management at your organisation with input from both the business and the IT department.

2 Tips for Better IT Governance

IT governance is one of those terms that is bandied about but never clearly defined. What exactly does it mean — and who is actually involved in it?

At its essence, IT governance strives to ensure the strategic needs of the business are being met through IT department projects and technology investments. It ensures there is a clear connection between these IT endeavours and business aims and outlines precisely how they will be accomplished and measured and who the IT department project managers and owners are.

The IT department is not solely responsible for IT governance at an organisation. In Datacom’s experience, a governance body involving the IT department and business leaders enables better fulfilment of strategic IT that links technology projects with business outcomes. These IT governance tips will help get your IT department started on this path.

Don’t make IT governance a party or a burden

How many committees, departments and executives are you accountable to every month? Simply rounding up hoards of people in the business and the IT department, slapping on a “committee” label and then filling up your Outlook calendar with meeting requests for the next 12 months is likely to do more to limit IT governance than facilitate it.

The first order of business is to be selective in who you choose to participate in developing an IT governance strategy. Really, IT governance should be an arm of the executive board. Keep it small and simple and ensure only the key IT department and business leaders are involved in strategic decisions such as whether the business case for mobility outweighs the risks. That way, you’ll have involved only the individuals who truly care about strategic IT and business alignment. Then, only meet when necessary to discuss the performance of recently completed projects and the expected business outcomes of new ones. Micro-managing an IT governance board will only make it another “to-do” on someone’s list, resulting in apathy towards the initiative.

Separate IT governance and IT management

Technology research firm Forrester recently investigated the future of IT governance in a series of blog posts. One of the key tenets they came up with for effective IT governance, especially as more and more organisations incorporate mobility, cloud and social into their operations, is a separate approach to IT governance and IT management. This breaks out the strategic IT level from IT department operational processes, lessening the chance the IT department will have to say “no” to requests for new technology solutions. IT governance will be more concerned with performance and value instead of the tasks needed to execute on a project or investment. It will, however, be tasked with asking the right questions and requesting relevant information to ensure strategic IT business goals are being met and risk is being mitigated.

What are your tips for facilitating solid IT governance in your IT department and the rest of the business?

3 Things Windows Server 2012 Does Better Than Windows Server 08

Microsoft’s long-awaitedWindows 8 was officially releasedjust last week, but Windows Server 2012 has been up for public analysis and use for almost two months. The server update — the first in three years for Microsoft — may not appear to have received the same major makeover that the new operating system did, but a glance under the hood reveals a slew of additions and improvements. Here is an overview of the most significant upgrades from Windows Server 2008 that you may want to consider for your organisation’s next technology renovation.

1. Windows Server 2012 is simply more powerful than Windows Server 2008

Microsoft set out to build a new server that would both embrace virtualisation and complement a new breed of scalable, workable data centres. Whereas Windows Server 2008 R2 allowed users to support up to 64 logical processors on hardware, Windows Server 2012 upped the number to 320. Overall memory jumped as well, with 4 terrabytes of physical memory available now, versus 1 in Windows Server 2008, and up to 1 terabyte of memory on a virtual machine, up from 64 gigabytes previously. These increases present in Windows Server 2012 can translate to higher-quality platform performance and an overall longer lifespan for your enterprise devices.

2. Windows Server 2012 is more secure than Windows Server 2008

With the global movement toward cloud and virtualisation, security is the top concern for individuals on their personal phones and tablets, but even more so for the IT department and the infrastructure it oversees. Microsoft recognised this concern and applied it to Windows Server 2012, which now offers a fully isolated data centre network layer for better separation between virtual machines, as opposed to the more limited privacy of Windows Server 2008. A new safety feature in Windows Server 2012, unseen in Windows Server 2008, is support for private virtual local area networks (PVLANS), which prevent interaction between virtual machines on the same server without sacrificing network connectivity for each.

3. Windows Server 2012 is more flexible than Windows Server 2008

Technology, like your business, is always transforming and growing. Flexibility is critical to ensure that a server can adapt to your organisation’s fluctuating needs; Windows Server 2012 seems to have a better grasp on this expectation than Windows Server 2008 did. Server management is even more centralised and customisable with Windows Server 2012 Server Manager, which lets administrators control all locally and cloud-hosted servers from one, sleek dashboard. The Windows Server 2008 version used virtual LANs to virtualise networks, albeit in a complicated fashion when done on a large scale.

With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft’s Hyper-V Network Virtualisation isolates network traffic without VLANS, letting users switch virtual machines at will within the infrastructure, with no extra servers, switches or maintenance necessary. Performing a live migration or storage migrations is much simpler in Windows Server 2012, which supports multiple, simultaneous VM migrations across cluster boundaries and allows storage migration even while the machines are running.

Deciding to overhaul your organisation’s entire data centre won’t happen overnight. Now, however, is the time to evaluate your business needs and goals, and determine if the switch from Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2012 is justified. Feel free to reference this spec sheet for more information on how Windows Server 2012 measures up to Windows Server 2008.

IT’s Role in Performance Measurement and Management

By Peter Wilson

The creation of dashboards has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of IT. Yet this department has traditionally had more experience managing technical performance over business metrics such as project schedules and the budget. What is IT’s role in organisational performance management and how do you transform from simply being a metrics report generator to being an innovative creator of new business metrics? Undertaking a four-step process can help CIOs define their department’s role in managing and developing best practices for organisational metrics-based performance management.

1. Workshop it internally. Partner with your CEO and other members of the executive team to champion an organisational metrics initiative that involves an analytic framework and plan for implementation. The effort will need internal sponsorship at the executive level to drive employee-wide education on how the right metrics can be used to drive better results. Everyone on the team should be across the organisation’s information needs, desired outcome and the steps toward achieving it: What types of performance will be measured and how will it be done, for example? How will IT performance be tied to organisational goals?

2. Focus your metrics on the big picture. A mistake many organisations make is focusing on lag indicators. Do the metrics focus on the big picture, assisting in expectation management, or are they just trivial metrics reported because they are easier to measure? Performance management systems add real value when you can use them to change course mid-stream to minimise damage or maximise peak performance. Real-time data is the key here; it can help IT better react to application response times and help desk queues, for instance.

3. Develop and implement new business metrics. Your metrics should reflect what is driving your business strategically. Your guiding questions when determining these metrics include: Where is the business going, how will it get there, what indicates success? You will likely have a combination of IT and business metrics, such as resource allocation and customer satisfaction. Each metric should have a plan to back it up covering how it will be used and a course of action to correct any poor performance. Using 90-day action planning broken into 30 increments with granular plans is one way to use these metrics to manage performance.

4. Don’t report metrics – react to them. Reporting data or the metrics adds no value. The value comes from interrupting the combination of results, identifying the root cause and then implementing clearly defined service improvement programmes across the business. The key for IT will be to learn how to interrupt poor performance and even predict future states by analysing both trend and real-time data.

IT’s role in performance measurement and management is ultimately to advise the business what is working, what could be improved and what can be immediately corrected so it doesn’t spiral into a bigger problem down the road. By initiating this metrics programme from the IT department, you’ll showcase IT as an innovative department that is in tune with, and highly motivated to enable, the key business drivers of organisational success. You’ll also get a great education on the different groups within your organisation and what they are trying to accomplish. That’s not just IT leadership, it’s businessleadership – and it will be much appreciated by the powers that be.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.

Which Mobile App Delivery Method is Right for Your Organisation?

Are you ready to let your employees use mobile apps? You have more to consider than just what apps you’re going to let them access – you have a few delivery options as well. Picking the right one depends on what you need in terms of security, IT management and device compatibility. Here are a few considerations to get you started.

You need: No data stored on the device

Choose: Virtualisation or cloud

Enterprise users will make up about 75 per cent of the market for cloud-based mobile apps by 2014, according to Juniper Research. Both virtualising your mobile apps and delivering them through the cloud keep data off the device. Both approaches also can put more control in the hands of the IT department, which can oversee access to applications and manage how they are used.

Security buffs are likely fiercely nodding their heads, but keep in mind that if you virtualise, there could be usability issues surrounding the need for constant network connectivity and how a mobile app looks and performs on a device. Delivering mobile apps through the cloud can ease these usability issues, but your security concerns will only be abated if you know where your data is sitting.

You need: To take the app migration burden off IT

Choose: An enterprise app store

By 2014, 60 per cent of IT organisations will have private app stores, according to Gartner. These stores work similarly to Apple’s app store by allowing employees to quickly and securely download certain applications they are authorised to use. This takes a lot of the burden off IT as they don’t need to provision apps to different users and devices.

However, building an app store does come at a cost, and users might grumble if your app store doesn’t resemble Apple’s. That means you need to consider the ability to rate apps, search for apps, recommend similar apps and allow user feedback.

You need: Compatibility across a wide range of devices

Choose: Web apps

Their ability to run in browsers means web apps don’t require a distribution system, so users can access them from any number of devices. Plus, IT doesn’t need to create several incarnations of one app, which leads to easier delivery and management. Internet connectivity will always be a concern to run web apps, however; if it’s poor, even refreshing the screen will cause problems.

These are just a few reasons for considering the different mobile app delivery methods. If your organisation needs additional help with taking its enterprise applications into the mobile world, Datacom’s Enterprise Mobility Applications practise can help. We handle application development, integrate apps with devices and offer field service support to ensure you applications run smoothly.

How are you delivering mobile apps in your organisation?

Datacom Brings IT Flexibility and Scale to Presbyterian Aged Care

The ability to tap into IT resources on demand, such as instantly having extra staff in the IT department to help with server support,– what organisation wouldn’t want that?

Sydney-based Presbyterian Aged Care (PAC) wanted this type of strategic IT flexibility. A provider of high-quality care and accommodation for individuals over age 70, PAC approached Datacom for IT support services to accommodate their constantly changing technology needs. The organisation wanted access to IT resources at any time without having to staff them in their NSW and ACT locations. They also wanted to fill the gaps in professional IT skills and capabilities that some of their full-time staff were lacking without having to skill up those employees. Datacom’s solution was to give them outsourced IT help that already had the knowledge to fulfil PAC’s technology and business goals.

All the bases covered

PAC wanted improvements in four areas: IT flexibility in supporting business goals; responsiveness in daily operations; a combination of in-house and specialist IT skills without recruiting or training more staff; and scheduling and delivering IT projects while managing daily support.

It was a lot of ground to cover. Fortunately, Datacom was able to tailor a solution for PAC through its In-house Plus Support Services team.

A crew of experienced, vendor-certified personnel, the services team gave PAC the broad-ranging skills and expertise it needed. To strike the balance between strategy and “lights-on” operations, Datacom offered both onsite and remote IT help at several PAC locations in NSW and ACT. The services team covered troubleshooting tasks, including dedicated network, server and backup/restore support, and filled in for PAC staff on leave or out sick.

With the behind-the-scenes operations sorted, PAC was able to work with Datacom to refocus on its strategic IT initiatives through ongoing systems audits, system health checks and reports and continuous improvement projects. And perhaps the best part: PAC was able to take advantage of a flexible pricing model that enabled them to better manage and get more out of their IT budget.

Evolving together

The end result of the PAC-Datacom partnership was a well-rounded, more strategic IT department. There’s now a dynamic, on-demand nature to PAC’s IT environment, enabling staff resources and knowledge to be allocated appropriately.

A large part of the success, according to PAC, was Datacom’s passionate, partner-focused approach to the project, plus its local support in both NSW and ACT. PAC appreciated that Datacom took the time to understand their business, their goals and how they operate. Every step of the support service solution was planned with PAC’s short-term and long-term objectives in mind.

PAC couldn’t be more pleased with the service they received through the In-house Plus Support Services team, says Eamonn Ryan, Information Technology Services Manager, Presbyterian Aged Care.

“The entire Datacom team is impeccably qualified, highly professional and provides very flexible support,” he says. “Datacom’s team has worked seamlessly as part of our in-house IT capability, developing strong relationships built on a high level of dedication and a commitment to providing a quality service.”

Do Australian CIOs Need to Think About Public Relations?

By Peter Wilson

The current tenure of CIOs in Australia and New Zealand averages 3.8 years, according to a new Gartner survey. That’s compared to a global average of 4.6 years. Why are CIOs in Australia and New Zealand stepping aside or getting shown the door faster than CIOs in other countries?

Perhaps CIO turnover is high in part because CIOs don’t spend enough time communicating their successes to their organisations. They are at the pulse of the enterprise, yet boasting about their wins doesn’t always come easily. And as we all know, you often have to remind executives and other departments at your business what you’re doing to get the proper recognition for your role. Part of the CIO’s time should be spent packaging up the good works done by the IT department and letting the organisation know what has been accomplished.

This is just the internal public relations – CIOs who want to elevate their profiles and become not just business leaders, but industry influencers as well, should also make their wins known to those outside the organisation, including your business’s customers. If it doesn’t give away any company trade secrets, it’s not a bad idea to get coverage in the media for your IT success stories. Of course, you’ll want to avoid doing this without the consent of your CEO and your in-house marketing team. Making an unauthorised end run to the media might backfire, resulting in a quicker exit than you had hoped for.

How does the IT department set about doing something that doesn’t come naturally? Start small and simple. It could be as easy as creating a list of projects on which the department is working and circulating it around the business. This also helps offset departmental complaints about why you’ve prioritised one business unit’s project over another’s.

If you’re not ready for press releases and newspaper articles, throw your project plans and successes up on the company intranet or circulate a company-wide email (or get the marketing department to do these tasks). It helps create buzz about what the IT department is doing – it also helps if you come up with a fun name for your projects or programmes. Customer testimonials are also essential for not only improving your brand within your organisation, but for getting potential clients to sit up and take notice of your company.

When you are ready to step into the real limelight, prep your entire team first. Get them excited about sharing the good word about their work. Once they have a few talking points, go out to networking and industry events, vendor and client gatherings and trade shows. Share your IT innovations on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Pitch thought leadership positioning stories to IT and technology publications and web sites. Better yet, get to blogging about IT on your own, either through your company’s web site or your personal one.

This isn’t shameless self-promotion; it’s letting the world know about the great things IT is doing and giving full credit to all involved parties. If a firm gains a reputation for using IT strategically to drive business achievements, it increases the valuation of the company and it attracts talented workers. The alternative is to do something incredible and have it go unnoticed and unappreciated. When CIOs do that, they can’t be surprised when they are eventually let go for not having a positive impact on the fortunes of their organisation.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.