What is Service Aggregation – and How Can it Help Your Business?

Australia’s IT outsourcing services market is expected to grow from A$7.6 billion in 2012 to A$9.3 billion in 2017, according to IDC. Part of this growth will include organisations leveraging a range of different suppliers to manage their IT environment to take advantage of services maturity and cost efficiencies. Yet, managing these suppliers is a big job for the average organisation, one that involves overseeing multiple billing configurations, SLAs and reporting metrics. One way to get better oversight across a range of varied suppliers is through using a service aggregation provider. This service provides a single contact for managing suppliers and an aggregated view of performance so you have more time to focus on your core business.

Easier management

Service aggregation cuts the pain of managing a range of providers by delivering operational coordination, integration and assurance of service levels end-to-end. Organisations get a single point of contact for managing all suppliers throughout the service lifecycle to optimise performance. This includes procuring, maintaining and evaluating supplier contracts.

A service aggregation setup usually includes two components. The first is a unified services management team that provides oversight and drives maturity of service management processes. The second is the service desk, which works with the process owners and resolver groups to address areas of poor performance as well as manage continual service improvement. This combined team can manage services around incident management, problem management, change management, configuration management and capacity management to name a few areas. This service management occurs regardless of whether your business has one provider supplying desktop services while another provides network services.

Better performance tracking

With the information provided from the service desk on how your services are operating, in addition to information such as capacity plans, service aggregation offers your organisation an overall view of performance reporting across all suppliers. Defined processes are enacted so service delivery is documented and continually reviewed to ensure it matches performance outcomes. This performance tracking approach allows for day-to-day monitoring instead of monthly reporting so your business can make swift decisions to improve outcomes.

More time to focus on core business

Service aggregation helps define clear roles and responsibilities for all of your providers and establishes a framework by which the group can operate. It also helps pinpoint any gaps or issues between the service delivery of third-party providers and your own business. Instead of trying to manage a group of disparate suppliers, your organisation frees up internal staff time to focus on the core business and its strategic endeavours. The outcome is better performance for your business and a better working relationship across suppliers.

Why You Need a Technology Advisor for Your Business

Enlisting the help of a technology advisor for your business can help you develop a strategy that aligns with organisational goals and poises you to drive performance and revenue. Often, this resource comes from outside the business  in fact, you might be better off if it does. Having a technology partner that views your business objectively will give you a holistic, unbiased picture of where and how technology can be improved to have the most impact. Here’s why you should consider a technology advisor for you organisation.

Many organisations spend too much on the wrong technology

Between 10 and 20 per cent of a typical organisation’s technology budget is used foolishly or wasted, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Often this is because organisations take a haphazard approach to deciding which technology to bring in, blindly jumping on the latest trend without fully considering if it makes sense for the business. A technology advisor will review your budget and business needs, developing a plan for how to achieve your goals with the right technology investments while balancing risks and compliance. In this way, each technology is carefully selected for a specific purpose and outcome in the business.

Technology often evolves too quickly for your IT organisation to keep up

Businesses today are savvier than ever when it comes to technology  to the point where they often bypass IT to try out cloud services and enterprise apps. But your business can’t possibly know every technology and tool at its disposal. A technology advisor carries a broad range of technology knowledge, including information on the latest trends and solutions that could optimise your business.

This resource can offer a different perspective regarding critical business decisions that involve technology and present options you didn’t even know were possible.

A third of organisations struggle with project deadlines

More research from PWC shows only 32 per cent of projects meet deadline, budget and scope. If this is the case within your organisation, you might benefit from a technology advisor’s project management services. These resources can apply their own proven delivery methodologies backed by industry-standard approaches to technology implementations. Through assessing stakeholder needs, performing a requirements analysis and instilling a governance and gate review process, technology advisors can ensure a project is organised and managed to success.

IT architecture is often forgotten

IT architecture is something many businesses don’t have time or expertise to do well internally. Having these disciplines, practices and structured processes at hand enables timely, business-focussed decision making. IT architecture is an important capability for all organisations, regardless of size or industry. A technology advisor can help ensure you are architecting solutions that are stable, secure and high-performing. This resource can assist with requirements gathering, systems selection and testing your architecture.

6 Steps to Take Now for a Future Unified Communications Program

Maybe you’ve only started thinking aboutthe value unified communications can add to your organisation. Even if the actual implementation is months or perhaps years aways, you can never plan enough. Like any venture that touches so many aspects of back-end and employee-facing technology, starting a unified communications (UC) programme will demand extensive evaluation and planning.

From the beginning phases of envisaging your solution to specifying the down-and-dirty requirements for individual pieces of technology, UC is a large investment of your organisation’s time and money. Following a logical and adaptable plan will help ensure your UC programme is designed to improve end-users’ productivity and achieve ROI for your organisation.

While each organisation will have its own variations, partnering with a UC solution provider willing to address and provide insight into the various stages of UC planning is your best bet for a successful implementation.

1.  Determine which UC solutions complement your strategic initiatives. Make sure the providers you’re considering can not only offer the technical services but also build the organisation case to ensure success. See what upfront insights the UC provider can provide on your IT strategy for this project and the entire department.

Ideally, your provider will take the time to supply costs and risks as well as identify key metrics and demonstrate the time required to achieve ROI. When you can quantify productivity and measure customer service improvements, you’ll have a much easier time gaining approval for your UC project.

2.  Evaluate current processes and technology. Of course you’ll want assistance with the strategy, planning and organisation case. But like any IT leader, you’ll need a provider that’s willing to help with the inventory and assessment. Your provider should be ready and willing to help evaluate the communications processes and technology currently in use throughout your organisation.

3.  Conduct architecture validation. How will your design hold up to real-world implementation? Can it scale to the growing needs of your organisation? An IT outsourcing provider like Datacom will validate your design against the solution requirements and design objectives before diving too far into the implementation process. This step will prove invaluable if your organisation includes a particularly complex communications environment such as a call centre.

4.  Discover ways to optimise your UC solution. At this juncture, the amount of time dedicated to strategy and documentation as well as validation should reveal problems never forecasted and opportunities never considered. And your provider should present you with a plan to optimise your UC programme that doesn’t break the bank.

5.  Test network readiness. Eventually, the rubber has to hit the network road. Can your network — especially networks for satellite offices—handle your UC programme? Your vendor should test your network readiness to determine if the current infrastructure is up to the task. From hardware to capacity through quality of service and security, the vendor should notify you of any network gaps that must be filled.

6.  Devise and implement your tactics and calendar. Your UC provider should be as eager as you are to launch this initiative. But make sure they’re projecting realistic deadlines and a laundry list of tactics needed before your UC programme goes live.

What steps are you taking to plan a unified communications programme at your organisation?

3 Steps to Simplifying IT Management

Last week, we started looking at how IT complexity can cripple your organisation. This week, we look at additional actions you can take to start simplifying your IT environment.  

Your IT department’s expansions might seem at odds with one another. Just when you’ve upgraded the servers and introduced a robust redundancy system, the emphasis has immediately shifted to providing your employees with mobile productivity tools. And once you’ve launched a mobile solution for your organisation, it’s time to move an in-house solution into — yes, you guessed it — the cloud.

And all of these IT functions demand:

  • Allocating the budget for hardware,software and licensing
  • Scoping projects, evaluating options, deploying the solution and testing
  • Training end-users and refining processes and workflows
  • Keeping trained and available support staff on hand to maintain all systems — and field your employees’ questions

While it might be tempting to just issue a slate and chisel and abacus to each employee and call it a day, you’re well aware your employees need every technological advantage in order to compete. But staying abreast of tech trends doesn’t have to be as onerous and costly as you’ve become inured to.

Simplicity is the name of the game among CIOs for companies ranging from startups to McDonald’s. And how do most of them accomplish this seemingly Herculean task? In our experience helping IT executives reduce complexity, we’ve identified three common areas to cover:

1. Take a comprehensive inventory of everything IT-related: infrastructure, cloud solutions, desktop programmes,custom apps, peripherals — everything. Most IT managers and executives are amazed at how cumbersome their organisations have become. And, if your company has been involved with a merger or acquisition, be sure to tally all IT levels. After aquiring another business, one Australian financial services company was able to achieve greater IT simplicitiy in just six weeks by outsourcing the integration of the new service into their existing environment. By leveraging IT outsourcing to integrate disparate networks and systems and improving core network and storage network capacity, the company was able to consolidate and optimise their entire IT infrastructure. Just ensuring unwanted redundancies are eliminated, unnecessary programmes aren’t renewed and unprofitable processes are abandoned can greatly reduce complexity.

2. Consider what infrastructure is necessary, and what’s necessary to keep in-house. Once the inventory is complete, we like to roll up our sleeves and help our clients design an infrastructure strategy and design. With the move to cloud solutions and virtual networks, you’ll likely find your intricate systems of servers and hardware can be reduced to a few easy-to-manage systems. And it’s almost always at a lower total cost of ownership than purchasing and maintaining everything in house.

3. Determine who’s supporting what, and what’s not receiving the proper support. It’s hard to keep your organisation running smoothly and efficiently when managers and specialists are spending time assisting the help desk. We’ve found many of our clients are pulling their hair out at the cost of continuously training employees to provide phone and support  — not to mention the scheduling nightmare of maintaining the proper amount of support staffing during working hours. When you opt for desktop support services, you place the onus of training, staffing and hiring on your vendor.

Ideally, you’ll want to find one vendor that can hold your hand through every step of your complexity-reduction checklist and serve as the sole point of contact for your IT needs. That’s ultimately how organisations can transform their IT operation into simple, manageable environments.

Q&A: Outsourcing to IaaS vs. Keeping Infrastructure In-house

By Lauren Fritsky

 

Australia’s a great place for widespread cloud adoption – but many enterprises don‘t care.

Despite being ranked No. 2 in the world for cloud readiness by the BSA Global Cloud Computing Score Card, adoption of private cloud in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) delivery model has slowed, according to Longhaus research. Part of the issue could be related to enterprises wanting to retain control over their virtualised infrastructure by keeping it in-house. But beyond control, is there ever a reason to maintain these resources – and associated costs – onsite instead of outsourcing to a cloud services provider? Peter Bainbridge, Business Manager of the Solutions Group for Datacom, weighs in.

First of all, why do you think businesses are shying away from private IaaS?

“It’s fear – fear of the provider messing up, downtime and the provider not taking as much care of the infrastructure as if it were its own. Data sovereignty is an issue too – I wouldn’t trust someone with my entire business’s data if they were just a faceless entity on the internet.”

Are those fears founded?

“Not from our experience. We make guarantees around everything a customer is concerned about, and they are financially-backed in the form of service credits. Customers know where their data is stored and managed, and they participate in a partnership with us, which means they can come and visit us whenever they like.”

In terms of IT skills, what is required when hosting infrastructure in-house vs. when IT outsourcing?

“In a complex in-house infrastructure, you need a Jack of all trades. Or you’re going to need lots of specialists who are expensive and they may not be used to their full capacity. And then what happens when they want to take leave, or they’re sick? I’ve also seen examples where people work just that little bit slower, or keep an environment back a little, to ensure long-term employment and a sense of comfort.

Outsourced IaaS provides a pool of resources where you get the specialists you need to support your system, but you only pay for what you actually need. Using a pool of resources means customers don’t have to worry about sick leave or resource management or skills maintenance and training; and it comes with a huge benefit you don’t get when in-sourcing. For example, at Datacom, our team is constantly exposed to a wide range of environments and technology choices and are encouraged and rewarded for bringing relevant efficiencies and transformative ideas to our customers.”

What are the pros of keeping infrastructure in-house?

“There aren’t many actual benefits. Some IT managers may think it’s best to keep infrastructure in-house if you have static requirements, meaning workloads that won’t fluctuate. But most enterprises today are managing dynamic workloads. Some IT managers may also keep everything in-house to maintain their autonomy. When you introduce IT outsourcing to the picture, it takes away much of the control from the IT manager, and he may see that as a threat to his job. But what IT managers don’t realise is that by outsourcing infrastructure, they can become more strategic in-house. They can become an IT enabler that drives business value from IT, directly contributing to the company’s success with a long-term, sustainable view on IT services.”

Some enterprises believe you have less responsibility when you move to IaaS. What’s the truth?

“You can’t outsource risk. If your IT outsourcer fails you, you’re responsible. You still keep the burden of risk – you have to manage your vendor so your business outcomes are always front of mind, always the focus and drive everything you and the vendor do.”

How do you best do that?

“By actively participating in SLA reviews, keeping communication channels open, engaging in strategic IT planning, getting involved early, keeping an open mind for the outsourcer to come to you – they can bring innovation to things you didn’t know you needed or services or requirements you might need down the line.

At Datacom, we make managed services easier by proactively engaging at all levels of the partnership. We have a service delivery manager monitoring the client’s day-to-day performance to set objectives, an account manager to oversee the strategic overall relationship and an executive sponsor within Datacom advocating that client’s needs. We meet monthly to discuss SLA performance, regularly talk about operational issues and have quarterly discussions around innovations and IT strategy alignment.”

When is a good time for a business to really look at making the transition to IaaS?

“It’s when you’re undertaking a transformative process. Outsource your existing infrastructure in the lead-up to cloud, because then your outsourced vendor intimately understands your environment before transforming it, reducing risk, downtime and cost when you make the leap into cloud.”

The Headaches Inherent in the ‘Consumerisation of IT’

By Michael Harman

As summer break ended for Australian employees, new issues emerged for IT professionals.

While holiday gifts previously stayed at home, now millions bring their Kindle Fires, Galaxy 2s, iPhone 4Ss or the newest Windows 7 phones into the office. About mid-January, many IT departments found themselves responding to requests from eager employees to the tune of “I’d like my work email on my iPad, please.”

The “Consumerisation of IT” has exploded. While new mobility offers huge opportunities for today’s employees and businesses, it’s created some serious IT headaches.

With quick access to email and work documents that can be used practically anywhere, smartphones can be susceptible to breaches and quick downloading of personal data.

Also, the explosion of mobile devices has led to a proliferation of several popular operating systems. iOS, Android, Windows, Symbian and Blackberry are all widely used and IT departments need a functional knowledge of all of them and how to work them into the enterprise.

The loss of control is worrying to IT departments. With mobility, it seems you can no longer specify when files can be retrieved, turn off access, and wipe phones when they’re misplaced. It seems you can no longer become fantastically literate on a specific piece of hardware or operating system.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of solutions available to help manage the additional risks that come with the increasing number of new devices.

Mobile device management (MDM) software helps companies monitor, manage and secure mobile devices within one network, reducing support costs and limiting risk. Endpoint security solutions specifically secure devices against malware, intrusion and data loss, both on and off the company network. Updated remote management and data wipe software can lock access to specific data or remove it completely in case of a lost or stolen personal device.

Mobile devices will continue to advance, and so will the technology IT departments use to manage them.

As IT professionals, we’re in the business of enabling increased innovation and productivity to the business, and mobile devices help us help the workforce do just that. It’s up to us to adapt and address this lack of control – these new IT headaches – so users have access while the business is secure.

+++

About Michael Harman

Michael Harman is the Director of Datacom Systems, New South Wales, responsible for the overall strategy and leadership of the company. With an ICT career extending over 24 years, Michael has experience leading the engagement of large, complex IT projects that span multiple geographies. Michael is passionate about all things technology, keeping his pulse on emerging trends in order to solve the unique business challenges of NSW businesses through leading innovation.