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Less grunt work, more innovation: How IT can be a more strategic business partner

Simply keeping the lights on isn’t enough these days. IT must provide breakthrough technology innovations to contribute to the bottom line. Here’s how adaptive management services can help.

Consider this scenario: Your company is an established global institution with more than 100 years of experience in securities trading and financial services. You want to update your enterprise IT systems, integrating your business-critical systems in a virtualized environment, but most of your IT resources are used up managing and delivering the day-to-day technology that keeps the business running efficiently. 

Here’s another: You’re an established retailer that wants to accelerate digital transformation by implementing a new application such as SAP HANA, but you realize it will take too long to train your current IT staff in this new technology and you need help fast.

Under both of these challenging scenarios, now all too common for IT managers, how do you embrace the latest IT services so the business can remain competitive and capitalize on new revenue opportunities?

This is no easy task, given that IT staff now tend to spend most of their time dealing with routine tasks such as handling service-level agreements or installing new hardware. According to IDC, over a given week, IT admin and operations staff spend most of their time dealing with mundane IT tasks leaving little time for innovation and new projects that can drive the business forward.

Building a smarter light bulb

It’s little wonder, then, that some enterprises are realizing that running their own IT is not a business they want to be in. IT complexity is increasing, and IT departments have found the business side is putting more and more pressure on them to innovate and create business value for the enterprise. Running the enterprise’s infrastructure doesn’t bring in revenue, of course, so while the business realizes IT operations are mission-critical, they are also seen as a tax on the business, making discussions about incremental IT funding painful. 

Adaptive management services are a smart solution to this dilemma. They help IT managers operate and optimize their IT environments, from managing the entire data center to specific environments within it, such as SAP HANA. They extend beyond the data center, too, encompassing edge solutions such as IoT. Instead of constantly working to keep up with new technologies and “keeping the lights on,” IT organizations can hand off the heavy lifting of various day-to-day IT tasks to a vendor and concentrate instead on innovative projects that can create competitive advantage.

Adaptive management services: Tailored solutions that cover a full spectrum of capabilities from infrastructure to applications and workloads when and where required.

I like to think of this as building a smarter light bulb instead of simply keeping the lights on. Given the need for businesses to be nimble, many IT leaders are finding it’s better to be a 30-person IT team delivering value to the business than a 300-person team that’s mainly focused on keeping the lights on instead of working on breakthrough projects. The former team is focused on innovation and finds a trusted IT partner to keep the lights on for the department; the latter team is preoccupied with providing the minimum level of support it can get away with while clinging to the dwindling budgets allocated by IT management.

Which one would you rather be? I believe the IT departments that will ultimately survive will be the ones that focus on providing breakthrough innovations to the business. How is this done? It may mean looking to outside vendors to run your IT services. Most companies these days want a flexible solution that adapts to their ever-changing needs. IT managers may look first to the public cloud as a fast way to get instant resources for urgent business outcomes, while also adopting a private cloud with a consumption IT model, working with an IT partner to deliver and monitor their routine operational IT tasks. Those costs are therefore treated as an ongoing operating expense rather than a large, upfront capital investment in hardware and staff training.

Making security watertight

When you’re working with outside vendors, you need to make sure security is watertight. If an IT provider offers remote operational support on all IT infrastructure components—including servers, operating systems, storage, and backup—that provider will gain access to a customer’s IT environments. In doing so, the provider needs to make sure no new security risks are introduced. Similarly, as new workloads are created, security around them should be given careful thought. For example, sensitive data such as patient records should be stored in the appropriate location and in accordance with regulatory guidelines.

Each company will need its own level of support and will have likely done its own appraisal of the risks and costs to its business. For example, when it comes to maintaining the wireless access points that connect a network of IoT devices, one company may decide it will handle its maintenance in-house, while another may decide it can’t afford to send someone up a ladder to deal with it and so instead subscribe to a third party to handle it. 

Some will need help with specific tasks. For example, Denmark’s largest grocery company, Salling Group (formerly Dansk Supermarked Group) was recently looking for a way to provide a rich digital shopping experience to its customers. The company wanted to implement a solution that would enable real-time analytics, harness and process a growing amount of customer data, and scale an e-commerce solution quickly. To achieve this, Salling Group worked with us to put a SAP HANA platform in place that could leverage big data and integrate it into the customer shopping experience. Instead of the company investing in building the skills and hardware needed to create its own solution, it was able to save time and money by using our big data analytics solutions and IT services. The result was improved customer insights and a richer shopping experience for consumers. The grocer’s data was turned into actionable business insights that increased revenue and cut waste, securing a competitive edge for the company.

Just as with Salling Group, managed services can usually be tailored to meet the unique requirements of your IT environment, from operating an entire data center to managing specific areas of your IT. And the level of help can be responsive to your needs, too, with managed service providers not only monitoring and operating your IT, but also making use of the service provider’s most skilled resources, including top-end IT advisors with significant scar tissue, who in a consultative way can offer proactive and preventative advice. 

You may be heading down a design or operational path where other customers have seen problems or successes in the past, and if it’s the former, a service provider can advise you not to do that. Or you may want to benefit from application development in the cloud, something that is sometimes a challenge for IT departments. An IT partner can help you manage a distributed network across on-premises cloud and public cloud providers while maintaining compliance and security best practices. 

Doing away with finger pointing

Multi-cloud management is a challenge for those companies with no solution for cloud-based infrastructure support. Most enterprises want to seamlessly run IT across all environments, and an IT vendor can give a consistent run experience across all of them and make suggestions for the various combinations that make sense for the business.

For example, a provider can ensure your records are kept in the most appropriate and cost-effective locations—for example, patient records would be kept securely on premises but your less-sensitive contract with the cleaning company can go in the public cloud. In this way, you’ll get the most cost-effective IT infrastructure for your company’s individual needs.

Another motivator for an organization is the desire to eliminate the risk of finger pointing when technology goes awry. Often, IT vendors seem unwilling to take responsibility and instead want to blame other vendors for your IT problems. This leads to wasted time, and it's a headache for companies that simply want their technology to function correctly and not have to deal with unacceptable excuses. An IT partner can use its expertise to more efficiently manage your vendor relationships.

As IT managers focus on innovation, allocating resources to building technology for more high-impact business investments, they are looking to IT partners to help keep their existing operations up and running. A strategic partner can help you use your limited budget to deliver the IT support that’s most valuable to the growth of the business.

Adaptive management services: Lessons for leaders

  • A managed services provider operates and optimizes IT environments so you don’t have to.
  • Managed services is key for multi-cloud management if you lack a cloud-based infrastructure support.
  • Less finger pointing and more action are two key reasons to use managed services.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.