Making the most of your place in the cloud

Partnering well to optimise resources.

October 20, 2023
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Just like that fancy new house on the hill where the real estate agent sells you on a vision of a better life, a huge number of businesses abandoned on-premises infrastructure and moved to cloud in search of a more modern life. Understanding that it required a loss of control, many sought to mitigate this by seeking out a range of cloud providers – to avoid lock in, to ensure resiliency, and to pick and choose from the best of breed platforms and applications.

The thing with moving into a new shiny house is you have to make some choices about what you take with you. So, you make three piles - the stuff you want to leave behind because you don’t need it, the things you need but you have to change to make fit, and the new stuff you buy which you now require. 

Having lived in the cloud environment for a while, it’s apparent to many New Zealand businesses that while it’s the right place to be, it isn’t quite meeting the high expectations they had. For example, they might be finding data costs have decreased, but network costs are now more complicated to determine.

If you moved to the cloud and it’s not the place you’d hoped for, even though you handpicked your technology partners, you’re not alone. According to IDC Info Snapshot, sponsored by Spark New Zealand, Modern Operations Management is Key to Digital Business Success, Doc #AP249559X, July 2023 shows that New Zealand enterprises are overwhelmingly multi and hybrid cloud environments, and 47% of New Zealand enterprises surveyed in the IDC’s Asia/Pacific Enterprise Services Sourcing Survey, 2022 expressed their intent to centralise IT sourcing to get a handle on their IT ecosystem.

What CIOs are finding is that to make the most of the cloud, they need to consider other things too - such as re-architecting applications to fit business needs, changing the underlying business processes, and upskilling their people. Yet only 19% of respondents to the same IDC’s survey indicated that they intended to insource more services, suggesting that most enterprises expect this hybrid IT complexity to be managed by their operations management partner.

While this shows managed services providers still have a huge part to play, they must, as IDC notes on the same IDC Info Snapshot, “evolve into ‘general contractors’ that can effectively manage and orchestrate customers’ diverse and heterogenous hybrid IT estates. IDC believes that the new breed of managed services providers will need to be able to effectively orchestrate across a complex matrix of infrastructure vendors, system software, enterprise applications, innovative technologies, location choices and consumption/engagement models, among others, in a cost-optimised manner.”

In other words, what businesses require is a navigator, a trusted partner to listen to what the business needs, find out where the pain points are and what’s keeping the CIO up at night.

- Andy Crawford, Spark Professional Service Lead

A partner that helps the IT team move towards a state of continual improvement, where the default is test and learn, and where there is the innate ability to flex and adapt.

It's useful too if the partner can bring with them the ‘honesty mirror’. Holding it up now and again to ensure businesses stay on track with solving the problems at hand, rather than getting distracted by bright shiny things. 

Here are five points CIOs need to consider when selecting a managed services provider to guide them through the maze of cloud complexity and towards optimising resources.

1. Expertise versus experience

Ideally you want to have both expertise and experience, but when faced with a choice, opt for the latter every time. It’s relatively straightforward to get certifications on new technologies, but experience is hard won, and is what leads to wisdom. As the author Miles Kington put it: expertise is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it into a fruit salad.

2. Be outcome orientated

While aiming for simplification is important, IT is an inherently complex environment, so it’s important to work with a provider who is outcome orientated, who can link the changes that are required with results that will be achieved.

3. Technology that is the right solution at the right time

The technology is going to work like it says on the tin, so partner with those who have an intimate knowledge of every part of the tech stack. This means they will be able to help you solve for the right issue, at the right time. The goal is to create a continuous learning environment with a provider that can flex and adapt to your business needs.

4. Clear timelines enable return on investment

The current economic climate is resulting in higher levels expectations when it comes to a return on investment, so you want a provider that is very clear on what will be achieved and when, in a way that can be measured and managed. 

5. It’s not about selling, it’s about listening

Buying the most expensive tennis racket in the shop is not going to enable you to win at Wimbledon. When a provider talks only about what they can sell you, they are effectively heaping wood onto a bonfire. You want a provider that listens and works hard to understand your situation and, if you get distracted by the latest tech, holds up the ‘honesty mirror’ and says: ‘is that really what’s needed right now?’.

Finally, sometimes you have to ‘stay in the mess for longer’ to really understand what the space is like, to feel your way around and find out where the problems lie. It’s part of the design thinking approach - where you go wide, and explore all the possibilities, before narrowing down to actionable solutions. A managed services provider who ticks the five boxes above, and who is also prepared to stay with you through that level of uncertainty, is one you can feel confident laying down the welcome mat for. A true managed services partner is one who goes the distance with you, to the point where your business has realised the benefits of the approach you’ve likely co-designed.

If you’re looking at how to pick through the complexity and find a place from where you can feel able to look forward with optimism instead of overwhelm, our team is here to help.

The full IDC Info Snapshot, sponsored by Spark New Zealand, Modern Operations Management is Key to Digital Business Success, Doc #AP249559X, July 2023 has been made available for Insight Engine readers here.

Andy Crawford
Andy Crawford
Spark Professional Service Lead
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Andy Crawford is the Professional Services Lead for Spark with over 35 years’ experience in delivering IT projects and is passionate about working with businesses to get sight of and target the optimum path to meet their business need.

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