Your IT team has never been more important to your business, but are you exploiting their skills to their full advantage? Shane Haslem talks about the advantages of outsourcing some elements of the IT Agenda to allow for a focus on the Business Technology Agenda and what you need to ask yourself to help make that decision.
Traditionally a company’s IT team’s main focus has been on the IT Agenda of the business, defined by CIO magazine as the things your firm does with technology, systems, and processes to support and transform internal operations. The last few years have seen a gradual shift in this trend; we’re now seeing IT teams increasingly focus on the Business Technology i.e. the technology, systems, and processes that win, serve and retain customers. The importance of this shift toward the Business Technology agenda is reinforced by Cisco’s CEO John Chambers who recently said that the digital disruption facing companies is so intense one-third will not make the transition over the next three years. Companies need to become more digital.
Your IT team can embrace this transformation and play a central role in your business by enhancing business processes, developing software to aid customer acquisition, service and retention, and implementing applications that drive operational efficiencies.But to do this effectively they need to be free from day-to-day ‘keeping the lights on’ tasks, like ensuring the organisation’s infrastructure is operating at peak efficiency.
By outsourcing these elements (the IT agenda), your IT team can focus on delivering on the strategic goals of your organisation. Among our own customers we’re seeing this happening more and more, particularly when it comes to outsourcing an organisation’s network, where a dedicated team of experts manage and monitor your network 24/7, ensuring it is operating at peak efficiency and minimising the risk of downtime. In this increasingly connected world, the network is king and its performance is a critical factor now that companies are so reliant on it not only for their website and communications but increasingly, for accessing mission-critical apps and the cloud.
Take Chain Reaction Cycles for example. As the company expanded from a family run bike shop to the largest online bike retailer in the world, its CIO Michael Murdock understood the central role his IT team could play in the firm’s ongoing expansion. “I wanted my team and I to be completely focused on using our skills and knowledge to add real value to the business. That’s why I outsourced the management of our network to eir Northern Ireland; they’re experts at what they do, they monitor and maintain our network, making sure I never have to worry about it. This frees me and my team up to do what we’re experts at.”
So where do you start if you’re considering outsourcing the management of your network? Here are some key questions you need to think about.
How critical is the network to our business?
Does your network support customer-facing applications such as web e-commerce and CRM, or voice and video applications that support customer communications? If the network was unavailable for a period of time what would be the financial, operational and reputational impact to the business? Perhaps you need additional Redundancy or operational Disaster Recovery measures if your network is deemed critical.
What access do I need at each site?
What are each of your premises using the network for – data, voice and video, or access to applications on the cloud? How critical are they to the core business operations? With the help of your managed network services partner, you can determine the bandwidth and access technologies that are best for each. For example, at your head office dedicated fibre will be the best option, while DSL fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) or Ethernet first mile (EFM) might be sufficient for a remote-office.
What service levels should I be looking for?
The level of monitoring you choose will depend largely on how critical your network is to the running of your business –from basic ‘break/fix’ reactive monitoring to proactive monitoring where we identify and fix an issue before you even know it’s happened. If you are trusting your network to someone else, be sure there are success criteria in place – if they don’t meet these, they need to credit you. If your network is business-critical, you will want someone to proactively monitor & manage not just its availability but also the quality of its performance – in technical terms, that’s latency, jitter and packet loss – and you need real peace of mind that if anything does go wrong it will be fixed quickly and efficiently.
Who are the people managing my network?
You’ll not only need reassurance that your managed services provider has the right experience and track-record but that they have the technical field force skills on the ground to react to faults. Having the right people to assist with Design Workshops to support your business changes and growth will provide additional piece of mind.
Is there an opportunity to free up your IT Department so they can apply their skills and knowledge to adding real value to the business? If yes, ensure that your chosen partner has the necessary expertise, experience, equipment, processes, and service levels in place to give you that ultimate reassurance. Managed by dedicated experts, your network will run at peak performance consistently, and your IT team can turn to embracing the digital disruption that will keep you in business.
Shane Haslem is Head of Network Enabled Design, eir Business Solutions NI. Contact Shane at uk.linkedin.com/in/shanehaslem to talk about how managed network services can help your business