In the latter part of 2015, we presented arguments to make the case for Managed Services within ICT-dependent sectors. These included resource, cost and reliability considerations.
Since then, a number of entities have asked about progress in the field. Questions included where Managed Services may yet head in the South African context. Consulting with the team responsible for our innovations seemed good source to search for answers.
Managed Services are about convenience, tech efficiency
Service management has become decentralised more than once since the advent of the formal ICT sector. The constant clash of outsourcing vs. insourcing has meant that the definitions have not always been exact, the lines in between not always drawn exactly. A few factors remain constant, however, and it is upon these that the emphasis is typically placed.
The level of automation, quicker response times and ultimately the bottom line are what determine success of managed ICT offerings. With clients trending towards the more affordable form of equivalent services, providers are relying on technology advances to offer the same service using fewer resources.
Developing and providing the right tools
In order to prevent the over-selling of Managed Services, the providers need to offer well-defined, realistic service provisions. These should be backed by solid Service Level Agreements. The SLA is there to protect both parties and to ensure performance and understanding of responsibilities inherent to each. Thus, its importance is not to be underestimated. IT is of benefit to both sides of a service agreement to have a thorough comprehension of how the SLA governs what is provided and how.
Thanks to the advances in connectivity availability and reliability, Managed Services has also been allowed to grow into software as a service. This has created a huge advantage in the creation of template offerings – automation can be purchased as a pre-designed tool, instead of having to be coded from the start.
Furthermore, Managed Services is no longer held hostage to either an insourced or an outsourced model. Connectivity allows for better communication between the components, which in turn permits hybrid offerings to exist. This is a boon in a country such as SA, where complete outsourcing is often eschewed due to key stakeholder discomfort. This type of approach also makes room for corporate culture differences brought about by geography. For example, one region may prefer an isolated service paradigm, while another may promote more interpersonal business relationships. Hybrid service offerings can more easily cater for both requirements.
An eye to the future
One highly likely iteration is that Managed Services will include development as a service. Development has almost become the niche that straight IT used to be. It is no big surprise to find development being used in an amalgamation role: the services of a client will be bridged to those of the provider itself, bringing about a previously-unknown level of integration.
Larger amounts of service management will also herald increased amounts of available data. Turning this into useful information is probably going to require a greater availability of analysts. Couple this to the associated need for better data analysis tools, and you also develop a need for information scientists.
Support services are already heading towards a more interface-based model. Elementary ubiquitous functions such as basic troubleshooting, email issues and so on will more often receive support via interface than by personal intervention. Training and developing support personnel to manage such interactions will thus be key to staff growth and retention.
Once broadband penetration reaches a more saturated level, Managed Services become a more preferred business model to pure connectivity. The latter will act as a backbone for the former, the main difference being service levels instead of availability.
The author interviewed the Adept Technical Services team as research for this article.