04/08/2015

By John Pepper, Managing Director, Managed247


Technology investment has never been more strategic and business critical; but attitudes to IT service and support lag behind. The vast majority of Managed Services Providers (MSP) offer some degree of proactive monitoring designed to warn a business if a major failure or capacity overload has happened, but usually this is too late.

Companies are still enduring the business impact of an outdated three to five year technology investment cycle and relying on the Service Level Agreement (SLA) to ensure problems are resolved with minimal business impact. But where is the in-depth insight into end to end IT and telephony performance to predict requirements and drive strategic investment? Or the use of self-healing technology to prevent problems occurring in the first place and ensure a good, day to day user experience?

While proactive was a great stride forward from the old fashioned break/fix IT model, it is simply no longer good enough. In today’s hybrid IT environment, MSPs should offer in depth, end to end monitoring and analysis to accurately predict trends in performance to both prevent problems and enable organisations to achieve far more effective IT utilisation that supports their strategic business objectives.

Proactive is Reactive

The use of real time monitoring to flag potential business impacting IT issues before they occur is now a standard MSP service. Yet while knowing that network capacity is at 90% or email levels are approaching capacity before the infrastructure hits critical may reduce the likelihood of massive failure and downtime, just how much business value does this really deliver?

The reality is that when the MSP calls to say key thresholds have been breached and alarm bells are ringing, an IT Manager has no option but to react; to make an immediate investment to address the problem and avoid downtime. Such panic buying is never going to be cost effective – nor will it tie in to any strategic plan. It will certainly result in an unplanned spike in costs. A little bit of network monitoring may stop a major outage but it still feeds a reactive IT strategy.

This model certainly does little to enable an organisation to achieve effective utilisation of IT. This is an era of unprecedented technology change, of rapid evolution from on premise to a hybrid model that includes the cloud, and an explosion in IT consumption with mobile technologies and BYOD. Old attitudes to technology simply no longer apply: an organisation’s use and utilisation of IT and telephony is business critical and should deliver a competitive advantage.

Quantum Leap

There is no room for the old three to five year cycle that results in a business sliding from market leading to market lagging dependent upon its position within the investment cycle. With today’s hybrid environment, organisations need to use IT and telephony effectively all the time; they need to exploit collaboration with clients and customers and enable employees to be productive irrespective of location.

This is a quantum leap in IT consumption – and it needs to be reflected by a quantum leap in IT service and support. There are two essential changes required. Firstly, organisations need to step away from that outdated investment cycle and achieve a smooth, continual technology investment model that delivers real value. Secondly, the essential nature of support has to change. MSPs should be judged not on their ability to meet the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and respond to printer problems or router issues within the specified time. Success should be a measure of the actual day to day user experience, essentially the MSP’s ability to prevent those printer problems or router issues before they occur.

At the heart of both of these changes is information – the use of real time monitoring of every aspect of the IT and telephony infrastructure that can be analysed and assessed to predict requirements well in advance and, critically, presented in a simple to comprehend fashion to deliver valuable business insight. And while there is no one monitoring system that can deliver this view, the successful interaction of multiple, separate tools overlaid with a business intelligence layer can create a predictive environment that transforms the way the infrastructure is assessed and managed on both a day to day and strategic basis.

Prevention is Transformative

Combining trends in performance with business plans can predict potential issues six, 12, even 18 months in advance, giving the business time to cost, assess options and plan. This is a continual process of refinement that not only prevents issues occurring but essentially levels out the spend. There are no peaks and troughs, the company has a flat-line, controlled IT expenditure and, critically, the opportunity to realise real productivity gains through more intelligent, well managed use of technology. With clear insight into IT and telephony performance, it is far easier to have highly intelligent, meaningful conversations about the strategic direction and opportunities for planned investment.

Furthermore, combining in depth and real time understanding of the entire infrastructure with self-healing technologies enables the preventative measures that fundamentally transform users’ day to day experience with technology. Rather than hoping the fix will occur within the SLA, problems can be routinely addressed to avoid interruption.

Take the basic – yet familiar – example, of printer problems caused by a new printer clashing with an older software application. With in-depth monitoring it is easy to identify the root cause of the issue and to flag up the need to update the software. But that does not necessarily justify the investment – so where does that leave the user experience? Rather than expect the user to make routine support calls – albeit with fixes within the SLA – it is far more effective to automatically reset the software every 24 hours to avoid the problem occurring. It is simple and prevents the user having to touch support, ensuring good productivity and reinforcing a strong perception of IT.

Conclusion

Organisations know that in an era of 24x7 operations, mobile users and online business models, IT outage is incredibly damaging and expensive. But effective IT utilisation requires far more than the proactive support model that dominates today. Just as routine health checks are key to taking early preventive measures to maintain a healthy body, the same applies with any IT and telephony infrastructure: predicting the problems that may occur or business needs that may arise well ahead of time is key to achieving healthy IT.

When every aspect of the infrastructure is so business critical, can any business really afford to wait for the MSP to call with bad news and then swing into action? Or hope to sustain competitive position during the peaks and troughs of IT investment? Proactive was a start – prevention is the essential next step. By combining deep dive, infrastructure wide performance insight with a different attitude to IT support, an MSP can not only predict the future but use that insight to demonstrate that prevention is better than cure at every level – both day to day and strategic.