Cloud-Era IT

Opinion Nov 15, 2012

Mike England, content director of Unified Communications Expo, looks at the changes the cloud will bring to businesses

The IT department as we know it is changing. More and more companies are moving away from company-owned hardware and infrastructure kept on-site, to embrace cloud computing and the consumerisation of IT. The benefits of communications as a service (CaaS) and software as a service (SaaS), offer clear business advantages, including increased agility and flexibility, and can reduce CapEx.

The momentum for this change is highlighted in a recent survey by Imago Techmedia, organiser of Unified Communications Expo. It found around seven in 10 (68 percent) business leaders are under more pressure to introduce mobile and orking practices than they were five years ago.

In its whitepaper “The Future of the IT Department”, IBM suggests the relationship between the IT department and other employees in a company will change once it has made the transition to the cloud. Employees will no longer go to the IT department if they have issues or questions related to IT, instead they will go directly to the cloud provider.

Furthermore, one of Gartner’s top 10 predictions this year suggested that 35 percent of enterprise IT expenditure for most organisations will be managed outside the IT department’s budget by 2015. The consumerisation of IT has seen employees becoming more technology savvy, increasingly aware of the solutions available to them, and as a result putting more demands on the business to provide them.

But what does this mean for the IT department and how can VARs take advantage of this shift?

The first point to make is that even if all assets are moved to the cloud (communications, applications, storage etc.), there will still be a need for an internal IT department, albeit one that is altered.

Also, as businesses move away from buying one-off licence solutions to commissioning on-going services, there will be a greater focus on service level agreement management. This requires continuous monitoring of metrics and trend data to ensure a service keeps delivering the strategic aims of the business.

Many see the IT department of the future running like a business within the business; one that has its own customers, set targets and commissioning powers. Further, the IT department should have greater involvement in the financial planning process.

To this end, the IT department is aligning itself more closely with the business groups they are servicing. Increasingly, IT team members are seen as business enablers and will need to ensure they have a greater understanding of the business objectives of each department and the company as a whole. The IT department is working more closely with the relevant business leaders, whether in sales, marketing, finance or HR, to best meet these objectives. Conversely, as line of business executives gain greater commissioning powers and responsibility for their own budgets, they will have to work closely with IT to make sure they are aware of all available options and the ramifications of each before making a decision on services and solutions.

As businesses are having to change to adapt to the possibilities of the cloud, so too must VARs if they are to compete in this market. A VAR looking to sell-in a cloud solution must understand how to meet the objectives of the cloud-era for the business unit as a whole, not just IT. As such, it would need to be able to provide a comprehensive service level agreement; one that offers guarantees it can cope effectively with a service outage, for example. Aligned to this is security: a VAR must also be able to provide assurances the data it is handling is safe and can be securely accessed.

With the business units taking on greater responsibility for commissioning and budgets, VARs will be selling solutions directly to individuals who know their specific IT requirements, both in terms of the solution and price. This means VARs will need to start thinking beyond the IT department and will need to use more business language in conversations with customers, pointing to how their solution can offer the company benefits such as revenue and lead generation or improved efficiencies. VARs will also have to make sure they can offer products that provide either great value for money or a significant return on investment.

To ensure this happens VARs need to work with quality technology service vendors that will meet the needs of an increasingly discerning client-base. Events such as Unified Communications Expo offer a forum to talk face-to-face with a wide-range of vendors and to find the right partners.

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