Hardware manufacturers have been very successful at influencing the market in recent decades. Organizations were convinced of the need to upgrade according to cycles the original equipment manufacturer dictated. Upgrading the entire network at once was preferable to avoid compatibility problems, bottlenecks and the end of maintenancecontracts. That sounds logical, and for a time may be it was. We saw our IT infrastructure as closed entities, indivisible and uniform. Because of this our VoIP solutions, our data centers, our security systems and the routing and switching equipment in our networks were all subject to the same cycle of innovation. Contracts with manufacturers left the customer with little choice about when upgrades happened and what was being renewed. If you wanted to break this cycle, to cut costs for example, you stood more or less alone and had to hope that you would not need replacement parts for equipment that had reached the end-of-life stage, according to the manufacturer.
Differentiation of the lifecycle
The increasingly detailed information about our business networks by IT analysts such as Gartner and Forrester has given us the understanding that not everything needs to be replaced simultaneously. LAN equipment behind the firewall innovates at a different pace than high end data center equipment and firewalls. Security may be outdated more quickly than VoIP solutions. You might need a firewall with greater capacity, but should you also immediately replace all your routers and switches? When we differentiate the life cycle of the various parts of our networks, it opens up unprecedented opportunities for costsavings and efficiency improvement.
In order for organizations to determine which elements of their IT infrastructure they want to upgrade and which parts they want to keep, they will need to adopt a hybrid approach of their network maintenance. This is now possible, thanks to the emergence of Third-Party Maintenance (TPM), which provides organizations support and maintenance, also for equipment that has reached end of life according to the hardware manufacturer. The rise of the TPM industry gives organizations the opportunity to finally achieve a more efficient, hybrid IT infrastructure, which not only saves costs, but also creates space for targeted innovation.
Free and independent
A hybrid approach enables organizations to break free from OEM mandated upgrade cycles, which puts the decision making power back in the hands of the Customer who knows their business needs best. There are always parts of your network that will need an upgrade, but now we can define those parts more precisely thanks to the detailed insights mentioned. For example, a TPM partner does not have the same vested interests as the hardware manufacturer and does not need to realize sales expectations for a new line of switches, routers or servers. The TPM partner advises in an objective manner, unhindered by manufacturer-specific interests and fully in service of the organization. A TPM partner can therefore not only help to maintain the simple network components, but can also advise you on the innovation of complex parts. Thus, TPM gives organizations control back over the upgradecycle brings back a degree of common sense into an organization’s IT strategy and commits organizations to innovation.
Who will you work with?
Of course it is important that you select a TPM partner that has a proven expertise in the hardware of your organization. But besides being technically capable, such a partner should also be logistically capable. When a part of your network needs to be replaced, you want that to happen immediately, with no downtime for your organization. This implies that your maintenance partner should be used to working with large volumes, must have sufficient coverage in your region, sufficient international reach with a robust FSL (Forward Stocking Location) network and have the necessary import and export licenses for delivery wherever you need. Good advice for anyone considering a TPM is to consult with an independent analyst firm and find out what they can tell you about a potential TPM partner and what the market thinks of that partner.
The future is hybrid
Innovation in business will always be a priority. That is precisely why it is so important that we differentiate our networks and break them up into several parts, with different priorities. Our budget is limited. With this understanding we can determine more precisely which product innovations directly benefit our business andcwhich products can keep up just fine for a few years. Only when organizations understand this will they be able to cope with the fast developments in IT. When analyst firms such as Gartner and Forrester note that there are considerable benefits to third-party maintenance and hybrid IT solutions, you know that the market is ready for a large-scaleadoption.
A decision of outsourcing IT infrastructure or to use third-party managed services has one very clear goal and that is competitive advantage. Strategists want to leverage such outsidesources to gain an edge over their competitors. Having said that past experiences have thought us that outsourcing requires deep understanding of your own business, as well as having dependable partners, which brings us to the current change in outsourcing trends. The way businesses choose to outsource parts of their IT, including infrastructure and managed services, has been driven by the goals they want to accomplish. If your goal is to maximize the efficiency, results, access latest technologies, and drive changes quickly on the IT side while kepping your budget in check, then bringing a third-party partnership on board to handle your IT infrastructure and partially managing the technology stack will prove to be the only way to go in many cases.
Avoiding opportunity costs
The struggle with growing complexity and amount of systems and resources that need to be overseen in order to secure flawless daily operations is real. There are many tasks in daily operations which are vital to businesses existence yet contribute in no way to core business in the way of making money. They also add unnecessary burden to IT staff workloads; systems monitoring, patching or addressing security or performance concerns. Focus on tasks that can be taken care of by using commoditized solutions is counter productive. Working with managed services providers will allow your staff to focus on projects that do add key values to your organization’s bottom-line. Management of routine tasks and leveraging third-partiy hosting architectural and maintenance expertise are key to avoidance of opportunity costs on your end. All resources that you dedicate towards key metrics of your business will pay out in increased innovation and response to market needs.
Proof of life
The ability to become proactive instead of reactive and shifting your IT department strategically from the keep-the-lights-on department to enabler of innovation is no small feat for most companies. There are lots of reasons behind this, from limited budgets and inadequate understanding of technology on the executive level to simply fear of bringing in outsourcing partners and losing control. The fact of the matter is that outsourcing does not equal losing control and please do feel free to quote me on this one:
“Outsourcing is not an indication of incompetency, rather a sign of strength and understanding of your business’ SWOT and as such strategically utilizing that knowledge to gain competitive advantage.”