BRIAN FAWCETT (BF): Organizations have accelerated cloud adoption during the pandemic, but getting to the cloud is only part of the journey. It's not even where the real value lies.
I'm your host Brian Fawcett and this is IT Availability Now, the show that tells stories of business resilience, from the people who keep the digital world available.
The real value in cloud adoption comes from optimization. Many organizations, however, don't have a strategy for how to achieve this, leaving them scrambling to plan for a future where technology changes at a rapid pace. They find themselves at a familiar crossroads. Do they pursue the “do it yourself” route to cloud optimization, or do they turn to a managed services provider for assistance?
With us today to discuss this topic, as well as important questions companies must address, is Edwina Murphy, Lead Cloud Specialist at Sungard AS.
Ed, welcome back to the show.
EDWINA MURPHY (EM): Thanks Brian, excited to be here today.
(BF): Let's start with the need for cloud optimization and why has it become such a hot button topic right now?
(EM): Yes indeed, it definitely has Brian. I've been doing cloud since 2008 and certainly the last five years have seen a radical shift in the marketplace because previously organizations were always solely focused on getting to one cloud. The original question was “do I go public or private?” And then it became more, okay it's public, which public cloud provider should I use? And that conversation has evolved enormously and shifted into multi-cloud as we see it everywhere today.
So I think it's become a hot topic right now, and that businesses should be thinking about how to address their future, from a technology standpoint, and address the changing market demands. There's definitely a key driver when it comes to multi-cloud behind those market demands out there.
I think they also need to really think about properly training their employees, and they also need to think about how they're actually going to retain their talent.
(BF): So clearly, many organizations are struggling to manage multiple environments, so how did they get into this position of having multiple environments?
(EM): Okay, so since the pandemic, organizations tend to fall into one of three buckets from what we discovered.
There were those who hadn't evolved or started their cloud journey, consistently putting it off and waiting for the right time. And some of the challenges that they faced were extremely difficult because as we all know trying to mobilize an entire workforce if you have no cloud strategy or no cloud services is extremely difficult.
And that's not just from the technology standpoint, there's also the physical devices. There was a shortage even on laptops, so even if you had some of the infrastructure available for them, you didn't necessarily even have the devices.
There were those who went all into the cloud without a plan. And what we mean by that is they lifted and shifted into infrastructure as a service. And that worked, that got them there, that got them out of a hole, but they're not necessarily architected for future growth. And this really presents a lot of challenges for them because they've gone in and it's infrastructure as a service only which means they're not necessarily taking advantage of those cloud native capabilities, not transforming and therefore taking advantage of the optimization and automation that is what cloud is really all about. That's what it really delivers for you.
And then there were those who were able to adapt, transform, and are well architected, but find it difficult to retain talent. And this is one of the biggest problems facing the cloud today.
A recent survey identified that 80% of organizations with a cloud strategy have little to no cloud certifications. So those who have managed to do it have done a great job, but they now have teams that command high salaries and are highly sought after in the workplace, and therefore are being offered more to go and work elsewhere.
And this has actually even been further compounded by the pandemic, as now, the requirement that used to be there to be within a certain proximity of an office has reduced significantly. So actually, you know, that geographical pool that people had before to go work in has now expanded as well.
So, each of these types of organizations are now finding themselves asking: “is a solution to take on the project myself or to turn to a managed service provider?”
(BF): So let's touch on that a little bit more. In the face of all these challenges that you just went through, why do so many organizations then remain so committed to DIY?
(EM): So I think there is a perception that if I work with a managed service provider, that I will lose all control and visibility into my environment. And, you know, I would say that that was probably accurate some years ago, most definitely. Managed services were very locked down traditionally, so it can be scary to hand over your crown jewels to a third party, and there is definitely, you know, a sense of nervousness waiting for a provider to handle an urgent issue.
There’s also things that people think that using managed services will result in a loss of jobs, and that is definitely not strictly true either. That all depends on what you intend to do with your staff and whether you are going to retrain them into other roles that offer value within the business as opposed to keeping on the lights in IT.
And I think sometimes people think about, yeah we should be DIY because the managed service providers build everything themselves and we should do the same and again that's no longer true. Even managed service providers themselves are building less and less themselves, as we see the partner ecosystem being the way to deliver most efficiently and cost effectively, but it also makes sure that you get the right experience and knowledge that you can bring to the table by leveraging those partnerships.
So it's interesting, I'm seeing less and less managed service providers themselves actually building out all the infrastructure themselves as well. And we only have to look at the likes of people using Amazon and Azure which have kind of spearheaded that.
(BF): And lifting into a bit of the counterargument then, right, so why should organizations consider managed services?
(EM): I think one of the reasons they should do it is because it does allow you to focus on areas that are core to your business, and that is really, really important. I'm increasingly talking to organizations that say to me, for example, you know, we work in insurance. Backup is not our business, you know, just one area as an example. And if we're focusing our time and efforts on backup, then we're not focusing our time and efforts on driving value within the insurance industry that's going to give us a competitive edge.
So the other thing is, you know, that does allow you to better allocate those resources. That does save you time and money in the long run, purely for the speed that you can get the advice and experience that you need to make those decisions quicker.
And as I touched on before, the fear of job loss is understandable, but I've personally never seen anyone lose their job because an organization turned to managed services. If anything, those employees can just now manage their time better.
You know what we should think about: when anybody's looking at DIY or managed services or changing the technology stack or whatever it might be, the question you’ve always got to keep close is, “what problem am I trying to solve here?”
Sometimes it can be a small problem. It is that resource. You can get the shiniest new technology, or you can change your platforms but if you genuinely struggle with resources to deliver to your users the demand that's there, then you know, you're probably better off thinking about that managed service and how it can help you. Which comes back to the point: managed servers don't necessarily build everything themselves. And IT is their business, so it's very often the case that they choose to partner for speed, costs, experience and knowledge.
And typically you know they partner with the best of breed organizations for areas that aren’t their specialty and in that sense then that enables you to deliver something that's more end to end, across your business needs, and reduce your suppliers, which can also mean that you are managing costs and time a lot better internally.
(BF): All of this is very interesting. So, how can organizations then decide which makes the most sense for them, for their business, whether it's DIY or managed services?
(EM): So one of the things that they can do, Brian, is instead of fixating on delivering the services, determine how you are going to deliver value within your organization. Who are going to be the winners in terms of what you're going to do? And you can still become that broker of services, just as a managed service provider does, without building it out yourself. You can allow yourself that expertise and knowledge right at your fingertips, so that when your business units, who are the real driving force behind the change that is required, that you can adapt and react instantaneously because you have those partnerships on board to fulfill that need.
So, base your decisions on whether to optimize on your own or invest in managed services on the business outcome that you're trying to achieve. And the thing that I would add to that there, what we touched on earlier, again, is key about the skill sets because if you do decide to do it on your own and you can train and it will take longer that's absolutely fine, that will work. There is nothing wrong with that as a strategy. But back to the point, there is such a skills shortage. You might be putting all your eggs in one basket potentially as well.
(BF): So how do you actually do that? Is there a measuring stick that organizations can use to make this evaluation?
(EM): So yes, businesses are always trying to compare the cost of their actions, but what does that actually mean? How are you measuring success? Are you looking at the bottom line, or are you considering the value that is going to bring or the competitive edge that you will gain from this investment?
When it comes to DIY versus managed services, it is never apples to apples. And that's why you also need to consider the market value of change. And there are three points to this: will it be cheaper, will it be faster, and will it provide a better experience?
So many times it makes more sense financially and organizationally, to identify a trusted partner to take you on that journey, enabling you to grow, learn and evolve, rather than just maybe doing what you've always done.
(BF): And what should organizations then look for in a managed services provider to help them on their cloud journey?
(EM): So moving from DIY to managed services is as much a cultural shift as anything. Understand that when you buy a managed service you're buying a relationship, not a technology, and this is very, very key. In fact, it's paramount because everybody's got the technology. It’s about how they interact with their customers and the experience that you have and does it deliver for your business needs.
So that managed service provider should de-risk your migration, definitely have a proven track record, and for me, I think something very important, is to be able to offer an agnostic view that gives multiple ways of accomplishing the goals because this will help you assess your own internal skills, which is something you need to do as part of your due diligence and determine whether or not you can make that transition yourself. In terms of how they operate, engage, advise, and involve, providers should be just as flexible as the technology itself.
(BF): Great advice there. So what questions then should companies ask providers to determine if they're the right fit for their organization?
(EM): Sure. There's definitely a couple of key things that I would always ask, the first being, how do you manage multiple environments both from a tooling and compliance standpoint? And this is really, really important, and it's also an area that I see get overlooked an awful lot. Because cloud is a disruptor and most IT organizations are starting to realize the business units they work for are the true driving force behind the innovation that customers are demanding, and we know that cloud plays a major part in supporting that innovation.
And we now know that that will be spread across different cloud environments. So it's vital for those IT organizations to have a coherent strategy that satisfies the business needs for speed and agility, but also makes sure that there is that governance framework to reduce risk and exposure, and therefore your managed service providers should be able to demonstrate from a tooling and compliance standpoint, across any platform, that they will be able to identify any gaps and risks within your architecture.
And I guess the other thing is how do you optimize costs within multiple environments? And again, this is largely when you compare it to DIY or on premise, you know what your capital costs are and you have a fairly good idea about your monthly operational costs. You also typically know what software and applications your departments are running, whereas that becomes very, very different in the cloud. Departments can develop their own systems and deploy assets with the click of a mouse, so while you don't have to worry about capital costs, there are other costs that can get out of control and become unmanageable.
So again this is another reason why you want to work with a provider that can help you optimize those costs across those multiple environments and has the appropriate tooling to identify those changes that need to be made during that iterative cloud journey.
And I would also say another very, very important one is to ask what degree of flexibility can be offered if a customer quickly needs to change tracks. And we saw that across the board last year with the pandemic.
Cloud is so interactive and if it's not managed iteratively when something happens, be it global, be it disaster, whatever it might be, be it your competition, be it a challenger, a new or up and coming challenger eating your lunch so to speak, you need to be able to react and adapt. Historically, we've seen people buy into a certain technology stack for five years, or other things become available. And we now know with hundreds of services being released annually from the hyperscalers that you won't be in a position where you can use them.
So that's really really important that you can change during the course of your contract. So you use a provider, for example, that year one, you're not able to transform yet so you might need something like private cloud, but actually, you don't want to be locked in for three years, you want to be in a public cloud within two years, and after that, you want to be in the public cloud but with serverless architecture within another year.
So work with a partner who's going to take you on that journey, where you're actually bought into that relationship, not the technology itself. So whilst we all know there is a natural acceptance of certain technology such as Microsoft AD for example and things like that, work with a partner that will enable you to avoid it, where possible, if something new becomes available that you can take advantage of if it's gonna offer business value.
(BF): More great advice. Thanks, Ed. As more and more businesses look to manage multiple environments, the discourse around the best path to cloud optimization will continue to rage on. By identifying the best ways to deliver value to your organization, assessing the market value of change and asking the right questions of yourself and potential managed service providers, you’ll better set yourself up for success. Edwina, thanks for joining us today.
(EM): And thanks for having me.
(BF): Edwina Murphy is the Lead Cloud Specialist at Sungard AS.
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I’m your host, Brian Fawcett, and until next time, stay available.