Our beloved “coathanger” – the Sydney Harbour Bridge was and still is one of the most significant investments ever made in Australia’s infrastructure. The long awaited and much debated bridge finally opened in 1932 linking the CBD to the North Shore connecting Sydneysiders together.
Since then, the bridge has attracted tourists from all over the world, is used by corporations to generate new business in Australia and continues to bring opportunities to our shores (think: Oprah’s big O which I’ll cover further down in this article).
But how iconic and how connected would we be if the bridge didn’t continue its rigorous maintenance plan? From the early days of its opening a continuous routine of painting commenced from one end of the bridge to the other – Without these “managed services” the harsh environment of sun, salt and wind means the bridge would utterly face its demise, deteriorating and becoming en eyesore. It’s fair to say if this happened, our bridge would unlikely be as valuable to Australian’s.
Managed IT Services Investments such as IT in our own businesses often bring a great deal of hope with promises of better connectivity to our clients, suppliers and improve the efficiency of our people – but without the ongoing maintenance and support of the infrastructure, much of that hope turns to pray as systems weather the storm of ongoing challenges in the IT environment such as viruses, hardware problems, internal growth and restructure and interoperability with ever-changing external providers like ISP’s and telephony providers.
Like a bridge (or many bridges) IT links people to other people, departments to departments, you to your customer and suppliers to you. And that is the driver in our businesses – enabling people to get on with higher level functions, reduce paperwork and automate tasks which keeps your business more competitive than the next guy.
Widely accepted amongst successful businesses today is the Managed Services approach to IT. Far from the hope and pray model, Managed Services delivers continuous proactive maintenance to IT systems before the otherwise inevitable degradation of service begins.
Understanding the Structure Managed Services is a clarity between the client and the IT provider that they (the provider) have a fundamental understanding of the structure. Building beyond older IT Support methodology where the provider hopefully has a brief understanding of the client’s business and their IT before racing off to the next “job” – Managed Services is a documented and clearly defined understanding of the clients key business operations, systems, people and underpinning needs so that 1/problems are prevented in the first place and 2/unpreventable problems are responded to within agreed timeframes (not just “as soon as possible”) and are then put through a process of knowledge-basing to ensure the issue doesn’t reoccur.
What is Preventable? IT is without a doubt a very challenging beast. Just when the rules are made they seem to be broken (think: the sudden wave of new technology such as iPad, Android and Cloud) but the framework has become stronger in recent years and with a Managed Services approach, IT can be stable and issues are preventable.
Gone are the days where “sorry I accidentally kicked the cord out and took down the entire network” are kindly responded with “no worries buddy – try not to do that again”. Likewise, today systems can be monitored to prevent common issues from occurring such as impending hardware failures, critical hard disks running out of space, attempted unauthorised access and numerous known issues with Microsoft products such as Windows, Exchange, Sharepoint, and SQL. Companies that adopt Managed Services versus hope and pray expect a level of service from their IT and don’t afford major problems that impact their business.
Managed Services offers a suite of prevention strategies from streamlining virus management (not just hoping the provider will remember to renew your antivirus) through to backup monitoring or remote backup (again, not hoping the provider was actually paying attention to your critical backups before that flood/fire/server crash/disgruntled employee “format” occured).
So.. Why the Continuous Effort? Real time changes occur in the IT network that can’t be (nor shouldn’t be) retrospectively looked at after a fault has occurred. The aforementioned preventable issues could be likened to a surgeon – having only met his patient once and realising he has cancer – deciding to operate then and there. Sure, he may have some experience but the operation could be considered somewhat risky if he hasn’t taken the time to get to know the “ins and outs” of the patient!
The Managed Services provider is always watching, reviewing IT specific reports, speaking with the client, participating in key business meetings and taking a helicopter view which allows problems to be addressed well in advance of a business grade issue. Without a continuous engagement such as this, the risk is wholly carried by the client.
Once an IT strategy is in place and services are running efficiently, systems aren’t breaking down, emails are running, spam is forgotten and printers.. well.. print – With all that critical business stuff actually working what do you think might happen next?
Companies who adopt Managed Services know that once the fires are out they can start to leverage their infrastructure, adopt a competitive advantage and reallocate resources or “headcount” to more appropriate areas of the business. This is their point of difference.
Throw into the mix a consultant or better yet “IT Strategist” and you now have strategy driving technology rather than decisions made without a crucial element involved: IT.
The Big O – When Oprah arrives here in Sydney on the 14th of December the Harbour Bridge will be lit up with a giant O and this event will be broadcast across the world and undoubtedly be broadcast for many years to come. Regardless of ones personal view of the investment in the Big O – the leverage this creates for Australian tourism is significant.. and.. without the underlying infrastructure – our coathanger.. it quite probably would not bear the same significance.
On December 31st the bridge will again host what is (I think unarguably) the best fireworks in the world. That leverage is experienced by millions of people across the world. It adds value to an already iconic piece of infrastructure. Our bridge.
So I’ll end this weeks Last Known Issue on this thought:
We buy into thousands upon thousands of dollars of IT infrastructure with hope in mind – we hope that it will be used to leverage our business, we hope it will help generate further income and make us more competitive. We hope it won’t be a burden and a cost to us.
Some of just batten down the hatches and hope it won’t deteriorate too soon. Others apply a consistent, ongoing strategy to protect, leverage and maximise their investment – constantly building bridges to new opportunities, new applications, connecting people’s ideas and preventing major IT problems.
In 2011 I challenge you – that is if you haven’t already, to make a historic change in the way you look at your company’s IT.