Posted on Tuesday 30 March 2010 by Ulster Business

There has been a significant shift away from the use of IT for organisational transformation and innovation toward using IT to improve efficiency and cut costs. Andy Ross, chief executive of Northgate Managed Services, discusses current and future IT trends to meet the changing needs of the customer.

Cost Cutting In this economic climate, the first and most important priority is generating cost savings. Value-added services - such as life cycle management for desktop resources, application support, and hardware maintenance and repair solutions - offer real business value and are becoming a first port of call over an IT overhaul for the majority of NI companies. Recently, customers are adopting Virtualisation Technologies which have presented a real opportunity to reduce infrastructure costs and improve performance, flexibility and security. Managed print solutions are also becoming increasingly popular, helping companies use assets more intelligently and efficiently, putting an end to unpredictable print costs. Flexible working environments A key trend we have seen is the move toward a flexible working environment to help increase productivity and efficiency, as well as to minimise operational overheads. Staff are no longer chained to their desk in an office. In fact, businesses are encouraging employees to spend more time working at home – reducing travel time, reducing carbon emissions and taking the often stressful commute out of employees’ daily routine. This has resulted in a rising demand for the ‘office desk experience’ at home setup for staff, including secure, reliable infrastructure and communications platforms and 24/7on-site and remote support. The uptake of technologies such as Voice over IP (VoIP), converged networks, wireless technologies, and video conferencing has steadily increased and many of our clients are now looking at the ‘cloud’ to take advantage of its flexibility in terms of deployment and low investment risks. Client contracts The recession has brought with it a significant change in the customer-supplier dynamic. It is important now more than ever, that providers continue to assess every IT option available to help businesses move towards increased efficiency. In order to compete in the current marketplace, it has also become important to implement innovative financing approaches offering more flexible payment options. Increasingly we are using lease finance to allow customers to invest in new IT infrastructures without the hit of a large upfront investment. Looking to the future Moving into 2010, opportunities for IT-managed service providers to implement and support virtualisation of their IT infrastructures and develop flexible and mobile working practices will continue to grow. The introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment in the UK and the need to reduce energy expenditure will drive further investment in greener technologies. However, the main priority for customers will still be to achieve significant cost reduction. Resilience, protection and security of data will continue to be an ongoing challenge for both businesses and providers, and will lead to an increase in projects to create the robust architectures and processes needed to offer the necessary levels of protection in an increasingly open and networked business world. The introduction of Next Generation Networks and the seemingly relentless move to doing business on and across the Internet will mean changes for the coming year. This will lead to the need for better operational controls, and many organisations wanting to take advantage of the benefits of these networks and the Internet can deliver, will need to not only change their existing underlying telecoms infrastructures, but also have a complete re-think as to how their systems and applications are architected. This is a major opportunity for managed service providers, and could lead to a completely new flavour of IT outsourcing service offerings.


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