How Managed Cloud Services Power Digital Transformation
For enterprises, managed cloud services can mean the difference between living in the past and gaining a foothold in the future. Frost and Sullivan recently published an interactive white paper, “Find a Strategic Partner: How Managed Cloud Services Can Facilitate Your Digital Transformation.” We sat down with Lynda Stadtmueller, vice president of cloud services at Frost and Sullivan, to find out exactly how companies can gain a competitive edge in a changing world.
IT Biz Advisor: You wrote that businesses should not put their companies at a competitive disadvantage. What did you mean by that?
Lynda Stadtmueller: Using IT to gain a competitive edge is now a matter of inches. In a fast-paced, hypercompetitive economy, leading CIOs are looking for all the leverage they can get. If you don’t absolutely optimize the way you’re delivering the IT resources your employees need, you’re going to fall behind the competition.
How does that relate to managed cloud services?
LS: Ten years ago, managed services was essentially outsourcing infrastructure management. That’s no longer enough. The stakes are too high, and it’s too important to get the most out of your applications, workloads and data.
Leaders are choosing managed cloud services because these solutions deliver knowledge and expertise they don’t have. This goes beyond running the environment efficiently. These services are also helping companies understand the broader picture of their industry and determine where they need to go to gain a competitive advantage.
For example, a lot of businesses that have been running SAP on-site for years are now looking at moving to S/4HANA on cloud. However, unless they have tremendous expertise on staff, they may not know how to move these critical databases to the cloud without disrupting the business and configuring all the workloads so they continue to work together. They may struggle to ensure that backup and recovery are not only adequate but also in compliance with evolving regulations. For those reasons, they may need to bring in an experienced managed cloud services provider to guide them through the migration.
The paper says that 82 percent of leaders consider advice from managed services providers to be valuable. How have you seen that number change over time? Why do you think it has changed?
LS: I saw this viewpoint start to change five or six years ago and it’s directly correlated to the complexity of the technical landscape and the rapid pace of innovation.
I have clients who struggle to understand and adapt to all the new enhancements that are constantly released for software and systems they’re already using. They’re very familiar with these products and they still can’t keep up with the change. Sometimes it’s too difficult to even identify what the changes are, let alone actually use them. And they don’t have the resources to hire, train and retain the many specialists required to keep up with the changing landscape.
So they’re using managed cloud services because the providers know these solutions — and all the changes — better than these companies ever will. In addition, they provide insights and recommendations on how to make better use of client data, create new applications and, in some cases, open up new revenue streams. It’s in these additional areas of expertise that the right managed services provider can help enterprises gain a competitive edge through digital transformation.
You speak with a lot of business leaders. What are some of the common trends you see between companies that are evaluating managed cloud services?
LS: They’re specifically looking for technology and services that help them improve customer satisfaction or deliver innovative new ways of engaging and pleasing their clients. That’s something that seems to be particularly valuable to businesses that are choosing managed services.
And it’s not just the big companies. When people discuss these types of services, they tend to think about large enterprises, but it’s often midmarket businesses that can get a lot of value out of these solutions because they have smaller staffs and can’t afford the expertise.
A midmarket CIO is likely to come from a large company or have a tech background, so they know what a digital business can and should be in terms of competing and delivering products to market. But they also know they will never be able to hire what they need to get there. If they consider managed services providers as an extension of their own team, then they will be more likely to do the cost-benefit analysis and see the return they’re getting in realizing their vision.
The white paper includes quotes from these leaders about the strategic value of managed cloud services. Were there any quotes you thought were particularly insightful?
LS: The great thing about these quotes is that they weren’t responses to specific interview questions. Instead, we simply gave the leaders an opportunity to make any additional comments. Respondents wanted to share their thoughts, which tells you a lot about their attitude toward managed cloud services.
We expected to see responses around cost reduction and less time spent managing infrastructure, so the quote I found particularly insightful was, “[The managed services provider] provides straightforward advice on how to keep up with the constantly evolving cloud.”
When these companies are talking about digital transformation, it’s not only about getting the next project done or keeping the lights on with their infrastructure. It’s about constantly reading the landscape and taking proactive steps toward a competitive advantage. The managed service provider helps guide that process. They know the industry, they understand your strategic goals, and they identify the most important things you should be doing.
What else should companies know about finding a managed service provider that can also be a strategic partner?
LS: For businesses looking for a provider that can help optimize their IT environments and offer strategic guidance, I suggest downloading our interactive white paper, “Find a Strategic Partner: How Managed Cloud Services Can Facilitate Your Digital Transformation.” The paper contains deeper insights into how these leaders are using managed cloud services to drive strategic digital transformation, as well as real customer examples.