There’s one key thing too many businesses are missing as part of their success strategies: agility. This one word sums up the philosophy that many companies are adopting as they seek to maintain their market share.
‘New kids on the block’ like Uber, Airbnb and Metro Bank have prompted the winds to change, making established brands sit up and take notice. Reputation counts for nothing and it can be ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ for companies who fail to adapt.
Take the last year’s run-up to Christmas for retailers for example. They have had to deal with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and the New Year sales in quick succession. In order to cope with peaks in demand for order processing, web site enquiries, stock control and pricing offers, stores needed access to quick and easy IT resources.
In many cases, the majority of sales are increasingly happening online, and via mobile, meaning the IT infrastructure needs to be robust enough to cope with the change in shopping habits. Having the appropriate IT resources, along with inventory and staffing, is the key to a make or break seasonal sales period.
This is why many organisations are turning to hybrid solutions. Hybrid IT provides an effective solution to such issues; having access to computing power on an as-you-need-it basis, and only paying for what you use, without needing to embark on ‘rip out and replace’ IT projects creates enormous potential for agile companies. Smaller, nimble start-ups have mastered the art – they don’t have the legacy infrastructures of established competitors and are taking advantage of hybrid IT to own the computing power, without needing to own all of the hardware infrastructure.
Mature businesses are being forced to play catch-up and they are looking for help on the journey to hybrid IT to gain the knowledge and experience to enable these sorts of agile services. But access to the infrastructure platform needs to be quick too. Companies need to turn services on and off almost instantly in order to provide the response they need. Providing technology services ‘on-demand’ in turn underpins flexible and agile customer service delivery.
Not everyone is going to be the next Uber or Airbnb. Technology can only take companies so far and many will be bound by their cultural mindsets as much as access to the right technology. But what hybrid IT can provide is appropriate access to technology when and if you need it, without resorting to substantial infrastructure spends.
Many traditional companies can’t just make a clean break into a purely cloud-based infrastructure and it may not always be appropriate; clients are not always ready for an immediate migration with procedures or systems currently dependent on their legacy infrastructure.
The reality is that many established companies are going to have to utilise a large proportion of their traditional managed solutions when switching to cloud computing.
This is the beauty of hybrid. It can marry legacy, private and public cloud together as an integrated system. For this to work effectively, it is vital that the cloud provider can supply a cohesive operational model with flexible solutions that support a managed migration path at an appropriate pace.
Service providers need engineers who can navigate across traditional as well as pure cloud platforms solving a multitude of problems within a single service call and using a high-level of automation to enable them to add value to clients on more complex problems.
Customers are understandably focused on their own business outcomes rather than the infrastructure they have and their buying habits are understandably changing too. A few years ago they would probably have embarked on a three to four-year contract cycle, however with Moore’s Law and the rapid pace of change how can we reasonably predict where our business will be in the future? Demand is changing on a monthly or even weekly basis with some workloads requiring increasing levels of commercial flexibility to enable horizontal and vertical scaling to meet peak and seasonal demands.
The best way to achieve any form of meaningful outcome is for service providers, their customers and even their extended supply chains to form closer partnerships that better understand the demands and challenges of the organisations establishing a collaborative ecosystem focused on designing fit for purpose solutions that leverage best practice and are appropriately scaled.
Take a recent challenge posed by a transport and logistics company. They needed an IT system that would support innovation and gain share across all parts of their supply network creating value by connecting the car factory with the transport company, and then with the dealerships.
The process needed to be automated and required legacy and cloud enabled applications to be integrated. When a car left the factory it would be tracked and the dealership updated when the shipment was due to arrive so they could meet ‘just in time requirements’. The system utilises a hybrid IT network infrastructure designed and engineered to work in conjunction with legacy applications and incorporating a migration plan to increasingly leverage cloud technologies whilst maintaining continuity of service through a single provider.
Companies who think that ‘pure play’ cloud is the only answer may be disappointed to learn that this is very rarely the case. Increasingly, the combination of legacy infrastructure and cloud actually provides the best combination for a client’s needs.
Hybrid IT provides flexibility for companies in their approach to solving business problems. Having a partner onboard that can work with them to define and ultimately support an effective solution is key to transforming their operations and keeping pace in today’s increasingly agile market!
Matt Halford, Director, EMEA Advanced Services at CenturyLink
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