PCD / Converge blog

IT Departments Now Expected to Act as Service Consultants and Brokers

The cloud is bringing a number of changes to businesses. One of the most fundamental changes is the role of information technology teams, which is rapidly changing from a technical role to having to act as a service “consultant” and “broker” for business groups.

IT as a Service Broker

The Quest for Greater Agility and Efficiency

As an IT integration partner, our organization is always in tune with our clients’ projects and transformation initiatives. This allows us to have a relatively clear picture of the trends, technological directions, and investment perspectives associated with future IT and business projects. The themes that most frequently emerge are agility, efficiency, mobility of services, and governance. This is particularly true in a context where options and the range of services, both internally and externally, are increasing.

IT teams that are still dragging their feet when it comes to the cloud (even if there is some basis for their concerns) should watch out because today’s business executives are well informed; they understand the possibilities and the benefits, and they expect their IT department to advise them when they compare their options.

“Yes, we are open to the cloud but our IT department must be able to maintain control over strategy, architecture, contract management, audits as well as performance measures. All services must be able to be managed within a framework that ensures data security, business continuity and measurement of costs per service.” Vice-president, IT, Financial Services Division

Businesses Starting to Accept the Cloud

Cloud computing, in its current “popular” form, has been around for nearly 10 years. Some might say even longer, if you consider the previous forms of outsourcing as an extension of the cloud. For years, businesses took a conservative position, showing great reluctance to use the cloud due to safety risks, lack of flexibility of services, fear of being tethered to a partner, concern about future changes in costs, etc. In short, many of these fears are still well founded, while others have been added with the experience acquired from the first cloud projects. Nevertheless, these conditions are being increasingly accepted. We feel this phenomenon has been accelerated, in part, by:

  • Use of cloud services in our personal lives (e.g., Google, Dropbox, Skype, iCloud, FaceTime, Netflix, etc.)
  • Incredible media coverage and promotion of the phenomenon
  • Suppliers making it easy for clients to try their services almost for free

During the past year, PCD Solutions trained a small investigation team, which was paired with an independent research firm, to go in the field to meet with a number of CIOs in Quebec businesses. Through interviews and surveys, we were able to build an updated picture of local habits and business practices as regards the consumption of cloud services. In all, nearly fifty companies took part in the exercise. This allowed us to draw some useful conclusions, confirming the observations of many analysts regarding the increased adoption of the cloud across North America.

Some of the factors mentioned that seem to contribute to this change are:

  • An impression that suppliers have greater security and improved practices
  • Clearer, better structured offers and contracts
  • Above all, the arrival in Canada of the biggest industry players including Microsoft, Amazon, OVH, and several communications giants

Now, the type of services and data that these businesses are willing to place in the cloud remains to be seen.

  • Currently, the prime candidates to be moved to the cloud are applications such as office automation, email, IP telephony and Web content management.
  • Close behind are some infrastructure services such as web hosting, virtual machines (VMs), data backup, and management of development environments.
  • There is also increased use of specialized applications such as CRM, ERP, Payroll/ HR, marketing automation, etc.

In almost every case, there were surprises and a number of lessons learned. These experiences have not led to companies removing their data from the cloud, instead, they have led to the establishment of a strict framework of governance, monitoring of costs, data protection, and control of the quality of services. In short, IT departments have become accountable for these new aspects of managing services and applications that have been outsourced. At the same time, IT departments are also working on an exercise to identify responsibilities that would possibly be best served internally.

An Internal Alternative: Set Up Your Own Corporate Cloud

Given that the public cloud still has several limitations, many companies are creating their own IT infrastructure that can be agile, efficient, and more flexible when it comes to dealing with their organizational requirements. This way, companies can say “Yes!” to their business groups’ demands and thus provide the “on-demand” environments they are being promised by external cloud providers.

These internal cloud initiatives generally lead to data centre virtualization deployment projects. They revolve around a vision of modernizing infrastructures and creating a shared resource and services centre. Once again, the companies we spoke with confirmed encountering a number of challenges. Usually issues with budgets, structuring internal teams, reorganizing roles, standardizing architectures, or defining processes. Others mentioned the need to expand the virtualization approach, typically with respect to servers, resources such as storage, and network management in order to achieve real agility. Lastly, these companies want to be able to implement some type of application and service catalog offered to their end-users and to automate a significant part of their internal operations.

The Next Step

Fortunately, the last 18 months of consulting projects with our clients have enabled us to better understand where companies are in their process and what should be the next steps they should take to implement such initiatives. We have also had the opportunity to perform advanced automation projects, especially with the VMware vCloud, vRealize (automation), NSX (network), and VSAN (storage) tools that have built our confidence in the maturity and the integration efficiency of these products.

On Wednesday, October 5 2016 in Montreal, PCD Solutions in collaboration with VMware presented its most recent CONTINUUM conference on the following topic: Turn Your IT Department Into an Active Partner. This event covered subjects such as the implementation of corporate cloud initiatives, the hybrid cloud reality, designing next-generation architectures and the various possible deployment approaches to quickly develop the agility of the cloud within your environment. It is possible to schedule with our team a private presentation, directly at your office so your team can benefit from this highly acclaimed education seminar.

Contact Us

If you are currently working on developing a corporate cloud initiative, an evaluation of your internal or external service options, or your choice of architecture, we invite you to contact us or plan a workshop session with one of our representative to go over our most recent  CONTINUUM conference.

Pierre Cayouette
Co-President & Founder
PCD Solutions