The evolving role of the ICT outsourcer
As an increasing number of organisations become more ambitious with their Cloud migration strategies – in some cases moving hundreds or thousands of applications to hosted platforms – the traditional role of the ICT outsourcer is rapidly evolving.
Contrary to what many in the industry are saying, ICT outsourcing is certainly not dead. But technology players are being forced to add value in new ways, pushed to operate at a more strategic level.
While hyperscale Cloud OEMs provide many of the essential infrastructure and services that an organisation needs, local technology partners play a crucial role in guiding clients on everything from governance, compliance, security, and the management of costs.
The accessibility of Public Cloud environments certainly creates phenomenal opportunities for digital transformation, but (if migration is not managed incorrectly) can also open up a number of risks and significantly inflate costs.
Consider for example, dozens of different departments or business areas procuring licenses, services and capacity from Cloud platforms, creating new company profiles, and using various credit cards to buy these services.
It’s an administrative nightmare for CIOs, as they scramble to control the various Cloud services that a business has purchased, to understand potential security vulnerabilities, and get a grip on just how much is being spent. The problem often described as ‘shadow IT’ has become a huge, ugly monster in the Cloud era.
‘Wild West’ scenario
In the worst cases, this fragmentation of a firm’s Cloud services creates a wide range of problems, including the likes of:
· Information security risks
· Inflated costs
· Governance concerns and audit failures
· Regulatory and compliance breaches
· Loss of control and coordination of digitisation strategy
· Business downtime and risks due to lack of support and business continuity plans
· Reputational damage – if services are insecure or unavailable
To help deal with this issue of reckless, ungoverned and fragmented Cloud subscriptions, the modern ICT outsourcer must evolve its role. It’s no longer a case of merely articulating the benefits of Cloud platforms and tactically helping to migrate applications, but rather about designing strategies – helping the client to manage, simplify and extract maximum business benefits from the Cloud.
Progressive outsourcing players are pivoting towards providing these kinds of executive consulting services that guide the organisation's Cloud strategy, in the context of the overall business vision.
In fact, this is especially relevant when we consider that many large firms are operating multiple Cloud environments, each one appropriate for different needs. The outsourcer should be orchestrating all of these Clouds, aligning each environment with a high-level strategy.
New areas of focus
There are a number of other ways that ICT outsourcers should be evolving, to help their clients capture the greatest Cloud advantages.
Perhaps the most important of these is applying firm rigour and discipline to compliance matters – ensuring continued compliance with new incoming legislation like GDPR and POPI, addressing any data sovereignty issues, and anonymising and protecting sensitive data in the most secure manner.
With deep sector-specific knowledge, ICT outsourcers will be able to confidently guide and implement Cloud strategies that give clients strong levels of assurance, and then remain closely involved to ensure continued compliance in the future.
Unfortunately, too often an organisation will wait for a negative audit finding before truly addressing governance, risk and compliance requirements.
By bringing established discipline to the Cloud strategy, ICT partners can not only guide their clients on what to migrate (and when), but also help them to mature and reengineer their business processes for the Cloud era. They’ll be able to provide guidance on when additional bandwidth and other infrastructure is needed, when additional systems and controls should be added to secure one’s data, for instance.
With every organisation having unique needs and walking its own, unique Cloud journey, it’s also important for outsourcers to play an active role in co-developing new services with Cloud providers, all within the ambit of clear standards and certifications.
With all this being said, it’s worth noting the root cause of Shadow IT, of ungoverned Cloud subscriptions across the organisation. Generally, this is driven by a sense of urgency – as business heads want to quickly rush services to market, worried they will start lagging behind their peers.
Without some form of central coordination, this can pose huge risks. The onus is on CIOs and their technology partners to create compelling Cloud strategies that address (with speed and agility) the needs of all business stakeholders.
It’s time for local outsourcers to step-up and evolve from being a simple supplier or broker of services, towards a digital partner that truly understands their client’s business and brings a depth of experience to the table.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”