Remote Infrastructure Management: Building a Stairway to the Cloud
By Saurabh Kumar, MD South Africa and Global Sales Head, In2IT Technologies South Africa
For many South African firms, making the giant leap to a fully-hosted, fully-outsourced cloud environment is still a daunting idea.
Compared with their peers in the US or Europe, local organisations are subject to generally poorer connectivity, longer asset renewal cycles, pressurised budgets, and greater risk aversion when it comes to issues like data sovereignty and privacy. All these factors combine to stifle the widespread adoption of cloud services.
However, Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM), helps to bridge the leap from traditional, on-site, and self-managed infrastructure; to the ultimate vision of cloud architecture.
Also known as ‘asset light outsourcing’, RIM means that organisations give outsourced service providers access to remotely manage and monitor their infrastructure.
Most commonly, the aspects of the IT estate that are remotely administered are network devices, data centre elements such as servers, storage, databases, applications, IT security devices, end user computing, mobile devices and help desk.
RIM aims to alleviate the day-to-day pressures of maintaining uptime on key infrastructure - seen as a ‘low value’ but essential activity in the eyes of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) - and helps organisations gain advantages from more agile and optimised infrastructure management.
In today’s dynamic business landscape, the ability to outsource basic IT functions means that the CIO and his team can focus on more strategic aspects of their portfolio. Some of the other major advantages of RIM include:
· Real-time visibility (via dashboards) of the organisation’s entire IT estate
Irrespective of the type of legacy systems being used, key health signals from the various IT components are consolidated into a unified view.
· Policies and governance to prepare for the ultimate migration to the Cloud
As the organisation embarks on its journey to RIM, it starts to establish the internal governance standards that will form the basis of its ultimate destination – the cloud.
· Increased focus on innovation
As basic activities are handed over to a RIM provider, the focus of the IT department is elevated, to become more about innovation and business transformation.
· Ensuring the availability of all skill sets
The beauty of the RIM model is that you get always-on access to global specialists in every technology domain. The organisation no longer has to worry about equipping its IT team with an expert in every legacy system, every component, and every facet of the IT estate.
· Uptime commitments and business level agreements
The right RIM provider will contractually commit to very stringent performance agreements, such as maintaining 99.99 percent uptime. We are now also seeing an evolution from traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs), to ‘Business Level Agreements’, which share responsibility for key business metrics with the RIM provider.
· Alignment with global best practices and standards
RIM providers ensure that international standards such as ITIL, a broadly accepted approach to IT Service Management (ITSM), are embedded within the organisation. This helps to reduce risk, improve efficiencies, and create a sustainable platform for an evolving and growing IT estate in the future.
Taking an asset-light, RIM approach gives firms the opportunity to build trusted relationships with service providers, and start thinking strategically about a phased approach to cloud architecture.
It may be that some applications remain fully-owned i.e. not shipped into a cloud environment, however, RIM assists organisations to distinguish between the two. Ultimately, the shift to the Cloud is never ‘100 percent’.
The reality is that IT estates are complex and heterogeneous, with some assets hosted in public clouds, some in private clouds, and some on-premise. The important thing is to end up with the most efficient layout possible, which is aligned with business needs, and managed in a unified manner.
Having the right RIM provider makes this possible while also giving the organisation access to a consulting partner that guides the organisation on emerging technology trends in general.
No matter what the organisation’s primary reason for outsourcing is - cost saving, transformation, efficiency, visibility, optimisation, etc. - using the model of RIM can help to produce a ‘step-change’ in the organisation’s evolution.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”