The biggest difference to the way we work now rather than five years ago, is in our use of the cloud and unified communications. We have successfully grown as an outsourcing partner, because we understand how unified communications, specifically Microsoft Lync, can be utilised to give a business a competitive edge. Our clients look to us to help them understand the technology landscape now and also what is coming over the horizon and what it means for them. Our role for clients is two-fold: we provide hands-on engineers that ‘do’, but we also involve senior consultants who act as a CIO for those clients for whom technology is not a core skill, and who would be too small to recruit and retain a senior, experienced CIO. But for us that’s not an issue.
The CIO function that we offer clients has grown over the past five years too. Before, the role was seen as a necessary evil, at best, whereas now people are looking to technology not just as an internal, admin function, but as a whole business enabler. IT is now at the heart of a successful business strategy, or it should be, and clients look to us to put it there for them. We have definitely seen the client CIO role we perform grow, from being stranded in a tech ghetto to being fully woven into the infrastructure of their operations.
Our clients know we have been through the same growing pains as them in expanding our business. We know the pitfalls and the problems they are likely to face in their own progression, added to which we know how to make best use of technology to fix potential issues, even before they ever become a problem for a client.
Our approach to outsourcing is not to make technology a bolt on for the client, but to ensure it’s an integral part of their operation. We learn what the short, medium and long-term objectives are for their business. Clients appreciate that approach as it demonstrates that we plan on being with them for the long term, and the most successful client relationships we have are those that see our appointment as a full partnership. We approach partnership from both sides, not just on the client side, but also with our technology suppliers. It is important to us to be offering the best advice and solutions for clients and that is recognised by Microsoft, amongst others, as we have been selected to be one of a very small number of their Gold Level Partners for our work on Microsoft Lync, which is only granted to those that offer the highest, most specialised ability and commitment.
One of the more sensible approaches we have seen to Bring Your Own Device in a business is more ‘Choose Your Own Device’, where employees are allowed to buy off a list developed by the IT department. This way they can be confident that the business will be able to support them and the IT department can be reassured they won’t be supporting an unending list of devices and platforms.
That said, most devices are running now on one of two platforms so system support really is less of an issue than maybe it was. We are finding that one of the key requirements in supporting our clients is repurposing their existing equipment, crossing it from a purely home-use device to a business-use or more realistically, a mixed-use device. People will use the same device for personal communications as they do for work, and our recommendation to clients is that we develop a clear policy and controls to protect the business systems. It’s the same with clients who don’t put their systems security at the top of their priority list. We help them put it there and enforce it.