Cloud managed services are a popular choice for many organisations looking to increase their cloud adoption while balancing the time of their existing resources - so much so that in the most recent Flexera State of Cloud survey, 69% of organisations said that they use or plan to use managed service partners to manage their public cloud resources.
But what is the recipe for an effective cloud managed service partnership? In this blog, we’ll explore the key themes and ingredients needed to ensure the managed service which customers buy in to supports their outcomes. We’ll do this with a unique twist by ‘lifting the lid’ on how we’ve built our managed services, based on our customers’ feedback and market direction.
Finally, we’ll give our view as to whether we believe it’s simpler and/or more cost effective for an organisation to recruit or up-skill its existing teams to deliver the same result.
The struggle to access cloud skills
Organisations struggle with gaining access to the skills they need to manage their own environments. For many organisations it’s not practical to recruit in-house cloud teams, for several reasons:
- The scarcity of relevant skills in the job market and the difficulty of attracting them.
- The high salaries those skillsets command if you do manage to attract them, putting pressure on budgets.
- The challenge of retaining cloud skills in-house by giving people interesting and varied enough work to keep them challenged and developing.
- The need to access a wide range of expensive skillsets to build, manage and operate cloud environments, while not necessarily needing these full-time (which of course only exacerbates the other challenges above).
In our own customer surveys these reasons came across loud and clear. 75% of the customers we spoke to were managing cloud in-house, while 83% cited skills and capacity gaps as their biggest challenge in managing cloud.
An accelerated demand for evolving cloud technology to enable business transformation
The pandemic accelerated the need for flexible, scalable cloud-based computing. At Softcat, we saw an increased demand for cloud but also for services which supported cloud adoption and management:
- Cloud was predicted to be one of the “only bright spots in the IT spending market” during the pandemic, with Gartner noting that “the pandemic validated cloud’s value proposition.”
- 35% of organisations had or planned to accelerate migration of workloads to the cloud due to the pandemic.
- 89% of CIOs (Chief Information Officers) planned to accelerate cloud investments, versus 54% prior to the onset of the pandemic.
- Due to the ever-growing list of challenges barring adoption of the cloud, 67% of organisations were choosing to leverage a partner when moving enterprise workloads to Azure.
There are some fantastic cloud managed service partners in the market. But they are not all built equal, and there are those which are not yet as mature as they need to be. When we looked at the gaps in the existing cloud services market, we noticed that many of the options available were rigid, rather than flexible, according to customers’ ever-changing requirements. For instance, the services:
- Were often tiered rather than modular or took a one-size-fits-all approach where customers ended up having to pay for expensive features they didn’t need.
- Did not offer proactive investment in customers’ cloud journeys, or a clear sense of partnership on the cloud journey.
- Did not help to proactively reduce the cost of cloud.
- Did not have clear links with other related services, e.g., cloud-native security, to give customers the holistic support they needed for their environments.
The majority of cloud managed services solve many of these challenges by:
- Providing customers with a shared service (teams are not dedicated to you but availability is guaranteed by service level agreements or a fixed price fixed outcome model) so that you can leverage the partner’s investment in highly skilled teams at a price point which is typically far cheaper than recruiting dedicated teams.
- Ensuring their teams work across a variety of other customers, meaning they are exposed to lots of varied engagements. This makes retention much easier, while also ensuring you benefit from the teams’ continued exposure to the latest cloud technologies in the real world.
- Allowing you to hand off business as usual tasks (infrastructure deployments, monitoring, backup, patching etc.) to a partner, freeing up your teams’ time to focus on new initiatives.
A Softcat cloud managed service provides our customers with:
- Access to our Innovation Points programme, which ensures we are co-investing in customers’ cloud journeys. Innovation Points are accrued by customers when they take our Cloud Services (and the more customers spend, the more we reinvest) and can be spent on a menu of Advisory, Design and Implementation services to continuously innovate, secure and improve their environments.
- Access to our Cloud Management Platform – a tool which aggregates customers’ multi-cloud data points (security, cost, reliability, sustainability) to ensure they don’t have to use multiple independent or cloud-specific tools and can instead have consolidated data points at their fingertips.
- Modular options so that customers only pay for the skills and levels of service they really need. The modules can be quickly spun up and down, just like the cloud, to align with customers’ individual initiatives.
But a managed service is not a one-size fits all answer. Some organisations need dedicated teams, possibly because of the volume of resource they need or times at which they need it – for example, global organisations operating across multiple geographies. Most managed services will operate on-call support outside of UK or EU business hours, which typically does not meet the needs of a global organisation.
Managing more traditional cloud environments (those built on IaaS) is a 24/7 job, where an organisation requires the confidence of knowing if things break in the middle of the night, they will be proactively fixed. But as you modernise to PaaS and SaaS, things tend not to break in the middle of the night, negating the need for a ‘traditional’ managed service but instead requiring a partner who can adapt their service into something which is more agile and aligned to your evolving needs.
So, the recipe for an effective cloud managed service partnership really depends on flexibility – of service offering, features, skill types accessed and contract length, amongst other factors. Most importantly, flexibility needs to come from the partner themselves. The partner must be able to understand that customers’ needs will change and evolve over time as their business and strategy develops, and that the level of support they provide as the partner will need to change too (even if this means getting to a point where they are no longer needed). This is something we have designed to be at the heart of all our cloud offerings.
If you’d like to learn more about our cloud services and solutions, please visit our dedicated cloud space on Softcat.com.