Why there's a complex road ahead in 2016

IT continues to change and develop at a rapid rate. While this pace of change can be exciting, more often than not it leaves many organisations facing complexity and confusion. 2016 will be no exception.

All businesses are feeling the pressure to innovate – not just from an efficiency and cost saving perspective – but also to remain competitive. Technologies like flexible virtualised platforms are perfect enablers of this, however if not adopted correctly they can ironically do more harm than good. Whether it’s leaving businesses with costly ‘cloud hangovers’ or unmanageable Hybrid IT estates, organisations need to be measured and considered in their approach to IT in 2016.

Alongside this pressure to adapt using new technologies, the constant change of regulation and compliance laws have left many feeling uneasy about where they stand. The research we have carried out this year has pointed towards a shortage in the appropriate skills needed to manage modern IT environments; it’s likely that we will see an increased demand for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to help businesses through what is set to be a complex year. With this in mind we have identified four challenges we expect to see in the New Year:

1. Regaining Control: Hybrid IT is Stifling Innovation

Keen to adopt cloud solutions but not yet ready or able to move all of their IT to the cloud, organisations have evolved to a state where they are running their business across a number of different IT platforms, whether that is private or public cloud, on premise servers, or data centre services. This is Hybrid IT.

While cloud computing may be considered the gateway to innovation, it is ironic to think that this rush to embrace it has now begun to prevent many organisations from innovating. Our research found that nearly a third of UK organisations (31 per cent) have seen an increase in operating costs thanks to Hybrid IT, adding an average of £251,868 every year.

That is not to say that Hybrid IT does not have its benefits – 92 per cent of organisations identified this approach as a critical component of their success, with 77 per cent stating that it was a necessary part of staying competitive. In order to conquer this Jekyll & Hyde style ‘split personality’ of Hybrid IT in 2016, organisations need to invest in the right skills to understand and manage these different applications that sit across IT platforms and to maintain security, availability and integration.

2. Unchartered Data Regulation Territory

With regulations frequently introduced and updated it is easy to see that organisations do not know exactly where they stand. For example the recent change to the Safe Harbour ruling make specific restrictions against US ‘based’ companies – but what does ‘US based’ even mean? Is it those companies whose HQ is in the US? Or any company that has a presence there?

One thing is clear; organisations are in the dark about what is right and what is wrong, which is unacceptable. With corporate reputation on the line and the threat of hefty fines looming, businesses will not have the excuse of playing ignorant. Businesses need to ensure that they have taken all the necessary precautions. With this in mind organisations should expect a high level of understanding from any technology providers they work with, along with sufficient accreditation such as the globally accepted ISO 27001 standards.

3. Mind the Skills Gap

For years businesses have been bombarded by messages about the cloud and virtual technologies and the benefits offered: cutting costs, simplifying IT and reducing the time taken to launch new products and services.

What isn’t mentioned is the demand created for a new set of skills. Despite what is often promised, the cloud is rarely set up and managed in a couple of clicks. It requires an in-depth knowledge of new (and often niche) IT platforms as well as a full re-think of the general procurement process, plus working out which applications can be migrated to the cloud, and how. This is especially true in this era of Hybrid IT, given that cloud sits alongside legacy technology, other applications and indeed other clouds. In fact, we found that half of organisations (50 per cent) claim they do not have the skill sets needed to manage a complex IT environment, which is why they are increasingly rightsourcing for experts help.

4. Too much choice causing a headache

There are many different options when it comes to cloud computing, or other technology applications. While a variety of options is without a doubt a positive, it could lead many businesses to become confused or drift into an IT solution that is not optimum for delivering business outcomes.

Forget the technical specifications, today’s IT is about enabling businesses to increase their bottom-line by reacting quicker to market changes, staying ahead of the competition and offering the right services to customers in an all-time world. A well-considered battle plan is essential for success in 2016, ensuring you are using every weapon at your disposal, especially IT.

And if having an expert cloud or Managed Services Partner as part of this process, able to free up the CIO to make those all important strategic decisions that will deliver the desired business outcomes... So be it.

Keith Tilley, EVP of Global Sales & Customer Services Management at Sungard Availability Services

Image source: Shutterstock/Makistock