Q&A: Shifting from professional to managed services with the cloud

In the latest edition of our podcast series, sponsored by Autotask, I spoke to Tim Walker, Managing Director of Taylor Made Computer Solutions.

Here, we discuss the key shift from professional services to manage services, plus Taylor Made's hybrid cloud strategy. We also explore Taylor Made's corporate culture and the key influencer who helped shapes Walker's approach to business.

For our readers who aren't familiar with you and Taylor Made Computer Solutions, tell us a little bit about your background and the company's background

We were created in 1994 by Nigel Taylor, hence the name, who has built organically a great business to the point that we now serve about 200 small- to mid-market business across London and the south of England, primarily in the Solent area.

I started working with the business in 2008 as a consultant. I did that for three-and-a-half years while I was running my last business. Then, when I sold my last company, we discussed me coming on board full-time. I made an investment in the business and have worked in the business full-time since March '13 as Managing Director

The business is made up of long-standing, committed, loyal staff members. Our people are the key to what we deliver to our customers, but also long-standing, loyal, strong, engaging customer relationships that are a genuine two-way process, both sides benefiting from that engagement.

Have there been key inflection points or shifts in your business model along the way?

The big strategic goal that we really wanted to develop was that the business had a lot of IT service providers being heavily focused on hardware/software and the delivery of those solutions through projects. The market has shifted. Now, there are still businesses that are out that are very successfully delivering project-based IT, but by the very nature of that, it can be quite lumpy.

What the business wanted to do was really sort of embrace the change that was going on in the market towards customers wanting more of a manage service. The big, strategic goal, really, is to drive recurring revenue, so contracted services to be the majority of the revenues that we bill.

We tipped through that point in 2014, so relatively quickly. We continue to grow that since. It has numerous benefits. It has lots of benefits for our customers, most importantly, and in particular, since sort of the 2008-2009 period. For all people, all companies in the IT service space, there was an inflection point where discretionary IT spending, late 2008, early 2009, really started to dry up. It focused the whole market on what businesses wanted was more of a move towards an operating expenditure model, and paying for IT as a service and renting it, rather than having this four, five-year cycle and needing to make a significant investment that runs to six figures or seven figures depending on the size of the investment every four or five years. That's been the direction we're going in. We're on that journey. We haven't finished it yet, but it's going well.

Are you focused mainly at the infrastructure level, or are you getting into the application level, or is it user experience at this point that you're focused on? Where have been the key areas where you're accelerating the business?

It has been largely infrastructure with applications. That change is becoming more of an infrastructure and applications focus so that we're able to offer both and not just Microsoft applications, but a whole suite or line of business applications that are relevant to the markets that we deal in. The big difference for a business like Taylor Made has been we genuinely do understand where our customers are at, and more importantly, where they're going as an organisation. Not from an IT perspective, firstly, but as an organisation.

The whole mix of that means that you have to recommend the IT roadmap for that organisation depending on a good understanding of where that organisation's going. We've delivered that very well for, really, the whole of Taylor Made's lifetime around infrastructure, and we're now taking that with a real focus and some vigor into the application.

Now, the application world: is it mostly providing manage services for line and business applications on premises, or is it line or business applications in your data centres, or are they off in the cloud somewhere, or is it a mix? What type of landscape are you seeing out there?

We do all of those. There's a public cloud version, there's a hybrid of public and private, and then there's a fully private version that we can offer people. If it's going into a hosted environment and we can deliver exactly the same combination of all of those on-premise within the client's offices. That's fundamental for a business like us. We don't go in and try and be prescriptive with a particular organisation. We need to retain flexibility so that whatever we recommend is right for them, where they're going, not right for Taylor Made.

With 115 employees working across all these verticals, with all the various market shifts, whether it's cloud or IoT or corporate privacy, what gets you out of bed in the morning? Do you ever just want to stay in bed and hit the snooze bar?

Not often. I'm a morning person. I think you've got to have an underlying drive to be able to do this kind of role and run this size of business. For me, I've got 115 people in this business, and I enjoy spending time with all of them.

I see my role as being very customer-facing, really engaging and understanding what's working and what's not working for our customers. That's the piece I most look forward to, is client engagement, whether it's bringing someone on and helping improve their business through great use of technology or developing an existing relationship with a client and ensuring that we're extracting maximum value for that customer from technology.

What do you see as the greatest challengers or opportunities in the market for the rest of this year, 2016, or even beyond that?

I think it's going to be about the best use of public cloud services for businesses in combination with maybe some on-premise IT or some private hostage. It's going to be about making sure that those solutions are optimised for a small- to mid-market business to derive the best value they can from IT. I think coming back to what we talked about around applications and infrastructure, we are moving to taking the fantastic strategic engagement that we've got with clients and translating that into an equally strong application strategy story is a challenge, of course, but it's a massive opportunity.

I think both of those things present some challenges to the market, but for a business like ours, I think they're fantastic opportunities.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Aliwak