COMMENT | Over more than two decades, we’ve seen profound transformation in the world of business technology to the extent we can say that every modern company is a technology company. Where organisations used to make do with one-size-fits-all infrastructures, they’re now integrating technology into the whole range of business processes. As such, enterprise IT has become a constantly evolving ecosystem that’s built to align with the unique operational goals of every company.
While celebrating Byte’s 25-year anniversary, as executive director and founder of the company, I can certainly say that it’s been an educational journey, characterised by constant change and ever-closer convergence of technology and core business operations.
With the above in mind, I want to share how technology in the workplace has changed, and how we, as a managed IT service provider, have been growing with the industry and guiding our clients to adapt technology to their specific business needs. Let’s have a look at six of the biggest trends that have shaped enterprise IT over Byte’s journey:
Break/fix gave rise to managed services
These days, consumers and business customers alike expect instant gratification. If a service goes offline without warning, it won’t take long before they start looking for other options. This makes unexpected downtime one of the biggest threats facing modern business operations. In fact, back in 2014, data loss and downtime were already costing Australian businesses $65 billion per year. It’s figures like these which have been driving the need for proactive care ever since.
It’s the greater need for service uptime that’s proven the main driver behind the shift from break/fix support models to managed services.
In other words, we’ve seen a change of focus from fixing problems to preventing them from happening in the first place. Furthermore, managed services allow companies to budget more efficiently, since they can move away from the unknown expenditures of break/fix towards more predictable operational costs.
Managed services evolved to meet new demands
Some 25 years ago, when we founded Byte, managed services were still very much in their infancy. Their focus was remote monitoring and administration but, thanks in part to much faster internet speeds and wider availability, the industry now has a far broader scope. Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen a dramatic shift towards complete service-driven IT environments being hosted in the cloud.
Rather than relying on the limitations of in-house technology and staffing, companies are setting their sights on the cloud for the consumption of services ranging from IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and security with resilience being incorporated into the design of the offering. There is also a greater demand for hardware, operating system and application virtualisation that comes with the increasing ubiquity of cloud services. That’s why, in 2010, we started focusing on cloud services offering turnkey IT solutions to our customers, meaning that they no longer have to suffer the administrative pains of using a large array of different services.
Consumer habits have transformed enterprise IT
As soon as information technology started playing a major role in everyday life, consumer habits quickly evolved alongside it.
Fast-forward to now, and these habits have become the driving force behind change in the business too. Just as consumers are demanding instant gratification, employees are expecting greater workplace flexibility and mobility. It’s this change that’s driving businesses to develop stronger integrations between the systems and processes they rely on for everything from marketing to user experiences.
Moreover, increasingly complex technology infrastructures are also introducing the need for greater scalability, stability and security. Finally, given the enormous role of data in the world today, it’s now essential that every business department has immediate access to the same information. It’s the immediacy of the cloud that helps businesses achieve precisely that. In this context, we no longer see the end user as the servant of technology limitations but technology as the enabler of end-user productivity.
Hardware has decreased in relevance to businesses
Organisations used to invest vast sums of money into in-house data centres and other IT resources. Aside from these high upfront investments, there was also the need for ongoing support and regular upgrades. Today, the typical business computing environment looks very different.
Instead of relying on deskbound workstations connected to in-house data centres, a typical office uses a mix of thin or zero clients and employee- and company-owned laptops and mobile devices. Since workloads are often carried out off-site in massive data centres and delivered through the cloud, on-site hardware has become much less relevant, except in very specific and demanding applications. We have many customers in the professional-services segment who are committed to the newer way of working, which follows the thinking that ‘work is what I do, and not where I go’.
Specialist expertise has replaced general solutions
In the early days of technological innovation, it was common for IT providers to offer their products and services to a wide range of customers across multiple industry sectors. This one-size-fits-all approach is no longer adequate in the highly competitive global business environment of today. The need for companies to offer a unique value proposition is greater than ever before, which has led to an increasing emphasis on solving industry-specific challenges. Due to such demand, we launched the OneSpace platform to meet the specific needs of the accounting sector, rather than provide more generic technology services en-masse to a far wider audience.
We do appreciate that most organisations find it hard to pick a vertical and develop industry-specific know-how. However, if we can’t clearly map the individual business challenges and needs to service offerings and solutions, then we have failed in our duty of care to our customers. Our customers depend on us to provide guidance and assurance to help them with what they do for their own customers.
IT providers have pivoted from products to outcomes
Perhaps the greatest change we’ve seen over the past 25 years is the shift from being a project-based company to a service-based one. We can attribute this to the new corporate culture of continuous improvement and technological transformation.
Rather than working on one-off projects, our focus is now squarely on the constantly evolving needs of our customers and the need for ongoing dialogue, maximum lifecycle value and thought leadership that go with it. OneSpace was created to keep ahead of trends and relevant details that are specific to the accounting sector.
As a result of this pivot, we progressively catalysed the market dynamic to shift towards service-based outcomes, rather than focus on the technology stack that lies beneath.
Furthermore, the focus is now on expertise and industry-specific knowledge, which equates to the question of truly understanding the challenges a particular business and industry sector faces.
Today, our goal is not just to align IT with the specific needs of a company, but to provide a service-based approach that allows us to build lasting relationships with our most valuable asset of all – our customers.
Robert Roshan is the founder and executive director of Melbourne-based Byte Information Technology, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.