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Just because you can't see it…


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Normally you wouldn't find me within about 100 feet of a swan on the grounds that I’d much prefer to keep all my extremities in tact. But I was lured dangerously close the other day by the sight of Mr and Mrs Swan taking their cygnets for a ride, literally: about eight fluffy youngsters divided up between them, nestled safely on the parental backs, with those rather fearsome wings brought up into a protective shield as they paddled downstream on their Sunday family outing. And how serene they looked…very much belying that powerful propulsion effort occurring unseen underwater.

I might like to keep my distance from them but I can certainly relate to the swan. Managed services is all about delivering a calm, serene experience up top, while the engine room drives purposefully and energetically away below, largely unheralded and unappreciated. Very occasionally, we get our own cygnet-carrying ‘wow’ moment when a new service goes live that does impact and transform the working environment, but mostly we’re just paddling away without fanfare – strong, efficient, resilient, enduring.

With those services that hang off our infrastructure that is especially true as the value is so often hidden away. Unlike an on-premise capex investment which once made is then sweated and written off over a number of years, and effectively starts degrading and obsolescing from day one, we are continually investing: but really, would you be able to tell that we’d spent x on a new storage platform or y on a server refresh? These have been major projects for us in recent months and while we have had the odd ‘have you done something, it seems faster’ comment, this very extensive work has mainly gone through unnoticed.

In one sense, that’s a good thing – IT done well should be invisible to the user, it should be something to consume, not complain about. We’re never happier than when our clients are able to continue, with swan-like serenity, to go about their daily business. But for them this improved experience just happens, they’re rarely aware of the money, focus, resource and skill that goes into securing this experience for them. And that can make it difficult to see the true value of what we do, to fully appreciate the continuous motion and improvement that occurs behind the scenes. And that value argument is thrown into sharper relief when you realise that all these upgrades are just part of the service, the customer doesn't have to pay for them – a far cry from life on-premise where you have to pay to keep up, and even then there comes a time when you can’t technically keep up any more, having exhausted the extensibility of kit and connectivity.

Of course, add continual refresh and system optimisation into the IaaS goodie basket of no capex, pay as you use payment models, and agile, flexible provisioning, and the value does become somewhat clearer…but invariably only at point of sale when everyone’s trying to make the business case. Down the line, it’s largely forgotten about and it’s just accepted by clients that they’ll be at the leading-edge, all of the time, because that’s the standard we’ve led them to expect. But never underestimate how much commitment, investment and determined paddling that demands.



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