Managed services born again in Africa
The notion of managed IT services is not new, but thanks to the ever-evolving nature of technology and the rapid growth of cloud services in Africa, managed services has in effect been born again. “This time, we see a very real merger of software and infrastructure as a service and a desperate need for the successful collaboration of these elements at a managed service level,” says Winston Smith, General Manager, terrestrial for Gondwana International Networks (GIN) and iWayAfrica. He says that managed services are a current hot button, and more so in Africa, as the lines between cloud and managed services start to blur.
Companies are increasingly turning to solution providers to manage infrastructure, software and all things cloud related. “Managed services and cloud will inevitably come closer together but in Africa, customers cannot just do it without expert advice and assistance. Managed services or more appropriately, infrastructure and software as a service, is a stepping-stone to cloud-only offerings, but it doesn’t happen without help according to Smith.
“Across the continent, customers are at risk from having obsoleted IT systems with poorly managed IT services and very little in place with regards to backup and disaster recovery processes. “As a result, there is such a vital role to be played in Africa for managed service providers when it comes to both software and infrastructure.”
At a macro level Smith says that the current economic and regulatory environment, as well as the growth of emerging markets such as Africa, has seen a shift in outsourcing, driving the use of it and other managed services more broadly. “This is particularly true in relation to back-office functions in an increasingly competitive world where consumerisation and the rise of technology-centric business models continues to dominate IT strategies.”
If companies, and more specifically the growing SME market in Africa, are to compete effectively, Smith says they need to embrace more agile ways of running operations and adopting managed services will allow them to focus on core competencies and be more responsive to market trends and opportunities. “Marrying business strategy and managed services with the right provider will be a critical component of ensuring future success.” The ability to provide a suite of services including email hosting, data storage, back up and offline data synchronisation as well as security solutions without the need to procure expensive hardware or software and with no need for in-house specialised skills offers business opportunities to focus on their core offering and leaves the rest to the service provider.
Smith says that the current siloed-approach to infrastructure slows innovation and hinders go-to market strategies for companies, and this negatively impacts growth plans. “This is driving a need within business to invest in managed services that can scale to span several operating units and end-to-end processes across the African continent.”
2014 is the year cloud was predicted to plateau but as far as Africa is concerned, Smith says cloud will continue trending and will eventually evolve into a next generation of managed service solutions.