Should you Wash your Hands of It?

Let’s face it, a robust infrastructure can be extremely expensive and
complex. And while businesses usually understand their own organization and
market better than any consultant, they often lack the internal expertise,
dedicated resources and network access to plan and manage their own e-business
infrastructure successfully.

you afford to outsource IT needs to an external vendor? Yes, you
Abraham Thomas

Now, outsourcing a company’s e-business infrastructure at a time when it is
an increasingly important part of the business process is not something to be
entered into lightly. An end-to-end e-biz infrastructure is no longer the
desktops at one end and the servers at the other–all within the same
enterprise. It is now a critical lifeline that stretches from that supplier you
have in Singapore to your corporate headquarters in New York to the Beijing

The implications? The impact of infrastructural failure will cause much
wider-ranging damage than ever before.

First thing to note is–there is no one solution. Very much will depend on
the company itself and its priorities, availability of in-house skills and
long-term business plans. A study by IDC provided some insight on which
companies did what. For example, those who chose to host internally had
simplified structure and linear, one-way processes, with predefined interactions
and little or no ambiguity. Such companies experience slow but controlled
business growth. Their products or services are easily understood.

Many who chose to outsource were usually more dynamic, often operating in
marketplaces that are highly competitive, extensive, where growth could rise or
drop dramatically. They had intuitive interactions with user-driven dialogues,
and market both simple and complex products and services. As a result, they
preferred to focus on core business, rather than dedicating personnel, resources
and activities to managing IT requirements.

Matches made in IT heaven
Assuming a decision has been taken to outsource e-biz infrastructure
management, finding the right hosting service provider can be a daunting task–not
from a lack of choice, but because there are too many choices. However, the
choice of service providers is likely to narrow as Darwin’s Law of
"survival of the fittest" applies here as well. Forrester predicts
that a number of outside hosting providers will abandon the business or focus on
a narrower speciality, leaving infrastructure, server farms and data centres for
those better equipped to address those challenges. Conversely, some of the most
committed outside hosting providers will make their services even more
comprehensive and inclusive.

It is important to ensure a good match between the company’s requirements
and the services the vendor can provide. For a long and happy partnership, go
through the following exercise.

  • Self-evaluation. Determine the users’ IT/Internet protocol skills,
    integration requirements and e-commerce urgency.
  • Good matchups. Once the requirements are known, match
    them with vendor skills/personality.

  • Realistic reviews. Perform due diligence, including
    visiting the vendor data centre/server farm.

  • Hands-on management. Give vendors the latitude to do
    their job, but stay actively involved.

A win-win situation
The multifaceted discipline of managing e-biz infrastructure is complex,
resource-intensive, specialized and dynamic. More and more companies will come
to the conclusion that their senior management’s time is better spent growing
their own business and leaving infrastructure management to experts. This, in
turn, will provide service providers with the economies of scale they need to
provide higher levels of service at lower costs to the customer.

By Abraham Thomas
The author is managing director of IBM India.

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