Outsourcing done right: The ins and outs of managed IT services
While businesses may be capable of managing their essential components and maintaining dedicated departments, like finance and HR, third-party service providers are there to take the load off and deliver any additional expertise and support. The same goes for IT, where an ecosystem of reliable vendors has emerged to support businesses with comprehensive solutions and scalable facilities. With Africa’s managed services market forecast to grow at a CAGR of 8.2% between 2021 and 2026, it’s expected that enterprises in Kenya and the surrounding region will become more comfortable turning to outsourcing services for their IT, network, and security needs. But what prompts the need for managed services, and what value does it yield for enterprises who decide not to keep things “in-house”?
The biggest challenge African enterprises face when it comes to IT infrastructure and internal capabilities is the fact that the continent is not a level playing field. Despite digitalisation for developing countries becoming prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Africa’s least developed countries have not been able to benefit from the quick development of a digital economy due to a lack of necessary supporting infrastructure. An SME in a remote, rural area does not have the same level of access to the infrastructure as one in an urban economic hub.
Africa is also facing a skills shortage. According to a KPMG 2022 Africa Cyber Security Outlook report, approximately two out of three surveyed African enterprises encounter challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified cyber security professionals, while one in four survey respondents felt sourcing talent was a major problem. In Kenya, significant ICT skills gaps in security, data analysis and processing, IoT, and cloud computing prevent companies from adopting new technologies. In the face of this, enterprises may have limited options when it comes to how they implement their ICT and digital strategies internally.
From the outside in
The function of managed IT services is simple. With businesses working with limited resources and staff, or facing a shortfall in required expertise, managed services allows them to offload general or specific tasks to third-party vendors or operators. A managed service provider (MSP) can provide critical services such as infrastructure, network, application, and security either as a wholesale package or in collaboration with other providers’ services. These include equipment monitoring and maintenance, network and systems management, data backup and recovery, as well as hosted security services.
The trend towards managed services is growing globally. According to the NTT 2021 Global Managed Services Report, the number of surveyed organisations that use third parties to manage over 50% of their organisation’s IT needs has risen to 37.4%, up from 25% the previous year. But going the managed services route isn’t just defined by how it enables businesses to focus on other activities or expenditures. Managed services is also defined by the additional value, products, and services vendors can offer, as well as what their position as a dedicated IT infrastructure provider allows them to do.
Scalable, reliable, and secure
First and foremost, MSPs offer scalability. Having a front-row seat to a business’s digital infrastructure means they can make real-time decisions regarding the scope of that infrastructure according to demand. This not only allows a business to remain fluid in terms of infrastructure capability, but also to have their costs reflect that fluidity without having to invest large amounts of capital into systems they may not ultimately need.
It’s also an MSP’s priority to keep a business’s infrastructure available and running at all times. Under a service level agreement (SLA), vendors provide all necessary technical assistance and become the go-to for any issues business employees and teams may have. The same goes for security. Managed services includes the means and tools to protect a business from cyber threats such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and ransomware, thus giving businesses well-deserved peace of mind.
Enterprises in Kenya should view the relationship with an MSP as collaborative rather than transactional. It’s by working together that they can achieve the best results. With the help of a trusted vendor, businesses can widen their digital footprint to unlock new markets, launch new products, and offer a heightened digital experience for customers.
This article was written by By Tejpal Bedi, Managing Director at SEACOM East Africa