As we pass through the business-technology predictions and forecast season, there are strong indications that managed IT services providers will definitely be in great demand over the next few years.
The range of choices, complexity and demands stemming from the accelerating popularity of new business technology directions requires focused expertise and experience that generally can only come with the acquired knowledge and experience of professional managed service providers.
In recent research (January 2015) IDC has concluded that these 3rd Platform technologies – cloud computing, big data, social media, and mobile devices - are now fundamentally altering "how IT organisations function, how business is conducted, and how enterprises compete".
IDC's bold forecast is that by 2016, nearly two-thirds of global competitive strategies will require 3rd Platform IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS).
Nearly Half Favour External Service
Separate research by managed services provider Logicalis backs up this IDC finding. The Logicalis 2014 Optimal Services survey discovered that nearly (47%) want the majority (50% or more) of their IT services to be provided or managed by external service providers, including cloud (IaaS/PaaS & SaaS). Just 3% wanted all those services to be retained in-house.
IDC even goes as far as declaring that: "The ability of IT to immediately achieve a maturing business focus within its strategic planning and execution process is now an imperative". There has even been one IDC forecast that 3rd platform technologies will drive 90% of global IT growth through to 2020.
And there's this gem from the IDC report, which should jump out at CIOs, because it recommends a cost-effective, 'step-by-step' cautious approach to 3rd platform transformation:
IDC says: "Rather than tackle IT business-facing objectives through massive project implementations, IDC recommends companies take a 'theory of constraints' approach, frequently used within ITaaS to quickly identify, analyse, and resolve a prioritised impediment (constraint) to IT-business alignment, thereby empowering subsequent energy and action for a second and third IT-business alignment constraint."
Advanced analytics a priority
Competing research house Gartner adds 'advanced analytics' to the priority list that CIOs should be considering for 2015 and beyond.
Alexander Linden, research director at Gartner said: "Many of our clients assume that once they have mastered analytics, they can then progress to the next level with simply some learning and additional software tools. The reality is that advanced analytics isn't just a more complex form of 'normal' analytics.
'Normal' analytics mainly reports what has happened (descriptive analytics), whereas advanced analytics solves problems using predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics, he said. Predictive analytics predicts future outcomes and behaviour, such as a customer's shopping behaviour or a machine's failure. Prescriptive analytics goes further, suggesting actions to take based on the predictions.
So important is data analytics to business success that Gartner points to new specialised executives being appointed in the near future to specifically manage this.
Citizen data scientists
One of Gartner’s latest predictions is that through to 2017, the number of 'citizen data scientists' will grow five times faster than the number of highly-skilled data scientists.
"Extracting value out of data is not a trivial task, and one of the key elements of any such "making sense out of data" program is the people, who must have the right skills," said Gartner's Linden. "Data scientists are not traditional business analysts, they are professionals with the rare capability to derive mathematical models from data to reap clear and hard-hitting business benefits. They need to network well across different business units and work at the intersection of business goals, constraints, processes, available data and analytical possibilities. "
Linden said that many of Gartner's most advanced clients are experimenting with the notions of chief data officers (CDOs) or chief analytics officers (CAOs).
"Sometimes the CDO/CAO will directly command a (virtual) data science lab", he said. "We think that those labs must be orchestrated virtually, with the (citizen) data scientists distributed throughout the organization."
Big data optimism
Other research (January 2015) by The Economist Intelligence Unit has also found much executive optimism for using advanced analytics and Big Data, but some concerns about its application.
Key findings of the EIU research included:
- Executives at the helm of organisations today are experimenting with ways that big data can be used to strategically add business value. Leadership is needed to bring about a cultural shift toward big data but disagreement exists about who should lead big-data adoption;
- Most top executives believe big data is a useful tool, with 23% claiming it will revolutionise the way business is managed;
- Business needs to take an integrated approach to big-data implementation;
- Customer insights and targeting are currently the highest priority for the application of big data — cited by 42% of C-level executives, but new uses of big data are spreading.
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