by: Edward Stringfellow
Ten Years and Three Trends
Ten years ago we founded Stringfellow on the idea that running a solid technology infrastructure and providing end-user support were not functions a business should handle in-house. Our vision has been confirmed across hundreds of Clients, thousands of users, and millions of files managed under our services.
There are three major trends that have emerged over the past ten years that we have actively promoted with our Clients. Looking back these may seem obvious, but in 2006 when we said we would run all of your internal IT systems, that you did not need to have servers in-house, and your PC would be replaced by a mobile device we got more than a couple of strange looks. Below are a look at these trends and how they will continue to affect businesses for years to come.
1. A shift in focus for Business IT
A competitive advantage common among high performing businesses is the ability to quickly share, process and analyze data to make informed business decisions. The volume of data available today is growing at an exponential rate and so is the ability to share it both internally and externally. The traditional IT department has been focused on the “technology” side of IT. The reality is that managing servers, networks, and supporting end-users is now a routine business function, not a differentiator, and should be outsourced to a competent provider.
The INFORMATION side of IT is increasing in importance to most businesses and is certainly a source of increased insights and profits. The traditional IT roles such as desktop support, system admin, and IT Director (often a highly paid IT tech) are being replaced with roles that ADD VALUE to the businesses:
• Business Analyst – the advent of big data and systems that can report on almost anything make this role essential to most businesses. Skills managing and transforming data from various IT systems into reports that yield insights to support business decision making.
• Application Specialist – many businesses are running line-of-business applications that require customizations, report writing, interfaces with other applications, and specialized end-user support. These application require not just technical skill but also an understanding of how the business utilizes these applications. Designing and implementing workflows that integrate the business with the applications is a huge competitive advantage.
• CIO – more and more businesses need a competent executive level role dedicated to the management of information workflows, processing, and resources. Management of the “new” internal IT roles requires a CIO that is business-oriented and has experience with managing information, not just technology.
2. Cloud Services
The rise of cloud computing has been on our radar since 2006 when we built a fully-hosted Microsoft Exchange platform and advised Clients there was no reason to run email servers in-house. Turns out, Microsoft agreed and built out what is today Office 365! To-date Stringfellow has moved more users to Office 365 than any other local IT group.
The “cloud” is here to stay. No more debate about why you need to keep email, file shares, and many applications running on servers that you own or maintain. The reliability, security, and cost of cloud services makes it a necessary part of your business technology strategy going forward. Stringfellow has moved thousands of users to Microsoft’s Office 365 platform and has become an expert in what it takes to make this transition seamless for our end-users. We have been advocates of shifting capital expenditures on rapidly depreciating hardware and software assets to operational monthly expenses that are based on usage. The cloud enables this almost immediately in most cases.
Mobility is the convergence of the devices, fast wireless (cellular) networks, and cloud-based applications and data storage. The age of the iPhone and Android platform has completely changed what we thought was possible on a mobile device. The accessibility of data and associated applications has removed the physical limitation on where end-user can be productive. The cloud enables this to a large extent, as most cloud-services were built to be device-independent, so capability from your desktop or iPad is essentially the same. Services like OneDrive and SharePoint enable users to quickly access and share data with ease, no more VPNs or emailing attachments!
Stringfellow continues to watch for trends in technology that will benefit our Clients and expects these three trends to remain central to technology strategy for the next five years. On the horizon are wearable devices, the ability to “talk” to your applications (Siri, Cortana), and the “Internet of Things” were almost every device/object will have an interface to report data.