final thought GO PRO Daniel Hobson of Pulsant explains why professional services are the key to data centre success. I t’s no secret that the IT environment has changed – and that’s not just in the way technology is advancing. Sales models, revenue streams and the services themselves have shifted dramatically, making it increasingly difficult for service providers to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. During the past few years the number of new entrants in this market has risen dramatically, as has the drive by organisations to expand their portfolios with supplementary products and services. This has come about largely through acquisitions, partnerships and attracting the right talent with a specific skill set. It is no longer enough to be known for managed hosting or colocation, but rather being able to provide total solutions and supporting technologies. For the end user or consumer of these services, this increased competition is a positive thing. Customers are more informed than they have been in the past, armed with solid Internet research on different providers, their offerings, and even their sales teams. Shift in mindset From consumers of IT services, there has also been a shift in mindset. 52 Technology is increasingly seen as more of an opportunity or enabler, and less so as a burden or necessary evil. As a result, businesses are changing focus towards proactively managing IT – moving away from just keeping the lights on and keeping costs down. So how does this affect the data centre market? With a wider selection of solutions in the market, more competition and better informed customers, data centre providers need to be able to differentiate themselves. The ability to adopt the role of a strategic partner and really understand what outcomes the business is trying to accomplish is key. A professional services team assists in aligning the goals of the business to the solution that is required. A lot of people focus on finding a solution that fits the current business model. However, with the amount of variables and fluctuation for a typical organisation over a three or five year period (a typical data centre contract) it can be hard to plan for the future. Especially a future that may encompass anything from organic growth and acquisitions, to operational changes in the way services are being delivered to clients. Professional services fill that gap between the organisation and its IT by understanding the full business strategy, factoring in the variables and minimising the unknowns. This ensures that the technology solution not only fits today but throughout the duration of the relationship. Flexible contracts Alongside this, flexible contracts are becoming a useful tool for both the supplier and the customer. The ability for customers to gradually transform their infrastructure throughout the course of a contract means organisations can become a lot more proactive with their IT and also quickly respond to changes in the market. Professional services play a key part in aligning the contracts to prepare both parties for these kind of relationships, resulting in smooth transformations for all involved. With more and more organisations deciding to focus on their core services rather than trying to be an infrastructure house, the demand for data centre services increases. Professional services will continue to expand accordingly, remaining vital in building and maintaining relationships, and ensuring the success of the overall customer experience – benefiting both the end user and the data centre provider in the long term.