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Change Is In the Air for IT: Autotask’s poll of IT service providers points to more positivity and maturity

April 14, 2014  By Martin Veitch
The last few years have been a bit ho-hum for CIOs who must be sick to death with people telling them that they must “align with business” and “do more with less” as they have carried the can for a fragile macro-economy. But Autotask’s research for its 2014 IT Service Provider Benchmarking Survey suggest there’s every reason for optimism in IT.
 
About 49 out of every 50 respondents approached are hiring, most are anticipating growth with the median in the very healthy 15-25 percent band and almost two-thirds see cloud driving demand. Maybe the rest see it as a threat to their businesses but what’s clear is that cloud is the biggest change driver in IT architecture since client/server.
 
Some findings create pangs of nostalgia.
 
For anybody over 40 who recalls the doubts that hung over the field for so long, it’s interesting to note just how part of the furniture outsourcing has become: 96 percent of companies surveyed are doing it.  And there are clear signs that services once deemed cutting-edge are now just part of the mainstream flow. Cloud is clearly reshaping the landscape whether companies are seeking to cut costs, flatten spending or become more flexible. Remote monitoring and managed services are all established parts of the mix. If you’re not aware of what these technologies can do, you’re a laggard and maybe something worse.
 
It’s also clear from the poll that short-termism is being kicked out in favor of faith in longer-term return on investment. That’s a big, positive development because the demand to show a profit within months of money being laid down for an IT project was always going to lead to pain further down the line.  
 
The smart advice and consensus of wisdom today in IT is old but still relevant:  ‘stick to your knitting’ or ‘do what you do best, outsource the rest’. The survey shows that IT buyers have crossed the chasm from CapEx to OpEx as a preferred way to invest in resources (that move was a major area of focus the previous year) and moved to a state where IT is becoming loosely federated. We need it to get to the point where every change doesn’t involve upheaval and the signs are that we’re getting there through selective use of partners who are domain specialists and can make IT less of a chore for CIOs and more of an opportunity to innovate.
 
Of course there’s always more to do. Security and governance, mobility and mobile device management are all still being played out. Really understanding what social networks are telling us and separating noise from signal will be a huge challenge and opportunity for marketers in years to come.
 
But the good news is that there’s increasing acceptance of new ways to deploy and manage IT and these models are simply better than what was available previously. As more managed service options appear, more companies will move more workloads out of their data centers and hand them over to third-party experts. If those experts can continue to use technology to automate more and gain greater visibility that will be a healthy thing for them, their margins and for their customers.

These are good times to be on the right side of the new waves in IT. We’re going through times when the very fundamentals of how IT is deployed and managed are changing — and it’s all for the better.
Martin Veitch is editorial director of IDG Connect, a website that covers the ways in which technology is changing business and society around the world. He was previously editor-in-chief at CIO magazine, editor of IT Week and editor of ZDNet News. He has contributed to many other publications and websites including the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, BBC News and CFO World. He presents and speaks regularly at conferences.
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