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New services still require core IT skills

Enterprises are constantly told that technology needs to empower staff, improve ways of working, provide new services and embrace new types of technology like Internet of Things.

By John Oates

Of course looking forward is vital. But too many observers and experts forget that none of this is possible unless enterprise IT gets its core offering right first.

There is a supposed difference between mature, slow-growing companies using mature, on-premises technology and feisty, fast-growing upstarts which make better use of cloud platforms and services to allow flexibility and quicker growth.

But for most businesses the place to start is the data centre. Get a business’s core IT right and the next steps of the journey come naturally.

That means a platform based on open standards which can work with an ever growing number of other platforms and providers.

From a strong core it is relatively simple to bolt on mobile services or IoT or take best advantage of cloud services.

Digital transformation is real.

The last few years have seen digital technology turn business on its head for media and news providers, travel, music and retail, to name but five.

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From the outside it seems like this change is completely reliant on new technologies. But the reality is that the companies which have survived the changes have done so by keeping core technology and data centres at the forefront of their strategic thinking.

As digital change begins to hit government, manufacturing and farming the same will be true. Although IoT projects might take the headlines the reality is that such projects only function with a decent data centre at its core.

By 2020 there are predicted to be some 26 billion IoT devices online.

But the profit and benefit of IoT is in the related big data analysis, not in the sensors themselves. That can be provided as a cloud-based service but at least some number crunching is best done in-house.

As data plays an ever bigger role in these businesses so the need for computing and storage power will grow.

This digital transformation is also putting pressure on the traditional role of the IT director. Instead of focussing on controlling costs, building infrastructure and ensuring service levels are met IT leaders are increasingly expected to offer services from multiple suppliers and provide strategic insight and a view of the future for the business.

Technology is expected to provide an almost instant response to changing business needs, not just guarantee that the lights are kept on.

But the two views of the role of the IT director are not necessarily opposed.

Reducing core costs can free up investment for innovative new services.

Controlling costs requires intelligent management systems which can also offer the data and insight needed to create new services and business models.

A strong, secure, hybrid infrastructure means a business is best placed to take full advantage of whatever the future brings.

It might not win any headlines compared to more fashionable technology projects but behind almost any supposedly innovative technology upstart there is a good old data centre doing the heavy lifting.

That’s not to say that there won’t be a growing role for cloud services, mobile platforms and IoT technology in the enterprise of the future.

But to best manage all these systems, and to get the best value from them, there will still be a role for core IT at the very centre of enterprise technology strategy.

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