If you thought that outsourcing and managed services were just more buzzwords destined to join end-to-end solutions and dotcom startups in the IT equivalent of boot hill, you better think again. According to John Bailey (pictured), partner sales manager at Computer Associates (CA), they are the future.
“I see managed services more than outsourcing as the key to going forward. If organisations don’t step up to the plate they are going to be out of business. It’s as simple as that,” he says emphatically.
The reason is the emergence of a more complex IT landscape as he explains. “Since 2000 the market has changed substantially and the way people address their technology requirements is very different to today. There’s a much greater emphasis on having to strip out cost and consolidation, whether its server infrastructure of moving to network storage. All these factor have driven a greater emphasis on management because once you have a consolidated infrastructure you are going to have to manage it more effectively.”
The consequences for getting this wrong are huge, according to Bailey: “Previously people would have managed systems independent of each other so if something happened it may have only affected a small proportion of infrastructure. Today if you have a serious problem it can affect your entire business.”
For the public sector in particular, the scale of the new systems presents huge challenges: “You get customers in the public sector who say it is too overwhelming to deal with and they don’t know how to address it. There’s no one putting them under great pressure to fix it so in some government departments there is inertia.”
His underlying message is that playing with such high stakes demands third-party expertise. This is why CA has taken upon itself to forge relationships with the larger outsource players such as Fujitsu Services, Esat BT and Ernst & Young. As a developer of management and security software, it clearly has a vested interest in a line of argument that says system management is the hot issue of the day. But even the most casual observer would find it hard to fault his reasoning.
“You could operate independently up to 2000 but now the marketplace is going down the managed service route and we are a significant component of a much larger service,” he says. “The route to market has to be about aligning with outsource and managed service partners.”
In the public sector the dependence on third-party expertise is particularly strong because of human resource issues that afflict its internal IT people. “It’s very hard for their IT heads to get promoted,” he says. “They may have to become tax inspectors to reach the next level — they have to move out of their area of expertise. The public sector structure makes it difficult for Government to get a firm grasp and control over IT. That’s why they are hiring consultants.”
Cures for this particular problem may come with decentralisation where senior civil servants have mooted the idea of pockets of IT, where regional centres provide a platform for IT experts to develop their skills and career. Another way of tackling the issue might be to appoint a chief information officer to the public sector though Bailey believes this idea, which is currently doing the rounds in the Centre for Management and Organisational Development in the Department of Finance and the Department of the Taoiseach, would be a mistake because of the disparate needs of different departments and agencies.
“Can all the public sector be reliant on a single individual? Does each health board have exactly the same requirements? Maybe not,” says Bailey. “How are you going to find one individual with a big enough brain to do it and is it really an advantage?”
He argues that not only is it a mammoth job spec but it might also stifle the innovation that takes place in the numerous public sector IT departments. However, he does see a need for the appointment of security officers.
“We spend a lot of time educating public and private sector organisations. They both need to appoint chief security officers. It’s going to become a dedicated position. It happened a couple of years ago on the storage side. They slowly recognised the importance of storage and appointed storage managers. They now need to think about security managers,” he adds.
The reasons come down to the changing landscape of IT systems as he explains: “We’re moving back to the mainframe era but people want that resource spread across the entire infrastructure. There was a move to distributed computing that didn’t really work. Organisations want all the attributes of mainframe in a network environment. It’s about consolidation of servers, data all in one place, the virtual machine environment.”
This puts a new onus on system management and security in particular: “Previously people would have managed systems independently of each other so if something happened it may have only affected a small proportion of infrastructure. Today if you have a serious problem it can affect your entire business.”
For CA, security has become the key driver where once it had been enterprise management. It sees itself working in tandem with the proliferation of specialist vendors rather than as a direct competitor. “Specialist vendors do specialist tasks inside or outside the perimeter of organisations. What we’re about is managing that complete environment. If you have a lot of information being produced about your security systems it’s very difficult for an organisation to make sense of that.”
He predicts an imminent shake up in the security space with many specialist vendors going to the wall as the onus moves to enterprise-wide management. He believes it’s about delivering a full offering that leverages the investment that customers have already made.
A specific issue where CA specialises, and one that is particularly pertinent to the public sector, is identity management. The need to move beyond password ID to more secure biometrics is something that Bailey believes the government needs to start moving on. “People will have to have something to identify them in systems. It will become part and parcel of life like the mobile phone,” he says.
The constant migration of public sector staff demands thorough management to the security effective, otherwise employees leave behind ghost accounts or take inappropriate access with them to new jobs. “It’s a huge security issue when people move. The need to be de-provisioned,” explains Bailey. “At the moment the whole area of human resources hasn’t got off the ground in government organisations and it’s another area we have been pushing hard.”
Bailey doesn’t believe that public private partnerships, often touted as a potential enabler of government technology solutions, are the way forward. “I don’t know whether you can really accrue the savings through public-private partnerships or if it will justify the time and effort. I don’t see it becoming predominant.”
Once again he makes the case for managed services. “You’ll see a significant number of €30m to €40m contracts signed for seven-year periods. That’s the trend. That has happened already in the North and we’re in catch up mode, ” he says, citing Fujitsu Services, East BT and Hewlett-Packard as the key players to watch. And you can take it as given that he fully expects CA software to be in there as part of their offerings.
By Ian Campbell