From Chore to Core

IT isn’t a glamour career. To be honest, most IT professionals spend their time keeping business systems running, fixing problems and doing what's essentially grunt work – instead of working on enhancements to core business systems, pioneering new technologies, and giving their employers the business advantages they need to win in what's one of the worst business climates in living memory.

IT isn’t a glamour career. To be honest, most IT professionals spend their time keeping business systems running, fixing problems and doing what's essentially grunt work – instead of working on enhancements to core business systems, pioneering new technologies, and giving their employers the business advantages they need to win in what's one of the worst business climates in living memory.

It's not surprising then that we're seeing the rise of a new generation of Managed Service Providers (MSPs). Working with an MSP, providing IT management as a service, you don't need to do that grunt work any more, as your service provider handles the monitoring, the analysis and the amelioration. While they're handling that 20% of your workload that takes 80% of your time, you can be concentrating on what really matters for your organisation.

I sat down yesterday at CAWorld in Las Vegas with Chris O'Malley, the CEO of Nimsoft to talk about what the company is doing with its IT management as a service platform, and how he sees the growing role of the MSP taking IT for what he calls "Chore to Core". A wholly owned subsidiary of CA, Nimsoft isn’t the traditional CA acquisition, owing more to Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma than to adding to CA's portfolio of technologies for the top 10,000 IT departments. Instead Nimsoft focuses on the mid-market, with the aim of disrupting the IT services market by providing tools for MSPs and for organisations that want to streamline their IT functions.

Nimsoft itself has been on the acquisition trail recently, bringing in companies with online service desks and for cloud user experience monitoring – aiming to bundle them together to give an MSP a platform that monitors on- and off-premises systems, providing tools for servicing systems and handling the user interactions with cloud services, all as a software as a service solution. As O'Malley points out, when you're looking at your chore activities you can't really abdicate those responsibilities, and you're certainly not going to gain any competitive advantage handling them in house. That's why more and more of those chores are being handled by managed service providers. Nimsoft intends to keep close to that message, adding additional functions like automation in a simple form. That lets Nimsoft coexist with the rest of the CA product portfolio, giving it a gradiated offering in the overall CA service catalogue. That's an approach that works well with MSPs, and is being used by Verizon as its mid-market service offering.

Of course you don't need to buy in services from an MSP, and many large organisations are building their own internal MSPs as well. That's because there's a budget shortfall, and it's no longer possible for IT departments to afford the luxury of a deep bench. IT has become a risky game, businesses to require talent on demand, a role often filled out by an MSP. The speed at which business models change is changing too, and working with an MSP lets smaller companies (often with their own software as a service models) punch well above their weights – with the MSP acting as their infrastructure organisation. That then changes the economics, and as more and more organisations take advantage of virtualisation, the next problems is how to virtualise your human capital, assembling assets for the right problems at the right time.

O' Malley also points out that MSPs need to work very differently, with total transparency needed in the cloud world. It's hard to work that way, but once a business takes advantage of it, it becomes inherently customer centric, making it part of the brand and the balance. And of course, no one likes doing chores, so replacing those day-to-day tasks with innovation is a key advantage for business that use technologies like Nimsoft.

Simon Bisson