Managed services for infrastructure IT – major opportunities for the channel

At the recent Schneider Electric Innovation Summit in Barcelona, IT Reseller spoke with Kim Povlsen, Vice President & General Manager of Digital Services & Data Center Software, the group behind Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure IT cloud-based management platform and StruxureWare for Data Centers software suite, about the rise of managed services for infrastructure IT and the benefits this offers to the channel.

Modern retail is witnessing major competition between brick and mortar stores and ecommerce. In the wake of the internet retailing explosion, physical stores now more than ever are looking to provide a value-rich experience to attract and retain customers. In order to do this, front-end technology is being increasingly deployed to enhance the customer experience; things such as ‘magic mirrors’ in clothing stores, self-order kiosks in food outlets and the provision of a convenient restaurant or cafeteria area in-store.

However, along with the growing importance of these added features, these types of systems and services must be kept up and running without any major risk of downtime. After all, if customers are disappointed or let down by their in-store experience, this could mean losing customer loyalty thereby incurring a major loss of revenue.

Kim Povlsen at the recent Schneider Electric Innovation Summit in Barcelona.

The need for resilient infrastructure IT

Therefore, the technology involved in providing these enhanced customer experiences needs to be backed up by a reliable and resilient infrastructure IT. “If the lights go off and nothing works retail customers may simply go elsewhere and not return,” said Kim Povlsen, Vice President & General Manager of Digital Services & Data Center Software, the group behind Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure IT cloud-based management platform and StruxureWare for Data Centers software suite.

“Millennial customers, in particular, often don’t have a great deal of patience within the shopping environment, so if you fail them once you're going to have a hard time getting them back because there are so many other options – they just look for something else. This has to be a key driver for retailers to get on board with the type of technology that can enhance the customer experience in store. It also has to be a good reason to ensure their infrastructure IT is resilient in order to keep everything up and running so that the customer experience is not interrupted.”

Outsourcing

In terms of the technical personnel working within retail and other customer-facing sectors such as healthcare and banking, one of the things Povlsen is seeing is a shift towards the new generation who are more aware of the benefits of outsourced service provision. He makes the point that in-house staff have historically had the responsibility to maintain on-premise hardware and software solutions, but adds that, now, the managed services model for infrastructure IT can reap major benefits for companies and their own technical staff and make the whole process far more convenient.

Povlsen also explains that with the managed services model, companies don't need to worry so much about their own internal talent pool anymore. “A major concern in the past has been how to find the right people and what to do if they leave – will that leave my system in ruins for weeks or months until we find a replacement person,” he says. “Retail outlets and banks are not usually built around IT and don't usually make a huge investment in this area; they normally just have a few people on-board, especially at the edge. So, if one of them becomes ill or leaves their job, these businesses can suffer. Managed services providers can help to take away this pain. In fact, it can help the whole ‘ecosystem’ of the business.”

Channel opportunities

As managed services become more mature and increasingly appealing to users, Povlsen points out that this is where the channel partners of infrastructure solutions vendors can play a valuable role and enjoy a lucrative revenue stream into the bargain. In terms of managed service provision to customers, he explains that solutions vendors can essentially choose between two models; they can choose to provide managed services to customers in retail, healthcare, banking etc. themselves or they can choose to pass this to their partner network and ensure these partners are fully trained to understand the technology inside out.

Povlsen adds that solutions vendors can also decide on a hybrid between these two models. “At Schneider Electric, we are focusing on the partners first and foremost but as a backup because of the various maturity levels among our partners we also have our own service organisations that can do the managed service provision,” he says. “Around 18 months ago it became very apparent to us that many end-users were starting to push things to partners if they could.

They very often have their own preferred partners that they've been working with for a number of years, and many of these partners are moving into the managed service provision market and want to support their long-standing customers. It all makes sense, so we pivoted our digital services and software play into a partner play around a year and a half or so ago because we saw that trend start to happen.”

In conclusion, Povlsen said: “It's not enough just to be resilient at the IT end; if the power fails you are usually in trouble no matter what – especially at the edge. This is where everyone – the solutions providers, the channel and end users in sectors such as retail, healthcare and banking – can really benefit from the managed services model.”

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