More companies than ever are moving computing to the cloud. In fact, the percentage of businesses using cloud computing is expected to more than double over the next six years, from 37 percent to nearly 80 percent by 2020 according to a study from Emergent Research and Intuit. As organizations contemplate the cloud, leaders need to think strategically about business application updates and ongoing support to drive business growth and profitability.

Past traditional premise models for outsourcing a company network, help-desk, or even “power, ping, and cage” did not include flexible managed service options available in today’s cloud-based ecosystem. A cloud-based architecture provides new alternatives for on-going application level support to manage incidents, changes and enhancements. This means companies moving to the cloud have flexibility to look for professional partners to help them get ahead. With the right managed services provider, a company’s IT professionals receive support with a wide range of needs from strategic development to daily support.

First the facts

In 2015, small- and mid-sized company leaders cite cloud computing, social media, mobility solutions and collaboration as their four highest priorities. They ranked their top four business issues as increasing profitability, business growth, reducing operational costs and attracting and retaining new talent as their top four business issues. Source: 2015 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities and IT Challenges.

Couple this with research that shows enterprise IT organizations want to drive more agility and utilization of their resources for strategic new development of business applications. Unfortunately, on average 70 percent of current budgets and personnel are utilized to support on-going needs of current business applications. Too often, scarce resources are torn between handling what I call “tyranny of the urgent” application needs versus “agile delivery” of new business capabilities demanded by the business.

The reality

We’re seeing businesses with hundreds or more business applications and an internal team of IT professionals working furiously to manage daily demand and support, while trying to continue to think strategically about future business needs. Where’s the time to stop, think and innovate? How can a team keep that pace without burning out their staff?

A recent article in explains just 3 in 10 companies partner with an IT services company using managed services. Yet this article goes on to explain more business owners than ever are looking for partnerships. The article suggests the simple definition of managed services and what it entails can keep business owners from thinking about a partnership.

Managed services is designed to partner and complement a client company’s needs. Work teams fill gaps for teams stretched thin offering application support, configuration, enhancements to allow the internal team to focus on innovation and other essential tasks.

A good managed services provider will work to set up a flexible partnership that can shift and change with a company’s needs. The provider will work to sharply define service level agreements to reflect the client’s objectives. They will set up goals and metrics to drive ROI and business needs to set the tone for a long-term relationship. A study by CompTIA found 63 percent of respondents that consider technology usage advanced have a partnership for application monitoring – demonstrating why a managed services provider creates positive step change for its clients.

When IT organizations are contemplating moving existing or building new business applications in the cloud, assessing on-going maintenance at the application layer is essential. Cloud providers typically support through the Operating System (OS) layer—or platform as a service (PaaS). IT organizations must account for support at the application layer, in order to deal with software bugs, needed changes, or even small enhancements requested by the business.

As the world of cloud-based computing continues to expand, IT leadership should be considering long-term goals and how IT can continue to support them. By outsourcing application support needs, a company can take advantage of managed services professionals to gain economies of scale and increase efficiencies. The same basic business metrics that make cloud computing attractive (multi-tenancy) can be applied to a managed service application layer support model. For example, gains of 30 to 60 percent in the reduction of outstanding ticket requests, ticket cycle times and increased production have been realized in our recent work. This allows our client enterprise IT teams to focus efforts on strategic development that drive innovation and ROI for the client’s business.

Bill Russell is the executive vice president and co-founder of Allegient.

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