In an era gone by, IT teams mostly worked on hardware and software — strictly the technology part of IT. Buying the tools that the business needed was mostly a one-off annual purchase, or maybe more frequent if new products were needed. IT teams spent time interacting with vendors or systems integrators, but it was fairly transactional.
Today, IT teams still decide which technologies to use, and then support those tools and their users. But there's now a crowd involved in providing technology-namely the ISPs and SaaS and cloud providers who are entwined with IT departments. The promise of using cloud and SaaS, of course, is that these providers will help IT by taking tasks off their to-do list. But the reality is often that IT spends more time than they expected wrangling those providers. They have to field support requests from users as they're waiting on hold or continually checking their own help desk ticket with the provider.
This wasn't part of the plan for companies adopting cloud and SaaS. The promise of saving time is very tempting, which is a big part of why companies choose cloud. But it'll likely take more work on IT's part than they may have thought to make cloud and SaaS adoption successful. For some businesses, a cloud management tool will be their savior. For others, it may be a cloud integrator or cloud broker that does the work of streamlining products and processes.
What's important to accept is that holding providers accountable is an important part of IT's job these days. It's not exactly technical — more political — and that can be a challenge. But just like end-user experience is now firmly part of IT's responsibility, so is this type of provider management.
Hold Onto Network Visibility
Managing those providers can appear overwhelming, though. Most businesses today are running at least some SaaS applications or using some element of public cloud services. In addition to that, businesses with remote users or offices have some network and provider relationships to manage. Service-level agreements (SLAs) have become particularly important in this crowded IT landscape. Keeping track of SLA promises and credits can save IT teams money and time if they can hold the provider accountable. Plus, with all these providers, overlapping SLAs can add confusion and make it hard to prioritize.
As tedious as they may seem, SLAs have to be part of IT's domain now. The fine print in these documents can help lay out who's supposed to do what. For example, a private cloud storage provider may help IT with configuration support, but that should be spelled out in the contract. And in the case of storage, IT should have a clear idea whether and how often the provider is backing up data, and whether the provider can access tenant resources.
The terms of a cloud provider SLA, let alone many SLAs, can affect your daily life in IT, which is why the fine-print reading and up-front negotiating will pay off in the long run. Fine-print reading will also come into play with pricing, which has changed dramatically from legacy IT days. Cloud and SaaS pricing models and licensing are another new area for IT to master (or at least get familiar with). The shift from capex to opex spending is happening gradually, and it may fall on IT to push new ways of spending among other departments like finance or procurement.
Monitoring your application delivery network also plays a big role in working with providers these days (and yes, we admit we're biased on this point). We hear from our users sometimes that they didn't even know they could monitor into cloud or SaaS providers. The firewall still seems like an impenetrable barrier, through which monitoring can't pass.
Having the right information at the right time can help IT have a stronger voice when dealing with providers. One IT network manager told us he looked at the performance of all 150 (yup, 150) ISPs used in his entire infrastructure. He then ranked them from high performance to low, and made changes to rely more on the high-performing ISPs and less on the low performers.
So time spent up front can pay off later, whether you're poring over SLA fine print or building network performance baselines.
This may not be in the cloud pitches you get from vendors or analysts, but holding IT providers accountable is now very much part of IT's job description. Luckily, if you do this well, you'll also help build a better end-user experience and make you and your team look pretty valuable.