Business is all about how to make money and save money and the recent recession has had a drastic impact on how businesses go about doing this whilst ensuring ongoing customer loyalty and satisfaction. Economists define a recession as six consecutive months of negative growth in gross domestic product (GDP). Whatever definition you use the economic results are always the same: job losses, a decline in real income, a slowdown in industrial production and manufacturing and a slump in consumer spending. This consequently has a significant effect on where businesses, large and small, focus their efforts. Recession forces businesses to look far more closely at their business models and question assumptions about whether they are in the right business, how they attract and retain customers, how they allocate their assets to improve profitability and service and whether or not they are as efficient as they can possibly be.
In tougher economic times, business managers are forced to scrutinise their organisational structure and people to see whether or not they have the right team to address the changing and emerging landscape and to see how they can carry out work more efficiently whilst ensuring and improving customer satisfaction.
Managers need to reappraise current ways of working in order to see if there are aspects which could be carried out better by a third party organisation, whether IT can be used to enhance the customer experience more cost effectively through increasing the productivity of staff. Typically this will entail identifying areas where time can be saved through better processes and automation.
It is important for business managers to look carefully at where staff resources and money is potentially being wasted or lost and ask the question “can I automate these tasks to save time and money as well as maintaining good customer service?” more often than not the answer is yes.
Automating repetitive and mundane tasks frees up organisations to target and align their workforce more appropriately on important, front line customer facing responsibilities and ensuring day to day business standards are maintained and consistent. This allows higher level business goals to be achieved by ensuring staff are not distracted by unimportant yet urgent tasks.
What are the challenges?
Not only do organisations have to cope with the obvious implications of a recession, they also have to cope with the inevitable reduction in government spending and also the potential cost impact of new government legislation. One such piece of legislation is the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), a new Government backed legislative carbon emissions trading scheme that came into effect on 1st April.
The CRC is a mandatory climate change and energy saving scheme in the UK and its aim is to improve energy efficiency and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in the UK. This is vital to achieving the government’s targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by at least 80%. Organisations that use a certain amount of electricity will be obliged to participate in the scheme and monitor their emissions. They will have to buy allowances from the Government for each tonne of CO2 they emit creating a significant incentive for organisations to reduce their emissions and in turn saving money by not wasting energy.
How are businesses tackling these issues?
The best organisations confront the reality of the situation they see in front of them, adapt quickly and constantly look to refine and improve their recipe. They are always looking at ways to improve, satisfy their customers and become more efficient. They realise they have to do more, better with less. Many IT departments in large organisations, such as Local Authority Education Bradford, are already realising this ongoing reality and are looking to technology from focused service providers to assist them.
Education Bradford wanted to ensure its teachers and IT technicians were not distracted by unimportant yet urgent tasks such as SIMS SQL upgrades, security patch deployments and device management all of which can be very time consuming. The LA thought it best to employ SERCO a business services company based in North Hampshire, which holds a 10 year contract with Bradford Metropolitan Council to manage and operate the local education authority.
The LA needed SERCO to completely manage and maintain over 800 devices in 180 schools. SERCO in turn realised that it would need a device management technology to help it provide efficient services and save time by automating mundane and repetitive tasks. By implementing CentraStage, a technology which provides remote device management, the LA/SERCO created an overall efficiency gain of 20% by offering schools the ability to turn off PCs and optimise power settings, giving Education Bradford the potential to reduce its carbon emissions by up to 223 tonnes for the first year in line with the requirements of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
The LA has been using CentraStage for over 12 months and has calculated the annual cost savings to be over £55,000 per annum. It is now able to offer new services to schools without having to take on additional staff and has calculated that over 2,500 hours of school ICT ‘downtime’ has been avoided along with support call times reduced by 4.5 minutes on average, allowing staff to use their time more effectively and focus on teaching instead of monitoring and managing school technology.
What needs to change?
One of the main areas for business has to be getting better value for money from IT. For years the IT industry has been dominated by large organisations, with well known and trusted brand names, selling expensive kit and licenses to business customers that do not need them. Only now are organisations beginning to realise the amount of money that has been wasted over the years on idle equipment and unused licenses. Customers have of course realised this and with capital budgets being cut or frozen they are now looking at ‘pay as you go/grow’ services and solutions. IT Service Providers need to change their culture and realise that customers are no longer interested in being sold IT Software and Hardware but are in receiving an On Demand service backed by a good Service Level Agreement (SLA).
This demand is fuelling the growth of Software as a Service (SaaS) and allows end users to save money by only paying for services as and when they use them. The channel needs to be responsive to this and understand that their old ways of providing bespoke and unique services for each individual need of a customer is not sustainable and profitable in the long term. They need to offer excellent, on demand repeatable and scalable services backed by a strong SLA as CIOs are being far more scrupulous about the services and results they get for their money.
The IT channel must be prepared for this change in customer demands by being more versatile. Channel partners offering siloed services will struggle to compete as the economic recovery brings aggressive competition. To stand out in this supplier saturated market IT service providers must filter out this noise on behalf of their customers and position themselves as a one stop, on demand shop for end users. The ‘value add’ is crucial in securing longevity as a service provider and it’s important to offer direct support as well as a substantial return on investment to be able to compete with larger organisations.
Redstor believes that customers should be able to plug into a service as and when they need it and turn it off when they don’t, and has been offering out of the box, instantly available services for the past five years, proving it is possible for customers to get more value for their money and do more for less with IT.
By Paul Evans, Managing Director at Redstor, a leading provider of cloud services and data protection solutions