Using a managed service to create momentum in digital projects

No industry is immune from the possibility of digital transformation. As businesses scramble to take advantage of new opportunities, the challenge is to understand how much resource to throw at digital projects. This creates an ideal scenario for a new level of managed service, says Hamid Abedini, Netherlands managing director, and Evert Smit, healthcare specialist, Avit.

Why is this a good moment for IT managed services?

Hamid Abedini: The reality is that technology is moving so quickly it can be extremely challenging for any business to keep up. At the same time, they are dealing with more regulations around increasing cybersecurity threats. For most businesses, IT is not their core competency. They simply don't have the resources to keep track of every new upgrade, innovation, or new feature. They want to focus on their area of specialism.

Plus, there is a growing maturity among businesses in how to manage a managed service.

How do you mean?

Abedini: Firstly, 'managed service' is such a broad term. Customers may want something extremely specific and short term or they may want a more strategic, longer-term engagement. I think what's different is that customers are a lot clearer about what they want from the service: the SLAs, the level of engagement, how little or much is handed over.

Also, both sides are better at building a working relationship. At Avit, we work hard to build trust with our customers.

Where are you seeing growth opportunities?

Abedini: Across the board. I would say that fast-moving industries are the most obvious opportunity, in retail, for example. Industries that can't afford downtime or to be late in adopting critical new technologies. This is where the value of a managed service comes in.

But we're also seeing industries that previously may have been reluctant to turn to a managed service, because they wanted to retain control in-house. Healthcare, for example, is changing incredibly quickly; there are huge opportunities for digital transformation—from a medical, operational, or patient perspective. And healthcare providers tend not to have huge IT teams in-house.

How are you convincing healthcare providers to embrace managed services?

Evert Smit: As Abedini mentions, through trust. We've been working with one customer, Tergooi MC, a hospital in Hilversum, 30 kilometers south of Amsterdam, for a number of years. We'd originally been brought in to design and implement a software-defined architecture in 2017, one of the first of its kind in the Netherlands. This project demonstrated how Tergooi MC, ourselves, and the lead technology, Cisco, could work together. It was instrumental in building trust.

So, when Tergooi MC kicked off plans to merge two hospitals and create one new, modern hospital, they wanted us alongside to shape the plans.

And where is that project today?

Smit: The new hospital is now open. It's been built to the latest health and sustainability standards. The rooms are light, there are views of the surrounding forest, and more than 1000 square meters of green roofing. The hospital is underpinned by the most modern and secure network infrastructure, including software-defined access designed and deployed by us. We're now providing a fully managed service, with proactive support, ongoing maintenance, and management of the entire network and telephone system.Tergooi has handed us the keys.

What value were you able to bring? And what has been the impact for Tergooi MC?

Smit: Assurance. As mentioned earlier, there is so much technology at work within any organization it can be incredibly difficult to monitor what is going on. Technology in hospitals is literally a matter of life or death. We are able to monitor the entire Tergooi MC network through our network operations center. We can look at security, connectivity, and application performance. We have support teams in the US and Asia if any incident needs 24/7 coverage.

The result, I believe, is a work environment at Tergooi MC that is more agile. It's now much quicker to deploy new technology—for example, location-based services or equipment monitoring—and there is the assurance that things will work.

Our attitude, should anything ever go wrong, is fix first, argue later. I think that is key to a healthy working relationship.

You used the term 'handed us the keys,' what do you mean by that?

Abedini: It's a reflection of the faith the customer has in us. What it doesn't mean is that the customer has no interest in IT; it's an understanding that even the most critical systems are best looked after by a managed service provider. With multiple technologies at play, the more visibility and control you have the better able you are to provide a great service.

Avit has been a Cisco Gold Partner since 2012. Tell us about the value of that relationship?

Abedini: We've worked with Cisco since our very earliest days. Cisco has always understood the importance of its partner network, and it takes real commitment to reach Gold status. We see this as a valuable investment. If it was easy, it wouldn't be so valuable!

Plus, the Cisco portfolio is so strong. It's strong today, but Cisco's investment in research and development, and its acquisition of new technologies, gives us confidence it will remain strong in the future.