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Partnering to Optimize IT and Security Management

Todd Lefkowitz

In an increasingly complex IT landscape, organizations face numerous challenges. They must optimize all layers of their IT environment-from data center infrastructure to mission-critical business applications-while prioritizing budgets and staffing to ensure the most productive use of limited resources.

At the same time, IT managers must avoid burdening their highly skilled personnel with tasks that are out of their strategic focus areas. After all, such exercises often result in frustration, longer-than-normal project ramp-up periods, prolonged product shelf-life, and an increased reliance on product support and engineering. Instead, IT managers want their personnel to work on tasks that fit their skill sets, which will enable a greater degree of success on key business initiatives aligned with the organization's corporate goals.

That's not all. IT managers must also identify, recruit, train, and retain IT experts while demonstrating the benefits of their investments to C-level executives, IT directors and managers, auditors, and other key stakeholders.

Yet, some areas of IT are simply so expensive, time-consuming, and cumbersome to manage that a growing number of organizations are opting to hand the reins over to outside experts who can do it more effectively and efficiently.

But not just any service model will do. For some organizations, having on-site expertise to augment existing IT staff is the answer. Others prefer to outsource specific functions or entire operations, all delivered under strict service level agreements (SLAs) that align with industry best practices.

Regardless of the model, today's IT organizations need flexible IT infrastructure management options to help drive efficiencies, improve overall IT risk management, and focus on more strategic business objectives.

Outsourcing Expertise
The management of complicated operations such as data protection and antivirus while also meeting demanding SLAs can strain resources and budgets. The growing complexity and cost of these operations, combined with a shortage of qualified personnel, have compounded the challenge of maintaining these critical environments.

Operational consulting services enable enterprises to reduce costs, manage IT risks, and meet their SLAs by outsourcing key data protection, antivirus, or other functions to experts. The most robust operational services comprise scalable, cost-effective, platform-independent consulting offers that utilize industry-leading technologies, proven methodologies, and best practices developed by highly experienced consultants based on thousands of customer engagements.

These services enable their client organizations to drive down the cost of specific operations by providing a more cost-effective alternative to in-house methods of managing certain critical operations. They also help resolve the inefficiencies and complexities that often result from inadequate evaluation, planning, and deployment of existing technologies while also addressing gaps in targeted skills among IT staff.

Operational consulting services can also enhance the utilization of backup and recovery software, security tools, hardware assets, and related IT resources and reduce or even obviate the need for hardware, software, or other resources at production sites.

These services also address operational risk issues. For example, the risks associated with managing data protection environments range from data loss or data corruption to the financial risks of unmet service levels or unplanned outages. When corporations transition the ownership of backup, recovery, and other data protection technology areas, to operational service teams the risk of not meeting SLAs is now burdened by the delivery team.

At the same time, these services help reduce IT risk by increasing backup success rates, reducing data loss and business disruption, enabling quick recovery, and more.

Moreover, operational consulting services can free organizations to focus on strategic business areas by offloading the management of day-to-day tasks. IT organizations, in turn, are able to transition staff to duties that are better aligned with business initiatives and innovation, all without requiring additional infrastructure investment or disruptions to core business areas.

On-Site Expertise
Strategic IT initiatives neither begin nor end with technology deployment but require continuous on-site monitoring, maintenance, and management. However, many organizations find it difficult to identify, maintain, and develop the internal expertise necessary to assume key roles in IT projects and help maximize technology investments.

For these organizations, residency, or on-site, consulting services can help augment existing staff with the technology and business expertise they need to realize the full value of their technology investments and optimize resources that support core business strategies. Unlike operational services that are delivered under an SLA, on-site consultants are often contracted on a fixed-fee basis to be on-site for a year or more to provide assessment, design, architecture, implementation, decision support, and ongoing management of critical IT functions through a longer term partnership.

Typically, the consultants who are qualified to provide on-site services possess an exceptionally deep knowledge of the technologies and practices in which they specialize. On-site data protection consultants, for example, understand the intricacies of advanced security, availability, performance, and compliance technologies from a range of solutions providers and know how to best configure and manage them to suite their client's specific needs.

A growing number of consulting organizations now offer distinct categories of on-site services to make sure their clients receive the optimal benefit from their partnership. For example, executive-level on-site consultants may provide more seasoned leadership and enterprise IT risk management to guide global operations and corporate strategy. These senior consultants may oversee design quality control and implementation transition and serve as the primary point of contact with client executives.

In contrast, expert-level on-site consultants may be tasked with providing consultant as well as project manager resources that deliver expertise for a specific technology or strategic initiative. By helping the client manage IT risk and bridge technical and business functions, an expert-level consultant translates requirements into solutions.

Technical-level on-site consultants may also be available. Responsible for daily administration and maintenance of the operational environment, these hands-on experts perform ongoing monitoring and troubleshooting and often act as a front-line interface to support.

As the volume of demands on IT continues to reach new levels, organizations can leverage a growing range of operational and on-site services to maximize existing investments and resources, improve efficiencies, and manage operational risk. Whether opting for services delivered under strict SLAs or via a fee-based on-site partnership, by turning their most complex IT challenges over to seasoned experts IT organizations can drive business value by freeing their own key IT staff to focus on revenue- and profit-generating core competencies that help ensure profitability and growth.

About the Author
Todd Lefkowitz is senior manager for consulting services with Symantec Global Services.

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