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Free to innovate: the CIO who outsources

outsource to innovate

Computing’s annual Exceptional CIO report draws out key trends as observed by leading CIOs up and down the country. From a vendor and service provider’s point of view, we’re always interested in hearing how these individuals’ views are similar to or differ from the views expressed by our customers. This year’s report is a must-read for decision makers in IT, asking questions such as ‘What is the role of the CIO?’ and ‘What are the key approaches for vendor relationships?’ Further to the insights we gathered from our customers in our survey (see our previous post here), this report was of particular interest to us as it echoed some of the views expressed by our customers, and highlighted a few more. We’d like to respond to some of these points and also offer some of our thoughts on outsourced IT – a topic which many in IT wish to avoid, but which we are naturally keen to talk about!

Computing’s summary of the report cites the need to consider what your role is, and what is detracting you from doing what you need to realise your IT vision. Detractions are the fundamental reason why outsourced IT is not damaging to the IT team’s ambition, quite the contrary. The CIO report highlights the desire to use technology to innovate as the biggest motivating factor for CIOs. The reality, however, is that IT teams spend too much time on routine jobs and jobs, leaving less time for projects and innovation. By outsourcing select areas of IT services, in particular commodities, there is more room in the diary for driving innovation, and delivering the strategy rather than just keeping the infrastructure up and running.

Where there are concerns about security and stability of outsourced services, there are service providers who have carved out a niche, having accumulated very specific experiences within industry sectors. Niche providers are equipped with the right processes to respond to some very specific requirements, and are already delivering these services to a range of discerning customers. A niche provider offers you expertise, which when coupled with innate flexibility of service and terms, cannot be match by a big brand providers. A niche service provider is not only keen to develop a close relationship with you to ensure you are happy with the service, offering a single point of contact. This is the consultative approach which will ensure that your decision to outsource was a well-informed one.

The findings of our own customer survey, coupled with the insights of this particular industry report, show that we are the niche supplier who is able to move in an agile fashion and respond to the demands of the modern CIO of the target industry as well as listen to our customers’ needs. In short, we are building a reputation of competence, reliability, depth of technical experience and knowledge.

What is less exciting to see is the emergence of the term ‘intelligent customer’ which works to alienate customers and suppliers by suggesting that their goals are intrinsically different.  To speak of the ‘intelligent customer’ as though this were a new phenomenon puts us in danger of assuming that customers a) were previously not intelligent b) somehow need to be coerced into buying services or solutions, presumably due to apparent lack of wants, needs or means. Perhaps what we are actually witnessing is not just a savvy customer, but a supplier culture which in an economically strained time is responding to the idea that meeting the needs of your customers and developing close relationships has benefits for all parties concerned. This starts already at the point when contracts are negotiated to have clear SLAs and terms which do not lock you in for long periods of time, and continues through a single point of contact as services are delivered.

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