How (the Right Kind of) Professional Services Can Boost Your Business

The quickening adoption of cloud technologies was supposed to make IT nimbler, simpler and less expensive. Yet in my daily talks with prospective customers, many say they’re getting only the first of these promised benefits. While .333 is a great batting average in baseball, today’s business leaders need their IT to perform far better than that.

What they find is that, to tap the full power of the cloud, they must deal with a mind-bending level of complexity:

  • They must adopt multiple public and private cloud platforms (the average per company today is eight) so that each of their applications runs on the platform where it will achieve the best performance and cost efficiency. Some customers initially tell me they want to move all their workloads to a single cloud environment, but change their minds when they see the disparities in performance and cost-efficiency their different applications will achieve on various cloud platforms.
  • They must figure out how best to migrate workloads out of company-owned data centers; how to wring the most value out of DC commitments and hardware investments; and how to determine which applications should run in hosted or on-premises private or public clouds or in colocation facilities, and which applications should be expensively refactored — or simply retired.
  • They must secure multiple clouds and get them working seamlessly together.
  • They must determine where they’re going to find the skills to sort through the bewildering array of cloud tools and features, with new ones released almost every day.

Expert, trusted advice

Faced with these complications, smart cloud adopters seek expert, trusted advice — often through what the industry calls professional services. I lead the team that delivers those services at Rackspace. And I can tell you that there’s growing gap between the kind of pro services cloud adopters want — and the kind that most vendors deliver.

The typical pro services team from a big, traditional IT services provider throws a lot of bodies at the client’s challenges, for a period of months or even years. It sends a busload of recent college graduates to the customer’s headquarters to begin a lengthy study of the client’s current IT systems and resources. They then decide which of several rigid, pre-fabricated templates for IT transformation they should apply to that client. As part of this work, some pro services teams consume many hours of key customer executives’ time, in search of a “governance strategy” that fails to reflect the realities of the customer’s culture, resources, budget and timeline.

Because traditional IT service providers derive much of their income from managing legacy, client-owned data centers, their advice is often skewed toward maintaining those DCs and the outdated technologies that run within them. The expertise of these providers is broad, but not deep — especially when it comes to the latest technologies such as containers, or private clouds as a service. They deliver a series of consulting reports and programs. They collect their large fee. Then the bus departs, leaving the client to perform the hard work of implementation and ongoing optimization — until it’s time for the next consulting engagement. Sound familiar?

A different type of pro services

IT decision makers tell me and my team they want a different type of pro services engagement. They want:

  • A partner who will meet them wherever they may be on their journey to modernize their IT: whether they’re just getting started and want a full roadmap, or are well on their way and need specific expertise to augment their IT team for one stage of the work.
  • Expert advice from technical specialists, with experience and certifications across all the major public and private cloud platforms, as well as in colocation, key enterprise applications and databases, service integration, and multi-cloud security. They want breadth of expertise for upfront guidance on the best platforms for various applications, and depth of expertise for architecting and implementing and optimizing the solution that they choose to adopt.
  • Unbiased guidance on the technologies that will best serve each client’s unique needs, rather than the vendor’s interests.
  • Recommendations based on best practices developed through operational experience with thousands of complex customer environments; recommendations tailored for each client’s specific circumstances, and with an eye to continuous improvement.
  • Not just consulting reports but tangible results, delivered through hands-on work alongside the client’s IT team.  They want execution, not just planning.
  • Options for cost-effective continuing engagement, where the customer can ask for specific additional service blocks, tailored for its unique environment, and pay only for what it uses, rather than being locked into rigid, expensive long-term contracts.
  • A partner who can enable and empower their IT team to embrace the opportunities and challenges of modern IT as a service, and sustain the momentum that the pro services partner has started.

At Rackspace, we’re working to deliver the kind of pro services that today’s customers want. As a result, this part of our business is growing at an annual rate in the triple digits, and we’re busy adding more of the specialized experts customers’ IT departments want to work with. We’re doing so through hiring and strategic acquisitions.

Our recent purchases of TriCore Solutions, Datapipe, and RelationEdge brought us seasoned experts and proven processes for helping customers manage enterprise applications such as those in Oracle and SAP environments, and popular SaaS applications such as Salesforce. Our pro services team benefits from the pattern recognition that we’ve developed through 20 years of delivering a Fanatical Experience to companies in more than 150 countries, including a majority of the global giants in the Fortune 100.

What customers want

Customers bring us four main requests, with the typical client seeking help in several areas:

  1. Help me develop a comprehensive road map for transforming my IT from outdated, inflexible technologies to modern ones. Help me deliver nimbler, more cost-effective IT that will enable me to boost innovation and customer service. Work hands-on with my team to deliver tangible benefits.
  2. Help me consolidate the data centers I own — or get me out of that business entirely.
  3. Help me determine which workloads should run where — on which private and public clouds, hosted or on-premises.
  4. Help me figure out which applications and databases can run as-is in hosted or on-prem private clouds, which should be modernized and refactored for migration to the public cloud, and which should be retired in favor of SaaS apps.

If your company needs help in any of these areas and you’d like to learn more about the unique Rackspace approach to professional services, check out how we’ve helped companies like TotalTraxIntrepid Healthcare and Coinstar meet challenges similar to those you face, then request to speak to one of our IT transformation experts. I’ll bet we can boost your IT team’s batting average to levels the Astros and Yankees can only dream about.

Rachel Cassidy is Senior Vice President and General Manager for Professional Services at Rackspace. She oversees the company’s portfolio of professional services in the Americas, serving as our customers’ trusted advisors across all platforms through their IT transformations. She also is responsible for the Global Service Catalogue defining Rackspace’s professional services strategy and offerings. Prior to this role, Rachel served as Vice President of Global Solutions and Services at Rackspace, evolving and building professional services, strategic deal desk and technical sales focused on breadth and depth of knowledge defining solutions for our customer. Before coming to Rackspace, Rachel spent a decade at Red Hat, where she built out the pre-sales and professional services organization as Vice President of Global Professional Services. She later worked to create a robust global partner ecosystem, serving as the Vice President of Global Partner and Technical Enablement. Rachel has been recognized as one of CRN’s Women of the Channel Power 100 and as a CRN Channel Chief. She holds a BS from Cornell University and an MSM from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hey Rachel Cassidy, I’m really very proud of you as you are doing such a great job. Thank you for sharing your experience and even this blog will help us to boost up our business by following the suggestions you’ve mentioned.

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