Relationship with MSPs integral to retailers’ success as they move to cloud

Businesses need to use cloud to develop a constant process of innovation

To date, retailers have used cloud to good effect, with cloud services facilitating greater agility, flexibility and rapid expansion into international markets. However, research from Accenture indicates that many still lack the ability to offer a seamless service to customers across all platforms, highlighting the importance of Managed Services Providers (MSPs) and the need to use cloud computing to better effect.

The Accenture Seamless Retail Capabilities Benchmark Study found that 81 per cent of retailers examined reported absent or underdeveloped capabilities in tailoring assortment, pricing and shopping occasion to customer expectations across channels.

Andy Wilton, Claranet’s Group CIO, comments:

IT systems are the bloodline to most businesses and, when these systems can no longer provide the right functionality, it can cause significant damage. Most businesses, and particularly those in the retail sector, are in constant flux, and have to adapt to changing market conditions and seek new ways to get ahead of competitors. Many have now established some of their IT in the cloud and it is important that they realise how to take advantage of its benefits to facilitate change.”

In moving to the cloud, companies have to decide how much managed support they want from their providers above and beyond the basic hosting service. At one end of the spectrum, organisations take a basic approach, just renting the IaaS and leaving the development and management of what is hosted in-house. At the other, end-users choose to have a fully managed solution. However, whatever the choice, there are two issues that need to be addressed – firstly how to migrate the existing IT services while ensuring business continuity and secondly, how to establish a continuous innovation team to take advantage of the flexibility that a cloud approach offers. Technology can keep pace with how the wider business is changing, but only if the right people are in place.

Organisations should look for MSPs that include specific support for application development, testing and deployment in a live environment, underpinned by strong service level agreements. These are all critical services for innovation that no longer have to be handled in-house.

This is necessary to ensure that any implemented service will cater to the requirements of a business and add value, whilst laying down a solid foundation that maintains control and provides flexibility. Having a bespoke design, that meets the business’s corporate requirements, will ensure minimum disruption and iron out potential problems. It also establishes a clear innovation path in partnership with the end-user.

Wilton concludes: “For many, choosing an MSP is the best option because it relieves the pressure on in-house teams as they adjust systems to changing operational demands from the wider business. Many business leaders have got used to the idea that IT will always lag behind the rest of the business. With cloud now mainstream, this is no longer the case.”

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