The IT framework
According worldwide analysts, the size of the software industry today is around $407.3 billion. To an outsider who reads, hears and watches a lot about this much talked about, glamourous industry (be it mergers and acquisitions, new launches, disasters, breakthroughs etc.), the functioning of a typical information technology organisation may seem like a standard cycle of design, make and sell; but one close look and it becomes clear that there’s a whole gamut of operations that have to be managed for the running of even a small IT company.
There are various types of IT cos. Services companies, Product companies and research companies; these are the broad categories that IT companies can be divided into. What separates an IT company from others working in the same industry is the kind and expanse of work that it does. Services companies offer application services, product maintenance services etc. Product companies develop various software products; bring out newer versions of existing products; which are then sold across the globe. A product can be anything from a web server, a web designing tool to a file reader. Research companies are organisations that engage in cutting edge work. The IT workforce of such firms generally dabbles in not just IT but also in biometrics, biology, human history or may be even sociology.
There are various ‘Business Units’ and ‘Processes’ in every IT business chain. Taking a project from conceptualization to the final delivery requires ‘N’ number of steps; each step has a standard protocol which needs to be followed. The basic functioning of any IT co requires – Analysis, Design/Conceptualization, Development, Testing, and Maintenance. Tasks like HR (Human Resource Management), Disaster Recovery and deployment happen throughout the cycle of functioning.
Given the mammoth size of transactions, steps and processes involved in getting a product from the white-board conceptualization phase to the end user’s device, it becomes practically impossible to manage all the minute details of the IT firm’s functioning in an in-house fashion. Resources (both capital and human) are very tight and making everything work within those limits is nothing short of a tight rope walk for the senior cadre of any organisation.
Managed services and outsourcing are the golden answers to the pertinent question of how to achieve results while keeping the cash flow reasonable. Outsourcing, as the name suggests, is delegating (outsourcing) the operations to an external party. The external party could itself be an IT firm. Many online stores use outsourcing for their IT needs nowadays. Managed services can include everything from theoretical building of product life cycle, handling HR activities, managing call centre operations, managing transport for employees, handling travel booking and expenses of the staff etc. Even monetarily miniscule tasks like handling courier services and doing paper work of an IT company is sometimes ‘outsourced’ or ‘managed’ to service providers. The reason is very simple: cost effectiveness. Any entity (a business organisation) that provides the services is called a ‘Service Provider’. Some of the commonly managed IT services include data centre management & handling disaster and recovery.
Data centres are crucial part of ant IT organisation which eat up a lot of expenses in the form of IT personnel who look after and monitor the servers and routers, hardware proficient staff which handles maintenance and fixing of the intricate web of servers, cables, air conditioning units etc., security staff and power expenses which run in thousands of dollars. For any IT co that it trying to inch it’s way forward while keeping a tab on its expenses, it is common to outsource the data centre to a third party on contractual basis. Sometimes the data centre may be located thousands of mile away in a cooler climate; far away from its parent company. Another approach to cut costs is making use of ‘Colocation Centre’. A colocation is a fully functional data centre available for rent. It has servers, cables, excellent network connectivity, security staff, power, cooling – all nested (or ‘co-located’) in one space. It’s a great option for medium sized companies who are looking for greater bandwidth and good internet connectivity.
An IT disaster is much like any natural calamity; crippling everything that comes in contact with it. Whether the disaster is due to a natural or manmade activity, it has far reaching effects. Whether it’s a hail storm or blizzard that dismantles and damages data centres or a notorious IT bug/virus that is touted to be a blessing for hackers and a nightmare for the secure running of business, disasters are dreaded and disaster recovery is given as much importance as any other IT department. Duplication of data, following recovery protocols and tutorials are some of the common approach to handle disaster situations.
The IT framework is vast; each process is interlinked to another and the efficiency of one process is dependent on the outcome of its preceding process. As more and more IT firms mushroom every year, it is evident that practices like outsourcing and managed services will be the order of the day.