Computing as a Utility

Port-to-Port Consulting started a transition in 2002 from the traditional break/fix, project, and time-and-materials computer support company to what is today referred to as a Managed Services Provider. We don’t use the managed services phrase because it doesn’t mean anything to our customers. In fact, if you put a dozen computer support company owners in a room and they won’t be able to agree on what Managed Services means. At the heart of this for us were two things. First, we wanted to set prices that made sense from our customers point of view rather than ours. Face it, paying by the hour never makes sense for the buyer (even when that’s an employer). Second, we wanted to be able to do our jobs better than we were allowed to when everything we did had a separate price. Customers are willing to risk that they won’t get the virus rather than pay several hundred dollars to patch against the risk, for example.

The result has been that we’re more integrated into our clients’ businesses — a wonderful side effect! Our clients can look at their computing resources like a utility. They tell us what capability they need and we make it happen. In the end, everyone likes his job better. This doesn’t mean, as Nicholas Carr started proclaiming in 2003, that IT doesn’t matter. It just matters differently. Businesses need IT systems that help them move forward in their work. They don’t need to worry about how many megahertz or gigabytes they have.

This view means that the people who provide IT services are going to have to work harder on the service part of the process. We have to provide support to the business in achieving its goals. Michael Vizard hits on this in his article about virtualization, however, the point may get lost if someone doesn’t point it out specifically. We’re in the customer service business and we’d better start hiring and training like that’s the business we’re in.

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