"Initially it came as a call to our reception from a US multinational and that developed into a relationship that, over 16 years, changed our business,” said John Murphy of Arkphire.
Over the years that followed, Arkphire was able to keep up with trends in tech – trends that had yet to hit Ireland, but which US multinationals, particularly west coast tech outfits, not only needed to be implemented but demanded.
“There was a very clear value proposition and they are [already] choosing Ireland as their EMEA [Europe Middle East and Africa] headquarters,” said Murphy. Arkphire’s move into managed services came at a time when IT was moving from being the ‘plumbing’ to a direct value proposition. As a result of customer expectations, IT has become a strategic role in business, with technology decisions taken at boardroom level.
The snag is twofold: first, the day-to-day grind of IT doesn’t go away. Networks need to remain online, servers need to keep serving data, helpdesks need to keep helping and, least glamorously of all, printers need to keep printing.
Secondly, IT skills, particularly in key areas like networking, data science and development, become more and more valuable, resulting in staff shortages. Key areas for managed service include end-user and IT function, but also storage management, virtual machine (VM) management and backup management, all areas indicating a shift toward an always-online and big data methodology.
Murphy said that many clients start by moving a single function out to a managed service provider and build out from there. However, Arkphire also takes on project work. “We want to ensure there is a value proposition for the customer,” he said.
“In the end, it all depends on customer needs and strategic planning. We often take the end-to-end management for SMEs, whereas the enterprise side tends to run with certain managed services and then review,” he said. One reason why large enterprises, capable of hiring their own IT staff even in today’s market conditions, go to managed services is for reasons of long-term business continuity and institutional memory.
“There tends to be a cultural point where a person has built up all the knowledge and [then] decides to leave. This often forces the issue,” he said. As a dedicated IT business, Arkphire is naturally more attractive to IT professionals, offering them more to do, more responsibility and greater opportunity for promotion.
In addition, Arkphire invests substantial resources, ensuring its IT consultants are continuously upskilling and qualified to build and manage best-in-class IT infrastructure. Today the company has ‘Partner Accredited’ status with many of the leading international technology companies, including Dell EMC, Cisco and Apple, among others.
“We can run everything from the end-user right back to the datacentre, and manage it with an SLA [service level agreement] offering a 30-minute response time and a four-hour fix, either nine to- five or 24/7, depending on the SLA.” Cultural differences remain, but, Murphy said, Irish businesses are beginning to think more like their counterparts in the US, Britain and Europe. “The Irish corporate market likes to own assets, in which case we can manage them for them, but at a senior level, executives are constantly reading about the cloud,” he said.
Key for Arkphire is getting the switch right, so it focuses on the on-boarding process in order to ensure a smooth and orderly transition. “We appoint a project manager and his job is to obtain all the required information. When the project closes out to become an ongoing operation, we need to ensure we can hit all of our SLAs,” said Murphy.
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Sunday Business Post, page 34. 26 March, 2017.