We recently gathered to review our business strategy (please don’t press ‘back’ – this isn’t an article about business strategy!) and during our review of the trials and tribulations of our competitors and partners; an image came into my head. I imagined a vast safari park, filled with lush vegetation and inhabited by a diverse, well fed population of animals. As is the case, predators would occasionally make a kill, however balance was maintained because all the animals had space and food. All in all a functional ecosystem is maintained.
I then imagined the safari park shrinking; forcing the animals closer and closer together. As the perimeter closes in, the inhabitants are forced to compete over an ever diminishing food and water supply. How might this safari park look after one, two, five or ten years?
When I joined Cetus 10 years ago the technology landscape was vast. Cetus operated largely in the area of “Infrastructure Solutions Provider”; and all was good. We were, of course, aware of other ‘beasts’ who operated in the wider sphere of IT such as; telephony companies, data centre providers and application developers. Our task then was simple; maintain our focus on delivering transformational data centre and end-user computing projects; whilst seeking to incorporate the latest generation of innovations from the likes of Citrix, VMware and Cisco.
But over the intervening years the pace of change has dramatically changed. When coupled with ever shrinking IT budgets; organisations like us must learn to live with the very real threat of extinction.
Take VMware for example. As one of the first VMware partners in the UK some 15 years ago, we were able to adopt and become experts in this new technology. We did this over, maybe, 3 years; and we’ve now enjoyed the benefits of this partnership for some 15 years.
Contrast this with the storage marketplace over recent years. Back in the time of plenty before the financial crisis hit in 2008, new companies sprouted up on an almost weekly basis, using venture capital to launch exciting new flash-based storage products. But now, less than 10 years later, many of those companies are disappearing in front of our eyes, as a result of newer hyperconverged technology swallowing up their intended market.
Meanwhile our competitive ecosystem is changing. Now, you can sell Office 365 licenses and, hey presto, you’ve just sold SharePoint and Skype for Business, running on Azure; removing the opportunity for another specialist partner (with whom we’ve never previously competed) to provide complimentary telephony and SharePoint services. Unintended consequences? Maybe. Or, you might argue, you’ve saved the client money by simplifying and consolidating their infrastructure.
My choice of Office 365 as an example was somewhat deliberate. Behind the name sits a perfect example of the pervasive nature of ‘the Cloud’. By leveraging a simple productivity suite licence choice, Microsoft are land grabbing a huge slice of the infrastructure space. Where previously the likes of us would have sold and implemented the supporting Exchange and Windows file server infrastructure; we now simply hand this element over to Microsoft to absorb into their Azure infrastructure.
So what is life-like in our ‘shrinking safari park’? We’re seeing competitors and vendors facing four stark choices: stagnate (go extinct), go bust (go extinct very quickly), merge (seek safety in herds) or be agile (Darwinian survival).
It’s not a very relaxing space to be: if you rest on your laurels for any significant time you’ll end up as prey. It is, however, one of the most exciting and invigorating times to be working in IT, and the team here at Cetus are all acutely aware that our survival lies in our ability to remain relevant to our clients.