“McDonald's” by Collin Messer is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Ray Kroc helped McDonald's grow through a focus on uniformity. Should IT take a page from his book? PHOTO: Collin Messer

In “The Founder,” Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the businessman who took a lowly hamburger stand called McDonald’s and transformed it into an international powerhouse that employs 1.5 million people (making it the second largest private employer in the world) with revenues of $25.4 billion. 

While McDonald’s founders successfully applied a production-line approach to fast food, what really made the company a success was Kroc’s vision of uniformity of service and quality.

What does this have to do with tech, you might ask? 

The IT world is in a similar state as pre-Kroc McDonald’s. It’s using some modern techniques and approaches to get the job done, but what’s holding it back from real success is the lack of uniformity. The solution — the Ray Kroc, if you will — is envisioning IT as a Service, or ITaaS.

Uniformity Creates Dependability

The original McDonald’s could be broken down into a few components: burgers, French fries, sodas and milkshakes. Kroc realized that when running a franchise, a big selling point for customers is knowing these components would be the same, no matter what location they visited.  

Now think of your typical IT environment. In the same way, it can be broken down into five core technology components: workspace, servers, productivity/collaboration, backup/disaster recovery and security.

Workspace

The workspace represents the end-user environment. It can be a physical Windows workspace, MacBook, remote RDS session, local or cloud-based virtual desktop or ChromeBook. Regardless of the form or operating system, an environment is necessary for each user to install and run applications, interact with data, print and scan, email and so forth.

Servers

Servers comprise the back-end environment. Very few organizations have moved their entire operations completely to a virtual model. The vast majority still use Active Directory to manage and authenticate users, as well as file servers to share data among employees, and database and application servers to run line-of-business applications.

Productivity and Collaboration

Such systems include email, instant messaging, intranets and file sharing. Email and collaboration tools come in many shapes and sizes.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

A good IT professional can fix almost any technical problem, except for one — no backup. It’s essential to protect data against hardware failure and user error. Proper local and offsite backup protocols are an absolute must for any client’s IT system.

Security

IT teams today spend much of their efforts dealing with malicious attempts to disrupt their organizations’ ability to work. In our always-connected world, the importance of proper antivirus, spam protection, encryption, web content filtering, IPS, etc. has never been higher.

The problem, though, is that while all IT environments contain these five components, no two environments are always the same. It’s like ordering a burger at a regular restaurant: You know it will come in a bun and be made from ground beef, but everything else is variable. 

In IT, there can be dozens or even hundreds of implementations. That leaves every organization stuck putting together its own unique way of running its core IT.

Complexities and Human Error

This overwhelming variety creates critical challenges for managed service providers. Each system’s unique nature makes it far more complex and difficult to provide support. 

Technicians and engineers need to be familiar with a wide array of technologies to support the variety of environments. You need to attract and retain very high quality (and expensive) IT talent as a result. 

Each environment's deployment will effectively be a “custom order.” Integrations between certain components may work perfectly in one environment but not another. The lack of uniformity has two consequences: the first is the need to regularly produce huge amounts of documentation to track all of the nuances of each unique environment. The second is, without automation, you risk a much higher likelihood of human error, leading to valuable time wasted on troubleshooting, and to growing client frustration.

'Billions Served'

The final challenge is the expense: it simply costs more. One of Kroc’s goals was to have restaurants where everyone could go out to eat, no matter their income. Purchasing different components from different vendors because of the complexity of maintenance leads to increased labor costs (and variance in quality). 

ITaaS creates a flexible, yet standardized environment. This means far less inefficiencies and inconsistencies standing between you and keeping your customers happy.

When all of your customer environments share fundamental similarities, it’s far easier to provide excellent support. Plus you’ll have less documentation to constantly update because you’ll have far fewer nuances to track.

The automated provisioning capabilities of ITaaS reduce complexity and the likelihood of human error during deployment, too. And tightly integrated core components means they play nicely together. When you factor in components like a built-in ITaaS management layer, administration of client environments becomes a breeze. This also allows the use of less expensive resources to perform tasks that were previously only available by using higher level, more expensive engineers.

Perhaps the biggest benefits of ITaaS are higher customer satisfaction and retention. With lower costs, better performance, easier billing and fewer problems, clients are happier. 

Who knows? Maybe one day your business can also say, “Billions Served.”