Service providers in the technology game say the evolving provision of managed Information Communication Technology (ICT) services is of critical influence and importance to socio-economic growth.

They refer to converged communication, multi-mobile driven communication (as well as the reality of ‘anywhere, anytime’ connectivity and higher capacity networks) as the underbelly of commerce today.

Then there is more sophisticated back-up and security measures – including more widespread application of biometric technology, unified communications and increasing relevance of legislation and corporate governance.

However, the ongoing worldwide economic squeeze means that businesses have to do more with less.

Operators understand that whilst the credit crisis may stifle progress, clients and customers rightly expect effective service delivery and reputation is everything.

Technology plays a major role. Service providers believe now is the time for decision makers to act. By ‘act’ they mean streamline systems, consolidate infrastructure, leverage off cloud computing and seriously consider the merit of potential service partners.

“Cloud computing, the virtualised environment and general move towards the next level of Internet application, namely Web 3.0, are key trends that make a difference to business and emphasise the importance of the technology services,” says Robert Sussman, joint CEO at the Integr8 Group.

Integr8 is South Africa’s largest privately owned managed service provider. The 550-plus company is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and serves a growing regional, national and international client base.

It operates out of South Africa and has established presence across Africa, as well as in Europe, the UK and the USA.

Clients require bleeding-edge technology to keep up with the demands of the modern market.

Integr8’s business model makes provision for on-and off-site/remote service delivery.

Customers connect to a high-tech, fully equipped digital hub called the Integr8 Nerve Centre®, through which they are guaranteed always-available service and support.

“Service and support are words that are used often but rarely followed through upon,” claims Sussman. “Businesses have been burnt before with technology procurement and application. In a marketplace that is dependent on ICT capability, there is still the temptation to throw money at technology and hope that all operational issues will be instantly resolved.”

However technology alone cannot address all issues Sussman continues. It is important to know what the business requires, what differentiates one technology offering from another and what type of partnership to put in place to ensure a return on investment.

“The advent of services in the cloud means that decision makers have more options in terms of how much responsibility and control over infrastructure they want to have. This also has implications in terms of cost to company and return on investment,” he says.

Sussman says it is a given that service partners should have a proven track record and should have expertise based on the most up-to-date technologies and knowledge of roadmaps.

Companies looking to invest in a partner should consider and make sure of exactly what relationships they have in place with globally recognised vendors.

Connectivity and telecommunications are considered priorities in the development of emerging markets. This is evident in the amount of global companies seeking to partner with local providers and also establish a local presence.

Integr8 management points to the laying of undersea cables to land, including the publicised connection between Neotel and the West Africa Cable System (WACS), as influential to the region’s ICT and telcommunications capability.

This represents another undersea cable to land in the country, and adds to the current group including SEACOM, EASSy, SAT-3 and SAFE.

Irrespective of how quickly growth occurs and how active the market becomes, service providers have a significant opportunity.

However, the window period for entry and establishment into the market is not long and pressure to perform is mounting.