Adrian Hollister, Digital Transformation, August 2015
By now it should be clear that buying IT the old way has long gone:
tin + software + installation + maintenance + staff + training + management + support tools = expensive + slow + poor value
Cloud has been coming for some time, but it’s the everything as-a-service (XaaS) element of Cloud computing that is so compelling. Removing the need for expensive and all consuming IT departments, thinning them down to an intelligent customer layer.
So what does that mean in practice?
Part 3 – Moving from legacy support to supplier management
Hardware and software become largely irrelevant as the key question becomes, “does this service meet the business need?” The burden of complex supporting systems is moved to 3rd parties as part of the service they provide. Help desk/technical support for the product also moves to the 3rd party.
With XaaS IT, ‘service management’ becomes a much less complex place to be. IT must move to act as the intermediary between the customer and the suppliers.
- Manage multiple small suppliers and contracts
- Maintain compliance and regulatory integrity of the IT service
- Be trusted by the business, the IT team and the supplier community
Traditional IT teams must change. They must transition from ‘service management’ to become ‘supplier management’, they must move away from their focus on technology to contract compliance and supplier relationships.
Example of the differences
Traditionalist IT people struggle to understand this concept, so let’s kick off with an example from a traditional service management function:
- Help desk, call handling and 1st line support
- Purchased for millions and supported by legions of staff. Vast hidden quantities of money and effort are poured into bespoke and unique help desk systems. All this for those ‘important’ help desk stats.
- IT seems unable to work without its help desk and the unfathomable way people are expected to interact with it.
- System monitoring
- Another area tainted by the bespoke.
- Multiple monitoring systems, plugged into master monitoring systems reporting to other monitoring systems.
- Usually visually impressive, the stats and thresholds used are tweaked by IT who spend endless hours perfecting the meaning of red, green and amber.
- Configuration management
- Caught in a legacy trap, where IT consider people as a liability and risk.
- People often go out of their way to remove monitoring, auditing software from their devices due to privacy concerns or because the tools stop people working effectively.
Now, compare that to the XaaS world:
- Contracts include support and maintenance
- Point services and solutions will include the whole life cost including the cost of support and maintenance
- Pay by results
- 3rd parties paid on results. The business should not select based on the background technology. The supplier should be chosen on merit and ability to meet the business need – technology is their problem.
- Results = what your business values
- Little point defining metrics that are irrelevant, unachievable or introduce undesirable behaviours.
- Contracts designed to be flexible
- Scale up and down; match peek times of demand, reduce at lower times of demand.
- Agile. Stick to 2 + 2 years.
- Clear costs, known risk
XaaS Org Chart
The often traditionally bloated supplier management function does not even appear in the everything-as-a-service XaaS IT org chart.
Clearly this is a idealistic interpretation, as the need for help desk type services still exists, but they are provisioned by 3rd party experts and work for the supplier management function.
Is Xaas Outsourcing?
Outsourcing has sat in this territory for quite some time. But the aims and goals of outsourcing are different to those of XaaS. You can see my thoughts on the difference here. Suffice to say, XaaS is surgical in nature, outsourcing is, by comparison, a shotgun approach.
It is likely that outsourcing is chosen by default as it resolves, in one hit, many of the problems experienced by poorly performing IT teams. This though is created by an accidental slight of hand from IT:
IT support tend to work under the illusion that their IT service is unique and requires unique systems for support. They talk about, document and create bespoke systems to maintain the mystery (their job and role). This naivety helps to perpetuate the deception that IT is complex, impenetrable and poor value.
The more difficult the problem the more likely outsourcing is used to solve it; the more likely outsourcing is the more complex and bespoke IT make their systems; it’s a vicious circle that only culture can change.
There are plenty of reasons to keep internal teams, not least for the latent organisational knowledge; but often poor or out-of-date IT management skills push outsourcing as a quick fix.
One core aim of this approach is to fix the overly bureaucratic systems installed by management to create statistics, measurements, and controls. The culture created by these systems often pushes the business to question why ‘help’ is included in ‘help desk’ and pushes IT staff to close calls as quickly as possible.
There is no need to create an IT team that everyone hates. It is possible to design a service that meets the needs of the business in an affordable and sustainable way.
The goals of supplier management in XaaS
So you’ve decided the everything-as-a-service XaaS is the way to go, how do you convince your existing service management staff that supplier management is the way to go?
That’s not an easy one. Those that embrace change are likely to be evangelised by the opportunities presented; others will struggle and may need to stay in their comfort zone through TUPE to 3rd parties. TUPE may sound cold, but in the surgical world of XaaS IT, people can be moved into organisations that best fit their skills or ambitions. This is no outsource shotgun.
Something you should do for every part of your organisation is to set key goals. These should compliment and reinforce your vision for your IT organisation and should help people understand your intent and strategy.
Top 5 goals for XaaS supplier management:
- Enable the digital workplace
- Engage with customers, listen and take ownership
- Form a sustainable relationship with the suppliers
- Provide feedback to suppliers and customers
- Create a sustainable and open financial model for IT services
Take note of the keywords here:
- Ownership: alone taking ownership will increase the positive perception of IT. It will create a shared sense of purpose, a shared need and a shared driver to help the business.
- Sustainable: emphasises the need for practical and maintainable relationships, finances and business services. This reduces the knee jerk IT management style prevalent in some areas.
Key take away points
Whilst brief, the paper aims to discuss the theory of everything-as-a-service IT and it’s impact on a traditional service management function. The proposed move away from service management will scare most IT traditionalists and excite the visionaries, so please take these few points with you:
- Service management in its current format is not sustainable and requires significant revision
- Move to engage, listen and take ownership
- Form a sustainable working relationship between business, customers and 3rd parties
- Create a culture of change, innovation and partnership