everything-as-a-service

Bimodal IT – the future of the IT service?

It’s the latest buzz word to hit IT – Bimodal – and yet it perfectly described the problems faced by most modern and digital orientated businesses:  the ability to be agile and innovative whilst providing all those standard services that are required to keep the IT world running.

I’ve discussed a number of models with a recent focus on everything-as-a-service (XaaS), but the catchier and more complete Bimodal model brings together both my thoughts on buying as-a-service (for the BAU and keep the lights on functions) as well as the creation of innovation units dedicated to providing the business change and creativity to be competitive.

I certainly watch with fascination as the momentum behind Bimodal IT builds to become the standard functioning model of any modern IT service.

Cloud First Strategy: Support and supplier management

 

 

The Cloud First Strategy

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.

supplier-management

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.

org chat for service led it

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.

Cultural change

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

 

Cloud First Strategy: Head to the INDEX, try the next Part 4 – being an Intelligent Customer or go back to Part 2 – How to manage change

 

Everything-as-a-service XaaS vs Outsourcing

XaaS vs Outsourcing: It’s a theme brought up at alt-c this week and something that most people are confused about: Outsourcing and everything-as-a-service XaaS are not the same things.

They may be used to achieve the same results but when you compare the intent of each they clearly show their differences.

Whats the difference between XaaS and Outsourcing?

XaaS is granular, focused and can be applied surgically to key areas that need attention.  Outsourcing is expensive to negotiate and apply.  It takes time, introduces additional cost of purchase and sale and implies a reduction in flexibility – details are lost or hidden in contractural obligations, service level agreements, the transfer of assets, liabilities and risk.

  • Outsourcing tends to apply to larger elements of business.  Whole teams or departments moved.  The impact to IT itself is structurally significant.
  • XaaS tends to apply to surgical strikes.  Moving clearly defined elements to a 3rd party.  The impact to IT is small and can be managed over time.
Which is best? XaaS vs Outsourcing

That’s going to depend on your organisation, neither may be suitable.  To help you decide in the XaaS vs Outsourcing debate, think about the following Top 6 reasons…

Top 6 reasons to go XaaS
  • Focus on business need
  • Speed and Flexibility
  • Standardised, transparent pricing
  • Access to global high skill resource pools
  • Improvement in image
  • Increase in competitiveness
Top 6 reasons to Outsource
  • Pass risk/staff to 3rd party
  • Create a structured framework of IT services
  • Focus on core business
  • Long term stability
  • Access global high skill resource pools
  • Known cost framework

 

Find out more about Everything-as-a-service XaaS or look me up on LinkedIn.

Cloud First Strategy: theories about the everything-as-a-service model

The Cloud First Strategy:

Practical theories for using everything-as-a-service XaaS

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 1 – Impact on the IT organisation

As cloud based services are being adopted the approach and model of the IT department needs to change.  Services move from local data centres to the cloud, storage moves to the cloud, telephone to the cloud, even network controllers and authentication are moving to the cloud.  Office365, Skype, BYOD (bring your own device), Dropbox, etc. That natural convergence of IT services doesn’t leave a lot for IT does it?

There is plenty of value IT can still deliver, just in a different way.  No longer about flashing lights, complex help desk systems, and the mysteries of poorly documented services; the IT team can now focus on delivering real business value.

But IT has seen a number of organisational models already in widespread use today, so let’s do a brief comparison:

  • Centralised IT.  The most commonly used model.  Line of business are beholden to a CIO who controls the pace and priority of change.  Attempting to be a compromise and usually perceived to be driven by cost and technology not business value.
  • Decentralised IT.  Usually with this type of model, each line of business has their own IT Director.  Priorities are set at board meetings controlled by the line of business (LOB) and facilitated by the CEO.  Multiple IT teams, development teams, help desks and support models.
  • Federated IT.  IT services are owned by a number of parties and the LOB may choose not to use the central IT service.   It is quite common to see this after a merger or change and is usually short lived.  Complex arrangements of interlinked services, support and development teams.
  • Service led IT.  A core set of IT services are provided from the centre but are provisioned by 3rd party.  CIO focus is shifted to adding value to the business, away from commodity IT provision.  Move from developing code to buying services.  This is the core to everything-as-a-service (XaaS) led IT departments.

The service led model is a variation of the ‘intelligent customer’ approach taken when business move towards a heavily outsourced model.  They key variation is that contracts in the service led IT model are numerous, short and with pinpoint focus.  Creating the opportunity for numbers of smaller, specialised and high value businesses to apply.

This creates a level of competition and introduces flexibility to end failing contacts early and pursue new ideas when the business needs change.  This also shifts the work that the IT department needs to do, from a hardware and bespoke solution focus, to one of managing their customer and their suppliers.  In this approach, the organisational model looses ‘IT support’ but gains ‘supplier management’.

Being commodity, the help desk also goes, replaced from a specialist supplier; and perhaps this commodity element is the big differentiator.  Anything that is not a core function of the business and is readily available to procure from a 3rd party should be considered commodity IT and provisioned by expert 3rd parties.

The delivery function also losses out.  Without the need for vast quantities of bespoke code the delivery teams can be paired down to a core set of PM, Architects and developers for legacy code and integration maintenance.   It’s important to note that all change in this model has to be self funding.

Example everything-as-a-service XaaS org chart

Org chart for cloud first strategy

Change is not quite so difficult with as-a-service

Any new model or approach is going to be difficult: there must be a clear strategy for IT.  Not only a sense of what is needed today, but also tomorrow; and that strategy must be understood and agreed with the business.  The change however, can be quicker than a re-organisation with staff being redeployed in new roles or moved (TUPE) over to suppliers.  As such the impact on the organisation and staff will be low compared to traditional reorganisation methods.

The financial considerations will also be different to a traditional reorganisation.  Moving head count into supplier contracts will reflect good on in-year savings and savings may be had by purchasing more efficient services, returning floor space and reducing risk.  Costs are also likely to be moved towards a standardised monthly fee, giving the business good visibility of often hidden IT costs.  Finance will thank you for being able to plan clearly and provide consistent and open costings.

The approach to contracts needs to change.  By using short 2 year or 2+2 contracts the business can choose to change provider.  This will help the agility of IT provision to meet the changing needs of the business.  Some may be tempted by cheaper longer term contracts and for some core services this may be appropriate, but it will limited your ability to grow and shrink to business demands.

There is a significant change in culture, from employment of vast teams of developers, support, help desk and technical specialists; the IT function needs to move to professional supplier and contracts managers and experts within EA, Security, BA and relationship management; and more importantly, projects and business change must be self funding.

By moving to a self funding business change programme, IT wont change things for IT’s sake.

IT for IT’s sake

It’s the bane of any business – IT doing the best thing for IT.  Techies wrapped up in their technology, their brand or the latest toys.  There is a place for this, but not in the provision of core IT services.

A pragmatic as-a-service model will force IT to move away from looking at technologies and brands and force them to think about what services can be used to meet the business need.  It will force a move away from bespoke development to commercial off-the-shelf software and services (COTS).

  • COTS – remove the need for developers to create endless unsupportable bespoke code.  There are specialist applications and services that are likely to meet the majority of the business need.  Start here and be flexible with expectations.
  • Software as-a-service (SaaS) – remove the need to worry about the platform and the supported software layer.  Just get up and running with the service provided.  Flex to need.
  • Platform/Infrastructure as-a-service (PaaS/IaaS) – remove the need for people to touch or play with hardware, brands, upgrades.  Why do this in house, when you could be using industry experts who do this day in and day out.

It will be a substantial shock to the IT traditionalists.  By taking a step away from the coal face of technology provision IT can work closer to the business; for the business; delivering real business value.

The move towards Cloud and as-a-service is inevitable.  Will IT be able to keep up with the pace of change?

 

Key take away points

This is a big subject area that I’ve condensed into a couple of pages, but even if you do not have time to go through the text, here are my key take away points:

 

The value of everything-as-a-service (XaaS) led IT

  • Vastly reduced in-house IT team – keep just the experts
  • Vastly reduced in-house IT footprint – services in the cloud only small on-site d/c
  • Focus on relationships with the business – IT only exists to support the business
  • Clearly accountable IT costs – no hiding project, development and support costs

 

5 core rules of everything-as-a-service (XaaS) led IT

  • Focus on being the intelligent customer
  • Drive innovation and business value
  • Commodity services should be provisioned by a 3rd party in the Cloud
  • Restructure the organisation to focus on business value
  • Document, plan ahead and agree your strategy

 

Cloud First Strategy:  Read more:  Part 2 – How do you manage change in an XaaS IT model?