The growing use of technology in everyday life is changing the traditional way IT services are delivered inside large organizations. Expectations of employees and stakeholders are changing, thereby creating significant consequences for IT organizations. On one hand the disruptive change to the IT landscape brought by the Cloud, whose consequences go far beyond the mere technological aspects, is creating brand new processes and way of working (which can be considered part of what we call XaaS – Everything as a Service). On the other hand, the pressure for an ever more competitive market in a period of economic downturn asks for the need to reduce the costs of the IT systems against a more and more increasing quality in the levels of service to both internal and external consumers.
In order to challenge these market trends, many organizations are considering the creation of Service Catalogues. But to enable effective delivery of such services, convenient Service Centres should be created, being committed to develop, store, deliver and possibly improve the involved services.
Service Centers should be highly industrialized entities (typically hosted in backoffice or even X-shored) that are anyway able to align delivery priorities to business objectives and desired quality levels. In such perspective one interesting chance is to start creating Factories-as-a-Service (FaaS).
FaaS key features can be summarized as follows:
- The Factory is highly industrialized, i.e. implements standard platforms, tools and procedures allowing for a rapid start-up of operations against new engagements and leverages on repeatable and measurable processes allowing for improved quality, reliability and predictability of projects outcomes
Granted that a convenient Project Portfolio Management is put in place, a Factory can be highly flexible, being able to scale-up (or down) to meet peaks and troughs in the demand of resources. Notice that nowadays agility and responsiveness are key attributes of Digital Enterprises, as they need to work according to a process-on-the-fly approach since fixed ways of working do not suffice any more to establish long-time relationships with Customers. It is therefore highly advisable to implement a joint resource planning process between the Factory and the Customer (either external or internal to the organization) in order to attain a flexible sourcing model, which will allow to meet variations of workloads in the project schedule. Such PPM strategy should be implemented at 3 levels:
- Strategic Level, covering Executive Management outlook on supply and demand, where a first grip is needed on the actual ability needed to execute projects that support business strategies
- Tactical level, covering the predictability of which roles are needed in the next 6 months
- Operational level, generally a perspective on the current short-term planning (up to the next 3 months, but the horizon is more and more narrowing as Agile models spread), to get a grip on real, named resources.
The Factory is able to deliver according to different commercial models, there included T&M, Fixed Price and Agile. Different commercial models can in turn leverage on different engagement models, namely:
- staff augmentation, where the consumer remains responsible and accountable for the whole delivery outcomes (this is actually very near to traditional body rental, to some extent limiting the potential of the Factory, with particular respect to flexibility and industrialization which will be aligned to traditional models, the only benefit being high specialization of resources)
- co-sourcing, providing joint governance and accountability against joint planning, estimation and management
- independent service, where the Factory independently manages the delivery activities (in strict collaboration with a Product Owner) and owns complete responsibility and accountability against the engagement constraints in terms of time, costs and quality
The benefits deriving from the creation of a Service Centre can be summarized as follows:
- Reduced Cost of Operations: FaaS leads to the consolidation and processes to remove redundancies and achieve economies of scale to reduce costs. Basically the reduced costs are made possible by the re-use of the same delivery assets by a number of different projects and Customers. Nevertheless, in order to attain the maximum benefit, such assets bust be duly maintained i.e. they have to be consistently and dynamically organized, provisioned and integrated in a corpus that will become the Intellectual Property of the Factory.
- Higher Efficiency and Productivity: The establishment of FaaS allows for the development of enhanced competencies, resulting in high productivity and a better service, able to leverage on highly skilled resources and state-of-the-art technologies, organized according to repeatable effective processes (what we call Industrialization). A couple of outstanding aspects closely related to industrialization are the chance of exploiting standard technology platforms, allowing for the re-use of core development and testing environments and of architectural frameworks, and the establishment of both business and IT standard processes allowing for a rapid start of the engagement.
- Improved Quality of Service: Consolidation finally allows for monitoring quality and standardization of quality processes. While setting up a Factory, IT processes must be built on market standards or company specific best practices. This leads to better standardization and improvement in the quality of services offered to Customers by using effective quality assurance systems