We live in exciting times. New technologies spawn new opportunities for disrupting markets, creating new business models, reaching new customers, etc. In-memory databases and new hardware innovations, combined with cloud provisioning, have increased the performance and scalability of systems to speed up existing processes while at the same time fueling the creativity that leads to new and better processes.
But in the majority of cases, all these new capabilities have to work alongside existing technologies and infrastructure, and of course, be integrated with them. For the pragmatists among us we can see that all this excitement must be tempered because it is potentially going to result in complexity which, as I’ve discussed previously in my Constrained CIO blog series, leads to constraints for the Chief Information Officer. And constraints can lead to unnecessary commitment of budget as well as inertia to change. Inertia in IT landscapes is something to be avoided because it conflicts with the businesses requirement to drive up the pace of change. Initiatives such as Digital Transformation have driven a mindset of fail/learn fast and this can be very difficult and slow if there is complexity inhibiting the delivery of outcomes.
Looking at the situation from a different perspective, the increasing demands for contextualized IT are driving a dichotomy. There’s more need for information that is relevant and easily presented and that requires increased understanding of the user with manipulation of the processes and applications in order to provide a single pane of glass. Again, achieving the desired outcome in this situation is also being inhibited by complexity.
There are many other perspectives to view the direction of travel but it’s clear that an increasing drive for convenience and contextual alignment in a ubiquitous IT world is going to require some innovative thinking and some changes.
As is often the case we can look for inspiration from other places to see how similar, related problems have been addressed. An interesting comparison is that of the insurance market and how it has developed over the years. Insurance has seen a number of cycles of increasing and decreasing complexity. Starting with high-street insurance brokers these early service aggregators ensured that a broad range of policies could be brought together and provided to the customer in a simple to understand way. These got disrupted by the internet because it became easy to go directly to each provider and, initially, manually compare their policies which could now be cheaper without the middle man. Now, and to come right up to date, price comparison websites provide innovative service aggregation capabilities that contextualize the products and make them easier to consume.
I believe the IT market is ripe for a similar change to ensure that services continue to be driven by what the business wants. If we step back and think about how the SaaS agenda has influenced the whole market then we can see that there is more business engagement in the buying process of IT, leading to an increased demand for business metrics and an increasing lack of interest in underlying IT complexity that delivers these metrics, who cares what server models Salesforce runs on, as a user I don’t!
We are seeing that as the business changes IT departments must change as well and become enablers of business change rather than supporters of IT systems, maybe the IT department has a finite lifetime as the business process department takes over (the subject of another blog maybe)? This means that, in order to drive businesses forward in an increasingly changeable, dynamic fast-paced world, business and IT must try to simplify the complexity and focus on what is value adding and discard the rest.
Some of this thinking is very much at the leading edge and to be successful we are seeing that organizations require the right business partners delivering the latest services, such as Capgemini’s ADMnext. Creating an evolutionary plan between IT and the business that focuses on the three phases of Excel, Enhance, and Innovate under an innovative commercial model is often a good starting point.
In my experience, an effective way to bring a challenge alive and give context is to look at it from different perspectives and so the following three provide some initial insight:
- Delivering contextual IT
Measurement of end user satisfaction is now a key metric for enterprise systems and this necessitates the bringing together of a number of capabilities into an integrated service:
- End-user computing – Traditional end-user support, device provisioning, and maintenance, software management, etc. are a core part of this.
- Usability consulting – Is the user experience conducive to job satisfaction? How can I quickly update the apps with easier to use screens without introducing defects?
- Experience monitoring – At which point in my user’s journey could an infrastructure issue negatively impact? Being proactive to address these prior to them happening maintains end-user and job satisfaction.
- Exploiting new technologies at pace
Quarterly or monthly release cycles do not satisfy digital agendas and ultimately, from a business perspective, increase the risk of being disrupted by a competitor. Increased pace requires:
- Platform-centric IT – Scalable, vertically integrated apps and infra as well as loosely coupled horizontal integration. Services levels for support and delivery must be appropriate and not encumber the change process.
- New methods and tools – Adoption of new methods such as Agile and DevOps, with the associated tool kits, will ensure that change can be delivered at pace, and at different pace, as required.
- Better business alignment – Traditional requirements driven approaches, with hands-off business engagement will not support the intimacy required to drive the swift adoption and exploitation of new technologies. Design Think the future!
- Achieving business outcomes
The focus has moved away from measuring inputs to measuring outputs and outcomes. This perspective has the opportunity for most innovation as follows:
- Application Performance Management – Monitoring application availability at a business process level as well as monitoring the efficiency of those applications is a powerful tool for driving business improvement
- Business Process Optimization – Integrating process mining with process outsourcing provides a compelling continuous improvement approach which, when layered on application support allows the purchase of a self-improving Business Process as a Service capability
- Commercial Specificity – Frequently ignored but becoming ever more critical value based pricing that is specific to the organization and embedded in the relationship through a commercial model becomes the ultimate goal for achieving outcomes.
An Everything-as-a-Service approach to the procurement of IT, or should we now say, business process services, has allowed organizations to focus back on what differentiates and provides competitive advantage by procuring commoditized IT services and orchestrating them. Performance and contracting for these services is measured against business metrics thereby ensuring that clear accountability is achieved and improvement initiatives can be based on a common language.
We truly do live in exciting times.