Service integration cuts costs

The IT services landscape is undergoing significant change as customers evolve

James Watson, Chief architect, Oakton

Business stakeholders are evolving from the traditional model of building and owning IT assets to integrating services from a burgeoning portfolio of global and local suppliers as accessing a wide range of cloud-based services over the internet grows in popularity.

So what is service integration and why now? Service integration is a step change in the evolution of IT service delivery and is being driven by ever-increasing business demand for IT solutions to support businesses that are rapidly becoming more digitised. However, most IT organisations are constrained by static - or even decreasing budgets as well as skills shortages and a backlog of existing projects. Something has to give.

Symptomatic of ITs' dilemma is the trend for business people to buy their own IT solutions and bypass internal IT. Many businesses think IT is too slow and expensive and if they wait for IT to deliver a solution then they might be waiting a long time. So businesses are going it alone, where does this leave the IT department? IT still has a very important role to play. While business areas have achieved some great outcomes by sourcing solutions such as salesforce.com directly over the internet, there is a raft of potential issues that arise this continues in an uncontrolled manner. What about data security? Does the solution need to be integrated with existing backend systems or other cloud solutions? What if the solution performs poorly or is unavailable for long periods? Who's going to manage the vendor? There are all very important questions for solutions that support critical business processes.

Enter service integration. At the front-end, it is about working more closely with the business to understand the problem they are trying to solve and what services they need from IT to do it. Business people don't need an IT system per se- they need you to deliver a business service with certain characteristics. They don't care how you do it (or they shouldn't). This is where IT needs to reconsider its role. If the primary objective is to deliver a service then IT's job is to work out the best, most cost effective and efficient way of doing it. They may find the answer to that question is quite often – not here. Why? Well if you consider the rapidly evolving marketplace of cloud or cloud-like services then it may well be that services once considered unique or too critical to be sourced externally, are now available as a service and can be delivered at a competitive price point and with flexible deployment options. And they're already built! The trick for IT becomes one of learning how best to source and integrate services from a range of suppliers (including internal IT) and assemble them into meaningful services that the business can consume in the way they want. The IT value proposition becomes: "We can source the right services for you to run your business. We will ensure the security of your data and the availability of the service through commercial contracts and clearly stated service level agreements".

Benefits

There are many potential benefits to be gained from going down the service integration path. The first and most obvious benefit is to reduce costs. This can be in the form of actual service costs as well as internal resource (people) savings. Also related to cost is the possible change in spend profile from capex to opex for "asa- service" offerings. Other benefits include improved "time-to-market" by leveraging ready-to-use services as well as allowing IT to focus on building 'differentiating' services rather than re-inventing the wheel.

A broader benefit of service integration is having a "one stop shop" for a particular service rather than using separate suppliers for applications, platform and infrastructure. Services delivered through a service integration model can cover anything from infrastructure through to vertical applications already configured for a specific industry - and everything in between. Coverage can also cut across the solution life-cycle from sourcing through to implementation (development, test and production) and ongoing service management. The most important thing is we can now offer choice. Whereas once the scenario might have been "We'll come in, implement a new system on your premises and walk away", the conversation has moved to, "We'll source the right service for you, implement it either on-premise, hosted or in the cloud using a combination of on-premise, off-premise and off-shore resources - or indeed a hybrid of these choices. And we can manage it for you too, through a 'single pane of glass'".

Oakton is increasingly using partners to complement its' traditional service offering. Our clients want a solution running on a platform somewhere that meets their service level requirements. We have several infrastructure partners that are able to support the range of typical solution scenarios that we come across. Service integration is still in its early stages as an approach but the signs are that it is likely to establish itself as a dominant model for both corporate IT functions as well as IT service providers. We believe this represents a huge opportunity for businesses to get to market more quickly, for IT organisations to be able to respond more quickly to business demand and for IT companies to enhance their value proposition to their customers. The services are already available. It is up to the organisations themselves as to how quickly they can change and take advantage of this opportunity.

The journey to service integration is well and truly underway – for Oakton and many of its’ customers

Oakton has helped several large organisations establish new models, including building the necessary processes, organization structures and tooling to support service integration. In addition they have established several “as a service” offerings around core ERP and CRM systems as well as online digital solutions. Get in touch today to find out how Oakton can assist you.

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