I was asked recently if the everything-as-a-service (XaaS) model had arrived and if the IT industry was ready for this change. It made me pause for a moment, because I couldn't think of much I couldn't purchase as a service.
I did a quick Web search, which proved that if you had the imagination, you’d probably find the service. If you couldn't, it was definitely an opportunity for a budding entrepreneur.
So what about the second part of the query: Are we ready for it? I thought about how many items are now ‘commoditised’; things I had spent quality time considering, managing or lamenting during my career. Today, however, I tend to consider who might provide the services we need, over how we might implement them ourselves. We don’t need to be experts in all things technology, we just need to source those that are.
I wanted to take a pulse check on these thoughts, so I canvassed several IT peers and the results were interesting. All agreed some services made sense to purchase, as long as the standard concerns, like quality, security, risk, integration and costs were considered.
However, it became apparent a major issue is control. Several leaders acknowledged many as-a-service offerings were now mature, but that few vendors could provide the full range needed.
I tend to agree, but I suggested having multiple vendors was not uncommon and that the IT team’s focus should switch from delivery to integration and vendor management. It’s not a case of relinquishing all involvement or “your mess for less”, but changing the focus and energy associated with that.
Some of my peers claimed the ‘business’ might be uncomfortable with this approach, as many believed internal resources provided better outcomes. I wasn’t convinced by this argument, as I believe it should be about having the right person/team doing the right role/function and finding the right people is no easy task.
It is our responsibility as leaders to assist and guide others to work through such a change, as I genuinely believe it is about communication, change management and helping people to work through their concerns.
Less than five years ago, I had to convince senior executives that IT staff did not need to be on the same floor as the server room, because we had previously made easy access mandatory. Times change and we need to change with them. Innovation is as much about process change as it is about technology associated.
Physical IT presence (team and infrastructure) will be affected by the XaaS model, however, surely the ability to flex up and down holds more advantages over disadvantages? There are many businesses currently limited by their ability to implement and/or afford services that could enhance their strategies.
Purchasing on-demand and/or bolt-on additions as required, can be faster in delivering outcomes desired, provide diverse options and be potentially cheaper. It simply makes good business sense.
I understand it can be confronting when your architecture maps are more about identifying a variety of providers and the associated integrations over the physical assets of the past. It means key personal are more ‘traffic controllers’ instead of the ‘actual pilots’. That is a challenge, but just another part of change.
Personally, I am really excited about the opportunities an as-a-service approach brings and what new and niche services will appear through our vendors and budding entrepreneurs. As technology leaders, we need to be bold, facilitate change and determine to what extent we embrace these new alternatives. XaaS is definitely here, so let’s be ready.
Fi Slaven is a business strategist and service-oriented transformational executive. She is the general manager of William Buck Victoria, secretary of the Victorian ICT for Women Network, and director of the Go Girl Go for IT Expo.