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Is IT service delivery really changing?

Jugglers, plate spinners and orchestrators ahoy

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Lab The new world we’ve been hearing about for years is slowly drifting into focus. Globally distributed businesses demand round the clock access to services, and new technologies (or updates of old ones) provide an expanding number of choices for building and consuming them.

Consolidation, convergence and virtualisation - there’s a lot of new stuff to exploit. Add cloud computing to the list (dodgy name, useful idea: consumption of services running on someone else’s kit on a pay as you use basis) and you have a heady cocktail of technology and choice to exploit into the future.

The question I’d like to pose is what is the impact of all this on how you are delivering IT services to your business? After all, it’s IT’s job to exploit new technologies and services, and all the new stuff is in fact designed to improve how services are delivered. But here’s a great double whammy: in the midst of all the change, the one thing that really isn’t supposed to vary is the provision of continual access to the services that the business needs.

For many IT departments, this may feel like being asked to start a plate spinning routine while playing a one man band and juggling chainsaws. But is there a better way than just doing ‘more’?

The place to start is to consider IT’s role in the grand scheme of things. If we sidestep the idea that everything is going to the cloud, and consider a more realistic scenario whereby a business may own and operate a certain set of core services (processes with a degree of privacy / IP, customer data, etc) and look to outsource their services (certain software apps, server/storage capacity etc), it’s relatively easy to see an emerging role for IT as an orchestrator, rather than sole custodian.

You could argue that this is what many IT departments already do today and indeed, have been doing for a long time. Outsourced services were around long before 'the cloud' and will be around long after we stop using the term. Arguably the only thing that has really changed is some of the underlying technology and the packaging, allowing service providers and consumers more flexibility and choice.

Naturally, all this flexibility does have implications on IT service delivery from an internal perspective. In order to take advantage of the new stuff, IT needs better visibility, control and coordination across everything it delivers, plus tools to monitor the quality of service (QoS) of services in real time. The ability to monitor and project spending on services will also be required. All the more so if some services are likely to be provided by third parties. Requirements for other skills, such as those around architecture and integration, and financing and contract negotiations will also come to the fore.

Some areas of the IT infrastructure remain in question from a service delivery point of view. Storage is a great example. We know from Reg reader feedback that the focus of many consolidation/virtualisation projects have ended up centring on storage strategy, irrespective of whether the project started out with it in mind. This is just one area. Others will crop up as knock-on effects of trying out new ways of building and delivering services.

Ultimately, however, if IT is to step up to the task of delivering an ever more mixed bag of internal and externally sourced services in the future, woe betide any business which thinks it can do so without improving the capabilities it can call on. Call it ‘BSM’ (business service management), call it simply ‘service management’ – whatever – just don’t expect IT to magically deliver the next decade’s worth of enhanced services to the business without first improving its ability to act in an orchestration role.

Bringing things back home then, the question becomes not ‘how is service delivery changing?’ in a generic sense, but how is it changing in your organisation? Away from the industry chatter, the rate of change in your business and IT shop may be swift, slow or barely detectable, due to the immovable fact that you have a real business to help run in the meantime. As usual, we’re keen to hear what you think. ®

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