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Enterprise IT-as-a-Service – buzzword or buzz kill?

Before you begin, notice how here we explore Enterprise IT-as-a-Service, not Enterprise as a Service; two similar sounding but entirely different animals.

Broadly speaking the Enterprise IT-as-a-Service idea sees IT evolve away from being the centralized technology monopoly to being a technology “utility” provider. As such departments have virtually free choice to apply technology the way that best fits their business case. Increasingly many big organizations transform their IT departments to adopt more agile processes and deliver IT-as-a-Service to the wider organization.

Many organizations choose to adopt a “hosting” or “service provider” mindset when shifting to IT-as-a-Service, so similar to your Internet or Telephony provider. The idea is that service providers generally offer a high level of customer self-service, by providing an online alternative for 95% of the most commonly performed tasks. For example, you can directly pay bills, change a plan, or, for web hosting, even reset the web server without having to phone up a call centre or learn how to use a server. That’s a sensible choice for hosting and service providers to create both a cost-efficient and satisfying customer experience.

Employees increasingly want to manage their enterprise environments in a similar fashion. So, just like being a customer at your ISP or Cable provider, you would become a customer at your internal IT department where you book services for your department as they are needed.

For IT departments this is literally a sea change. They used to be all-controlling control centers, where everything needs to be requested in a lengthy process. They weren’t agile in their processes, and scalability was very limited; of course they could always scale up, but actually scaling down again when resources are underutilized just wasn’t part of the equation.

However, if IT is to become a “service provider” to the rest of the company many parallels to actual hosting businesses will emerge.

Chiefly, systems will be easy to manage and subscribe to for the end user, as they will be able to carry out most tasks through a self-service backend. Just like a real hoster, IT will want to reduce the learning curve, and thus decrease the need for support or training, by offering comprehensible documentation and an easy interface that centers around the user’s needs.

Secondly, IT can massively reduce cost by using shared environments more often and where it is applicable. Shared environments will usually include a mix of on-premise and cloud-based resources and offer savings for both. On-premise systems can become smaller by sharing existing resources, rather than relying on dedicated servers for the majority of applications. And as cloud resources can be expanded dynamically to get more horsepower when you need it, you can save actual money by closely trailing the actual usage and scaling up or down accordingly.

Lastly, you can properly ‘bill’ your departments according to their usage, thus further promote a lean IT environment that supplies exactly what is needed and not more. Of course you won’t send your departments an actual invoice, but rather deduct a certain amount per user from their quarterly budget.

High availability, performance and even granular billing will become even more important as IT continues to outsource resources to private or hybrid clouds. This new “IT on-demand” mentality means that delivering both an agile and controlled IT environment will become more challenging but on the upside delivers a more dynamic and empowering IT infrastructure to departments that can pick what they really need; and not be assigned what IT thought should work.

Offering departments to choose freely which software they want to use also creates a new competition between software vendors to have appealing products that keep up with the demands of the ‘common’ user, i.e. better mobile apps, clear UIs, etc.

It will further contribute to an automatic ‘shunning’ of obscure non-sense software that no one really needed; I’m looking at you MDM, Mobile Virtualization and App Wrapping solutions.

Analysing actual demand of departments for software informs decision makers when considering their application suppliers. It really puts the user – just like the consumer – in the driver's seat of picking the software they want to get their work done with; because they will know best.

Also check out what the Enterprise as a Service is, next week in our technologies briefing. Subscribe in the box to the right.

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