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The importance of ‘services’

The importance of ‘services’ 31/10/2017

Over the past 20 years or so the world has moved inexorably to a service based culture. We want to pay only for what we use when we use it. In computing terms, “XaaS” and cloud technology means we can rent compute cycles when we need them, paying only for what we use.

Why ‘services’?

Consumers (application development and, more particularly, business stakeholders) aren’t interested in the nuances of platforms, operating systems and networks. All they want is to be able to access the services they need to get on with their job. Senior IT management are under extraordinary pressure to reduce costs in an ever more complicated environment.

Product and technology led delivery hasn’t worked (stakeholders don’t understand it) but the business understands ‘services’ because they see them in their everyday life and they can put a simple cost on them. In a services-based world, the business (consumer) gets to set the direction of travel; they are no longer the passenger in this journey, but the driver because they can vote with their feet.

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, to name but a few – figured this out a few years ago, and they’ve built multi-billion dollar businesses off exactly this principle – and I’d suggest that if you’re not following suit then you’re missing a trick.

Technology abstraction to focus on ‘service’

One of the key principles is you don’t worry about the technology. This may seem strange at first, but is the key to successful implementation. Quality of service, service change, cost recovery, etc. are intrinsically technology agnostic and are the key measures to focus on. There may be different levels of service quality, different technologies or indeed different costs – but you have the mechanism in place to define them based on simple and unarguable measures of quality.

And that is the key point about services – they focus solely on what the consumer needs, the things that are important to them. Not the latest version of Oracle, or a new feature in Microsoft SQLServer, but the cost of service, up-time, security of data, etc.

The paradigm shift that is services-based computing

In our experience, failure to address each of the four ‘themes’ below will negatively impact your ability to benefit from services-based utility computing, drive up costs and reduce quality of service. In other words, you either do services or you don’t. There is no halfway house.

Organisational
Services are the core of the IT organisation, and they need to be owned and governed by their own team, not engineering or technical operations. Services need to be owned in the same way as products, with their own governance and processes being adopted.

Experience tells us that a new organisation should own them. It’s tempting to give this to your engineering or technical operations teams, but it is a mistake as, in general, neither have the skill set required to successfully deliver this.

Cultural
The shift from CapEx-heavy to CapEx-light/OpEx is a significant shift in the way you will consume and use technology. Your technology organisation needs to understand the change to the consumption model, the financial implications of moving to services, and how they need to consume them.

Technical
Moving to a services-based model can significant improve efficiency across application development, technical operations and platform engineering, improving time to market, optimising utilisation, removing delays, reducing downtime, improving productivity – the list is (almost) endless.

Financial
The consumption-based financial model associated with services changes the way licensing, cost allocation and cost recovery are managed and, more importantly, controlled.

The payoff is significant

In our experience, moving to services offers the following improvements:

  1. Enhanced engagement with the business – they become the driver of change
  2. Delivery of business value based on business need
  3. Reduced cost through reduced wastage – focus on benefits delivery only
  4. Alternative, optimised delivery based on clear service goals and measurable standards
  5. Greater stability in technology terms, improved availability and maintainability improvements

The ability to focus on real value creation within the IT organisation is a compelling reason for moving to services-based models, outsourcing or consuming services that are benefit focused and delivered to pre-defined service level agreements (SLAs).

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