Update, don’t upgrade: It’s a codeless future

Johannesburg, 20 Oct 2021
Read time 4min 30sec

All software, regardless of device, has ongoing updates with new capabilities. Over and above affecting the productivity of the business, deploying these updates can have implications for data security. The trick is to make the new release process quick, easy and painless. Dean Clayton, ESM SaaS Product Manager at Micro Focus South Africa, says: “Business success in today’s rapidly digitising market depends on the ability to be agile in updating software with minimal downtime. Employees need – and expect – access to new functionality the minute it’s available.”

We’ve been talking about service management automation tools with codeless, low code and no code capabilities for a while. While all of the aforementioned exist, and everyone’s talking about them as a concept, Clayton feels it’s important to get businesses hands-on and allow them to experience it for themselves.

“Previously, service management was the domain of IT, but some of the responsibilities are being shifted to elsewhere in the business, taking the pressure off IT to manage everything and giving other people in other divisions administrative responsibilities.

“What this means for the business is that going forward, they won’t have to rely on having dedicated staff to develop mini applications or workflows to accommodate specific business cases. It also means that employees can work through updates, barely noticing that they’ve taken place.”

However, pushing service management across the entire company can be a daunting prospect. Instead, Clayton says businesses can take service management concepts and apply them to functions like HR, IT, facilities or finance. “This can be done gradually in bite-sized chunks, so that the fundamentals are automated, then other tasks incorporated over time. It’s not necessary to automate every single task from day one.”

Today’s codeless automated service management solutions create a level of abstraction between what the customer develops and the end result. Clayton clarifies: “Businesses always run on the latest release. So, for instance, if the release cycle is quarterly, customers expect to consume it straight away. An abstraction layer makes this possible because less effort is required by the administrative team.”

Normally, the team comes to a point where it needs to do an update before it can move to the next release, requiring a validation effort by administrators so they can customise the update to fit existing business processes. This usually means interrogating the extensive update notes to uncover the impact (if any) of applying the update.

Introducing the abstraction layer means that new capabilities might just need turning on and that they won’t disrupt existing processes. Where previously there would have been a time lapse while a release update was applied, now there’s no need for downtime when doing upgrades; the only downtime you get with service management automation is right at the end of applying the release update, much like restarting your mobile phone after a software upgrade.

He goes on to point out that new releases become updates and not upgrades. “Historically, this has been a pain point from a total cost of ownership perspective because the majority of products deployed between 2010 and 2018 were upgrade projects as a result of businesses having so-called legacy products.

“The bottom line is that you can’t consume and benefit from new capabilities released by the vendor unless you update,” says Clayton.

He also says it’s key to deliver service management as a SaaS product, to ensure high availability, limiting downtime and maintenance windows. “However, everything that’s offered as a service must also be rolled out to on-premises customers. They might prefer to deploy on-premises owing to regulatory requirements, for instance, and thus opt to maintain and manage it themselves. For this reason it’s key to offer the same capabilities to all customers.”

Clayton says there are two key factors that need to be considered from a TCO perspective – the abstraction layer and a codeless approach. “Businesses that have older (dare I say legacy) products might require a team of between 20 and 30 people to do the administrative tasks for the system. When they move to service management automation, the size of that team can be greatly reduced, freeing up skilled team members to focus on different things. Updating customisation and tailoring evolves into tool configuration, allowing the business to shift that responsibility to where it makes more sense.”

He cites the example of an employee needing assistance: “When an employee logs a request for support or a service, the service owners can do that themselves, they don’t need to escalate the request to a service administrator. Empowering each division to solve some of its own problems frees up the administrative team to focus on other key tasks within the business and speeds up service delivery to the end-user.”

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