Changing service model of IT departments
A recent CIO Web site article outlined 10 trends that CIOs need to accommodate in 2020. The first trend: “By 2024, 80% of digitally advanced organisations will replace the walled garden, IT-as-an-enabler model with a self-service model” deserves some attention.
The first thing to notice is that the trend applied to “digitally advanced organisations”. It could be argued that all businesses are, to some extent, digital in nature. Advanced digital organisations, however, are actively transforming both themselves and their products and services. There may be three types of IT departments in these organisations: those where the IT departments are enabling this digital transformation, or even leading the transformation; those that are trying to keep up with the transformation; or indeed, those that act as “the abdominal no-men” – keeping digital transformation back by saying “no” a lot of the time, either because they have legacy systems that they can’t change, or because they haven’t the resources, or perhaps because they haven’t woken up yet and smelled the roses.
Each of these three types of IT departments should, however, revisit their service models. The old “plan-build-run” service model is outdated. Modern IT departments are adopting a model that has three layers: They focus on platform capabilities – the facilities needed to support their organisation. They also focus on organisational culture and capabilities – if the organisation is transforming, they concentrate on the capabilities needed to enable that transformation; and finally, they focus on products and customer experience – the externally facing tech needed to generate revenue. Each layer supports the next – the platform supports the organisation, which supports its products and services. And strategic initiatives flow in the other direction – the products and services dictate the organisational capabilities, which dictate the platform.
The “platform” is more than just the hardware and software needed to run the organisation – it is everything that is required to support the organisation.
In providing platform services, IT is required to provide industrial-strength functionality: Many CIOs of transforming companies have told us that business partners are eager to implement a new technology or service without considering the operational, security, provisioning, data, integration and capacity ramifications. Providing these operational features requires CIOs to move away from acting as a brake on developments to looking to how these services can be provided as part of their offering.
Cloud application platforms are also opportunities for IT to enable transformation. One IT department known to us has a group of people whose role is to find useful technologies in the cloud and to make them available to their organisation – they call themselves “the finders”. They also ensure security and interface issues are attended to, and display the available apps on an internal portal that users can access, and importantly, rate. The rating system acts as an internal filter, allowing the best apps to self-select after a short period. This IT department also uses the portal to provide user hardware suggestions that the “finders” have evaluated and found to be compliant. Again the rating system ensures self-selection operates for user hardware. Finally, the portal is linked to the requisition system and the CMDB, which automates and tracks hardware and software in use by the organisation. These self-service portals allow IT to track user interest, activities and spend as a background activity.
One other form of “platform” is training and education. Some IT departments have set up a portal – based on popular free education sites – that provides online courses, videos, and Webinars available to users in their own time and in privacy (many executives are reluctant to attend public training sessions). Graded courses move from “fluency level” through to expert level. Again, CIOs can use the portal to track user interests and accommodate them with further training if needed.
In all of these platform facilities, self-service is essential. Such services are not only to empower users, but also to reduce shadow IT. Shadow IT is usually underestimated by CIOs by a factor of four or five. This is when users help themselves by acquiring or accessing services outside the organisation. This practice introduces security risks for the organisation and increases costs as there is often duplication of apps and data. Importantly, this data is unavailable to the rest of the organisation.
Those CIOs who have not revisited their service models recently would do well to do so, and in the process, let the organisation service themselves on their digital transformation journey.