The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

The service integrator coming to businesses near you

Technical Reach To BusinessOne of the trends that’s been going on for a number of years is adding flexibility to an organization’s capabilities through variable access to resources from a variety of organizations. This multi-sourcing turns a corporation into an Ecosystem of service providers and in-house teams. This is nothing new and IaaS, SaaS… are the latest examples of this trend.

 

Over the last decade as more work is outsourced, the oversight of the various service providers has become a specialized service area in itself – much like the prime contractor role for construction. It’s not just about the provisioning of services though; the focus is on the on-going orchestration of services as well. Many times the Service Integrator (SI) accepts the software/hardware from the service providers into production for the client as their representative. The SI role is a business process (BPO) that’s been outsourced. They need to have expertise and focus on centralized management, becoming the “process owners” standardizing operational processes and ensuring an enterprise architecture exists and is implemented.

 

As businesses move to adopt hybrid cloud computing approaches, the skills of these Service Integrators should start to shine, since they will be experts in the delivery of end-to-end solutions that consistently deliver value. The dynamic nature of cloud is going to require specialized expertise that organizations will need to determine if they want to develop in-house or purchase from others – the assumption that it will be in-house is no longer valid.

 

Selecting a service integrator that can orchestrate a hybrid delivery model is not going to be easy since they will need to manage:

  • Multiple providers – not just the people but integrate the systems and measures (KPIs) as well. For example, you can’t drop service requests between providers just because their systems haven’t ever talked to each other before.
  • Processes – The SI will need to have well defined (and automated) processes that can span organizations as well. They need rigor and flexibility – a tough combination to maintain.
  • Thinking strategically and acting quickly – Since the service integrator is in it for the long haul, spanning the contracts of the other service organizations, the SI will need to be measured with metrics that are more strategic in nature. Since they are coordinating the response of others, the operational metrics will be applied as well. The diversity of focus for these metrics can cause conflict, so communications across the Ecosystem will be a key to success.
  • Sourcing and operational issues – The SI is brought in to allow the client to focus on strategic business issues so the SI needs to handle the technical concerns. Trust is the foundation for this relationship. Knowing the status of the current situation as well as progress toward corporate goals will be a characteristic of the successful SI.
  • Service development, management, improvement and operations – The SI needs to take charge and be a trusted advisor to the client on performance and payments to all the service providers.

There is no doubt that large firms possess many of the capability necessary to run the service integrator function internally. Many desire to retain this vital function in-house because they want to control the governance and solutioning model. The question that needs to be answered is if the IT service integration is core to their business and where they want to spend their internal resources. As the corporate Ecosystem becomes more complex, more specialized skills will be required. Investing in creating and maintaining those skills and tools needs to be an active decision. This is becoming a specialized skill that will prove to be tricky for many organizations.

 

The conflicts mentioned previously between operational and strategic focus, measures and integration are opportunities for innovation in service integration. Service integration specialization will enable an increasing level of flexibility for many organizations. 3rd party providers are going to bring skills to the market (and your business) that may be out of reach internally. The build/buy decision starts with a  fundamental assessment into how well your current sourcing strategy supports your IT operating model and then looks deeper to figure out how well your IT operating model supports the business strategy. The decision is formidable but bringing in a third party will challenge your organization and your service providers in how they price their work, reconcile conflicts of interest and qualify their provider. The service Integration role will turn into a critical success factor for enabling a more flexible and highly integrated instant-on future.

 

Naturally service integration is an are HP has been working in for years.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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