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Disturbing elements

Disturbing elements

Adoption of SaaS will inevitably lead to an IT management revamp, with an accompanying shift of focus from assets to processes.

It has become increasingly clear that organisations are expanding their adoption of software as a service (SaaS), service-oriented architecture (SOA), open-source software and utility computing infrastructure. Individually, each of these technology disruptors signals an evolutionary change in existing IT infrastructure. For most user organisations, however, these four are linked, with the result that adoption of any of these four technology disruptors will almost certainly result in adoption of the others. But it is rare that each is co-ordinated to be managed effectively as part of a larger, holistic IT and business strategy. Users need to realise that adoption of one disruptive influence will have cascading impacts, if considered in the context of multiple, simultaneous disruptive influences.

These disruptors tend to be introduced and managed as separate projects. The results can be extremely disruptive to IT and business unless there is a co-ordinated governance approach to the way they are managed. Unfortunately, for most user enterprises, the adoption of these technology disruptors requires that traditional IT infrastructure must undergo multiple and lasting changes. Such evolving IT infrastructure demands that IT management practices and skills evolve concurrently.

User organisation adoption of one of these four key technology disruptors will lead to concurrent adoption of one or more additional disruptors. Thus, a decision to adopt any or all of the four technology disruptors will lead to the same changes in IT infrastructure and in the processes and skills required to manage it and the need for co-ordinated management. For example, adoption of a SaaS offering may entail:

* An implementation of a utility computing infrastructure, because most SaaS offerings are provisioned and priced based on a usage model.

* An initiation of an SOA structure, because many SaaS developers have utilised SOA frameworks to facilitate support and future enhancements.

* The adoption of more open-source software, since an increasing proportion of SaaS offerings include or are built upon open-source software.

While some skills (for example, systems support for legacy applications and platforms) will continue to be required in any new hybrid infrastructure, others (such as service-level agreement negotiation) will be new to many traditional organisations.

Evolutionary processes

Not only will IT infrastructure change - IT management will need to change as well. The cascading impacts of these four core technology disruptors will demand that traditional IT infrastructures and associated management processes evolve from being focused on assets (servers, networks, databases, applications) to being focused on processes (sales commission accounting, customer relationship management). Given past significant IT infrastructure changes (PC proliferation, client-server, web services), it can take years for IT management to catch up to IT reality. Since IT management tends to be the single largest IT cost, it quickly becomes apparent that management is where user enterprises need to focus their efforts.

Accordingly, IT management team skills must evolve to being focused on the areas of finance, operational business and vendor relationship management. User organisations would also be wise to investigate and pursue outsourced management capabilities and services, especially in a SaaS context. And as more IT and business operations become hybridised - that is, blended in-house and outsourced services-based - management should follow.

Traditional full-service vendors (for example, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Unisys) are beginning to understand the implications of the changes customer IT organisations must undergo and are developing services to assist in the evolution. The greatest opportunity is likely be in developing and adapting management roadmaps of services and solutions to guide executives through the increasingly complex, hybrid IT environment. Several vendors have put together component IT and business management models that do a good job of illustrating pieces of the puzzle, showing where different pieces tend to fit - but roadmap-style, turn-by-turn navigational assistance is still lacking.

It is expected that some of the most successful vendors in this area of co-ordinated management will be providers of SaaS integration platforms, business services and ecosystems. Such providers will enable organisations to shift significant sections of IT, services and process management outside the firewall where they can be co-ordinated and integrated by one or more third party providers. Ultimately, key aspects of IT and business management will become services themselves.

Chris Morris is an independent IT industry analyst and consultant working in the Asia-Pacific region.

© Fairfax Business Media

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