I’ve been terribly lax with my posting of late due to pressures of work but thought I had best try and put something up just to keep my blog (barely) alive, lol. Following on from my previous posts on Cloud Computing and Service Delivery Platforms I thought I would go the extra step and actually talk about my views on Industrialisation in the platform and service delivery spaces. I made this grand decision since my last post included a reference to a presentation that I did in Redmond last year and so I thought it would be useful to actually tell the story as well as just punt up the slides (which can be pretty meaningless without a description). In addition there’s also been a huge amount of coverage of both cloud computing, platform as a service and industrialisation lately and so it seemed like revisiting the content of that particular presentation would be a good idea. If I’m honest I also have to admit that I can largely just rip the notes out of the slideset for a quick post, but I don’t feel too guilty given that it’s a hot topic, lol. I’ll essentially split this story across three posts: part I will cover why I believe Industrialisation is critical to supporting agility and reliability in the new business environment, part II will cover my feelings on how we can approach the industrialisation of business service delivery and part III will look at the way in which industrialisation accelerates the shift to shared Service Delivery Platforms (or PaaS or utility computing or cloud computing – take your pick).
The Industrialisation Imperative
So why do I feel that IT industrialisation is so important? Well essentially I believe that we’re on the verge of some huge changes in the IT industry and that we’re only just seeing the very earliest signs of these through the emergence of SOA, Web 2.0 and SaaS/PaaS. I believe that organisations are going to be forced to reform and disaggregate and that technology will become increasingly commoditised. Essentially I believe that we all need to recognise these trends and learn the lessons of industrialisation from other more mature industries – if we can’t begin to deliver IT that is rapid, reliable, cost effective and – most importantly – guaranteed to work then what hope is there? IT has consistently failed to deliver expected value time and time again through an obsession with technology for it’s own sake and the years of cost overruns, late delivery and unreliability are well documented; too often projects seem to ignore the lessons of history and start from ground zero. This has got to change. Service orientation is allowing us to express IT in ways that are closer to the business than ever before, reducing the conceptual gap that has allowed IT to hide from censure behind complexity. Software as a Service is starting to prove that there are models that allow us to deliver the same function to many people with lower costs born of economies of scale and we’re all going to have to finally recognise that everyone is not special, that they don’t need that customisation or tailoring for 80% of what they do and that SOAs assistance in refocusing on business value will draw out the lunacy of many IT investments.
In this three part post I therefore want to share some of my ideas around how we can industrialise IT. Firstly, I’m going to talk about the forces that are acting on organisations that will drive increasing specialisation and disaggregation and go onto to discuss business capabilities and how they accelerate the commoditisation of IT. Secondly, I’m going to discuss approaches to the industrialisation of service delivery and look at the different levels of industrialisation that need to be considered. Finally I’ll talk about how the increasing commoditisation and standardisation of IT will accelerate the process of platform consolidation and the resulting shift towards models that recognise the essentially scale based economics of IT platform provision.
The Componentisation of Business
Over the last 100 years we’ve seen a gradual shift towards concentration on smaller levels of business organisation due to the decreasing costs of executing transactions with 3rd parties. Continuing discontinuities around the web are sending these transaction costs into free fall, however, and we believe that this is going to trigger yet another reduction in business aggregation and cause us to focus on a smaller unit of business granularity – the capability (for an early post on this subject see here).
Essentially I believe that there are four major forces that will drive organisations to transform in this way:
1) Accelerating change;
2) Increasing commoditisation; and
3) Rapidly decreasing collaboration costs due to the emergence of the web as a viable global business network.
I’ll consider each in turn.
As the rate of change increases, so adaptability becomes a key requirement for survival. Most organisations are currently not well suited for this challenge, however, as they have structures carried over from a different age based on forward planning and command and control – they essentially focus inwards rather than outwards. The lack of systematic design in most organisations means that they rarely understand clearly how value is delivered and so cannot change effectively in response to external demand shifts. In order to become adaptable, however, organisations need to systematically understand what capabilities they need to satisfy demand and how these capabilities combine to deliver value – a systematic view enables us to understand the impact of change and to reconfigure our capabilities in response to shifts in external demand.
This capability based view is also extremely important in addressing the shrinking commoditisation cycle. Essentially consumers are now able to instantly compare our goods and services with those from other companies – and switch just as quickly. A capability-based view enables us to ensure that we remove repetition and waste across organisational silos and replace these with shared capabilities to maximise our returns, both while the going is good but also when price sensitivity begins to bite.
Decreasing Transaction Costs
The final shift is to use our clearer view of the capabilities we need to begin thinking about those that are truly differentiating – the market will be putting such pressure on us to excel that we will be driven to take advantage of falling transaction costs and the global nature of the web to replace our non-differentiating capabilities with those of specialised partners, simultaneously increasing our focus, improving our overall proposition and reducing costs.
As a result of these drivers we view business capabilities as a key concept in the way in which we need to approach the industrialisation of services.
Componentisation Through Business Capabilities
So I’ve talked a lot about capabilities – how do they enable us to react to the discontinuities that I’ve discussed? Well to address the issues of adaptability and understand which things we want to do and which we want to unbundle we really need a way of understanding what the component parts of our organisation are and what they do.
Traditionally organisations use business processes, organisational structures or IT architectures as a way of expressing organisational design – perhaps all three if they use an enterprise architecture method. The big problem with these views, however, is that they tell us very little about what the combined output actually is – what is the thing that is being done, the essential business component that is being realised? Yes I understand that there are some people doing stuff using IT but what does it all amount to? Even worse, these views of the business are all inherently unstable since they are expressions of how things get done at a point in time; as a result they change regularly and at different rates and therefore make trying to understand the organisation a bit like catching jelly – you might get lucky and hold it for a second but it’ll shift and slip out of your grasp. This means that leaders within the organisation lack a consistent decision making framework and see instead a constantly shifting mass of incomplete and inconsistent detail that make it impossible to make well reasoned strategic decisions.
Capabilities bring another level of abstraction to the table; they allow us to look at the stable, component parts of the organisation without worrying about how they work. This gives us the opportunity to concentrate systematically on what things the organisation needs to do – in terms of outputs and commitments – without concerning ourselves with the details of how these commitments will be realised. This enables enterprise leaders to concentrate on what is required whilst delegating implementation to managers or partners. Essentially they are an expression of intent and express strategy as structure. Capabilities are then realised by their owners using a combination of organisational structures, role design, business processes and technology – all of which come together to deliver to the necessary commitments.
In this particular example we see the capability from both the external and internal perspectives – from the perspective of the business designer and the consumer the capability is a discrete component that has a purpose – in this case enabling us to check credit histories – and a set of metrics – for simplicity we’ve included just service level, cost and channels. From the perspective of the capability owner, however, the capability consists of all of the different elements needed to realise the external commitments.
So how does a shift to capabilities affect the relationship between the organisation and its IT provision?
IT Follows Move from “How” to “What”
One of the big issues for us all is that a concentration on capabilities will begin to push technology to the bottom of the stack – essentially it becomes much more commoditised.
Capability owners will now have a much tighter scope in the form of a well defined purpose and set of metrics; this gives them greater clarity and leaves them able to look for rapid and cost effective realisation rather than a mismash of hardware, software or packages that they then need to turn into something that might eventually approximate to their need. Furthermore the codification of their services will expose them far more clearly to the harsh realities of having to deliver well defined value to the rest of the organisation and they will no longer be able to ‘lose’ the time and cost of messing about with IT in the general noise of a less focused organisation.
As a result capability owners will be looking for two different things:
1) Is there anyone who can provide this capability to me externally to the level of performance that I need – for instance SaaS or BPU offering available on a usage or subscription basis; or
2) Failing that who can help me to realise my capability as rapidly, reliably and cost effectively as possible.
The competition is therefore increasingly going to move away from point technologies – which become increasingly irrelevant – and move towards the delivery of outcomes using a broad range of disciplines tightly integrated into a rapid capability realisation platform.
Such realisation platforms – which I have been calling Service Delivery Platforms to denote their holistic nature – require us to bring infrastructure, application, business and service management disciplines into an integrated, reliable and scalable platform for capability realisation, reflecting the fact that service delivery is actually an holistic discipline and not a technology issue. Most critically – at least from our perspective – this platform needs to be highly industrialised; built from repeatable, reliable and guaranteed components in the infrastructure, application, business and service dimensions to guarantee successful outcomes to our customers.
So what would a Service Delivery Platform actually look like?
A Service Delivery Platform
In this picture I’ve surfaced a subset of the capabilities that I believe are required in the creation of a service delivery platform suitable for enterprise use – I’m not being secretive, I just ran out of room and so had to jettison some stuff.
If we start at the bottom we can see that we need to have highly scalable and templatised infrastructure that allows us to provide capacity on demand to ensure that we can meet the scaling needs of capability owners as they start to offer their services both inside and outside the organisation.
Above this we have a host of runtime capabilities that are needed to manage services running within the environment – identity management, provisioning, monitoring to ensure that delivered services meet their service levels, metering to support various monetisation strategies both from our perspective and from the capability owners perspective, audit and non-repudiation and brokering to external services in order to keep tabs on their performance for contractual purposes.
Moving up we have a number of templatised hosting engines – essentially we need to break the service space down using a classification to ensure that we are able to address different kinds of services effectively. These templates are essentially virtual machines that have services deployed into them and which are then delivered on the virtualised hardware; essentially the infrastructure becomes part of the service to decouple services both from each other and physical space.
The top level in the centre area is what we call service enablement. In this tier we essentially have a whole host of services that make the environment workable – examples that we were able to fit in here are service catalogue, performance reporting, subscription management – the whole higher level structure that brings services into the wider environment in a consistent and consumable way.
Moving across the left we can see that in order to deliver services developers will need to have standardised and templatised shared development support environments to support collaboration, process enablement and asset management.
Across on the right we have operational support – this is where we place our ITIL/ISO 20000 service management processes and personnel to ensure that all services are treated as assets – tracked, managed, reported upon, capacity managed etc etc.
On the far right we have a business support set of capabilities that support customer queries about services, how much they’ve been charged and where we also manage partners, perform billing or carry out any certification activity if we want to create new templates for inclusion in the overall platform.
Finally across the top we have what I call the ‘service factory’ – a highly templatised modelling and development environment that drives people from a conceptual view of the capabilities to be realised down through a process of service design, realisation and deployment against a set of architectural and development patterns represented in DSLs. These DSLs could be combinations of UML profiles, little languages or full DSLs implemented specifically for the service domain.
In this post I have discussed my views on the way in which businesses will be forced to componentise and specialise and how this kind of thinking changes the relationship between a business capability and its IT support. I’ve also briefly highlighted some of the key features that would need to be present within an holistic and industrialised Service Delivery Platform in order to increase the speed, reliability and cost effectiveness of delivering service realisations. In the next post I’ll to move into the second part of the story where I’ll look more specifically at realising the industrialisation of service delivery through the creation of an SDP.