Everything as a service

Instrument the world?


Workshop The influence of IT in everyday business operations continues to increase. Until a few years ago business operations could be conveniently split between those that involved computer systems somewhere in the business process and those that had no dependence on them at all.

Sure there was overlap in, for example, manufacturing operations, where dedicated real time systems were hard coded to perform a specified set of instructions. But by and large these tended to operate in isolation from ‘conventional business IT’.

Equally, many of the mechanical systems that were used to control buildings such as heating, hot water etc. may have used some form of computerised management system but again these did not interact a great deal with mainstream IT platforms.

Today, at a technical level, control systems are developing rapidly. An increased alignment between control technologies and mainstream IT management tools. We could instrument almost any element of a service and to use it to help manage its delivery: from the CPU resources consumed all the way through to the power and cooling used to create that service. It is now possible to combine operational and IT service management under one roof. But just because it’s possible doesn’t mean they will be.

The question that really needs to be considered is: would combining the ability to manage such diverse services offer any compelling business advantages? The generic answer is ‘yes’ – more consistent management and monitoring in general and better control over assets used in/by services are two areas which many organisations don’t have a great handle on today. But here’s a simple reason why this convergence won’t happen overnight: your average white collar IT guy and your average blue collar operational service guy: somewhat different beasts no?

This again raises the question of just what is a ‘service’? In theory, it will become possible to consider almost any granular function a service. It will also force the question of whose job it should be to monitor, manage and report on ‘service delivery’. As IT becomes pervasive throughout the organisation and the services it offers/uses, will IT administrators pick up yet more responsibilities? Or will business service managers displace IT administrators?

For what it is worth we don’t think that ‘service everywhere’ will become the norm, certainly not any time soon. Instead, we will go through a period of experimentation in general, and perhaps see more of the convergence we discussed above in the industries which do have higher ratios of IT kit intertwined in their operations services. We’ll find new orders of service definition and management - mostly IT based but many including operational systems components and services and the IT department will continue doing what it always has – getting on with the job, regardless of what the rest of us outside the door decide to call it.

As this is the last article in this workshop series, we’d like to say thanks to everyone who left comments over the last 4 weeks. Your final mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell us if you have witnessed any of this so-called ‘service convergence’, either by ‘natural creep’ or via some crazy initiative from on high. Hasta luego.


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