IT Service Integration ... the mortar between the bricks

Published on LinkedIn and featured on the Pulse Technology Channel 9/4/2012

By 2020, it won't be about managing technology, it will about managing services
Within the world of IT - whether you are a provider or a consumer - by 2020 it will be about managing and integrating IT services. I always like to walk through a very simplistic example when talking about Service Integration - and something we all know and understand as a vital business service, managed by IT - Email.
Today, we take Email for granted - for most users, it just works - we get email on our computers, on our phones, on our tablets - we get notified in the office, or out on the road (and yes, even on vacation). In many cases, we are savvy users and have both our personal and professional email coming into various platforms, we filter, sort and file. In business, it has become the primary communications tool.
Here's the deal - from a user perspective, email is easy. Once setup, it works and is just there. For IT, email can be a complicated network of hardware, software, network, addresses, routing, security, filtering, storage, archiving. And if you are multi-region or multi-national, there are issues with compliance and regulations. For IT, the simple is hard.
Enter the external service provider (hosted, managed, cloud - based email services) - once again, from a user perspective, I just purchase the service, do my bit of setup, manage my reports and administration screens, and here we go, communicating with the world. Service Providers have the all the primary tools an IT group has, and more. I say that from a perspective that these service providers are for-profit businesses and need to manage quality of contracts, service, service level agreements, financial arrangements, customer services, along with the underlying technology.
To make the hard look easy, for the Service Provider (whether internal IT or external) requires integrating, not only technology, but services from multiple "sub-providers". The IT Services called Email is actually built upon dozens of services - it's like building a brick wall - each brink represents a technology, process, or service needing to be stacked in the proper place to ensure the wall has the strength required.
And we (IT professionals) move away from consuming technology (equipment and software) and begin consuming services - it is imperative to integrate those services, ensuring (1) the work together and (2) they can be managed. Service Integration is about bringing these functional IT services together and solving the business problem, not adding to it.
In the case of email, instead of placing our own servers and software in an owned data center, we now look at a third party to provide it as a service. But email only works if you have network access, now we include network access providers to the mix. And of course we all know the security risks associated with email, we add spam and filtering; Oh, and don't forget about regulatory and legal issues regarding record retention, backup and archive is critical. The list of "services" grows, including management of the end user community, and the associated access to a growing number of devices, many of which are not even owned by the company. Email has grown from a simple communication tool to an IT integration problem with dozens of services, service providers and processes - to deliver a "simple" IT service called Email.
Service Integration doesn't happen, it's planned.
Moving from owned technology, to services provided by third parties, is happening today at an ever increasing pace - in organizations of all sizes. And for some, the purchasing (or budget to purchase) has moved from the IT organization to the functional business - so who owns the integration of services? Who ultimately is responsible to ensure these services work within the larger picture of "technology" for the organization. The CFO wants his accounting systems to work, be able to produce the required analytics and reports; the CMO want so understand the marketing spend, the ROI, to report on the effectiveness of their activities; the VP Sales wants to manage the flow of information, help his sales organization close more deals, pushing the top line as high as possible; the CIO wants to manage IT, to innovate within corporate risk guidelines, pushing the envelope, but not becoming the next headline in the Wall Street Journal; the CEO walks the razor's edge of producing results without overheating the engine.
Each of these leaders has their agenda, each has requirements for technology to support it, but who is looking at how merge these agendas, integrate these services and manage them now and into the future? It won't happen by itself, it has to be planned and all these leaders will be involved, and the CIO needs to lead the charge.
Because, in less than 10 years, it will be about managing and integrating services, not technology.
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About the Author:
Arnie McKinnis has built his career as the "go to" guy for new ideas and innovation. He has spent his entire career taking "Playdough" and making real products and services out of it. He loves the process of melding often disparate "trends and ideas" and creating something completely different. He enjoys the chaotic nature of technology - the ever expanding and changing landscape.
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