Enterprises realized value in IT shared services organizations for the past three decades. Over the past two years, I’ve delved into the nuances of capturing the promise of digital transformation. As I think about the impact of digital transformation on shared services, it becomes clear that shared services are in for substantial changes.
I blogged before about SaaS and SaaS-like products driving the collapse of the IT technology stack (server, operating system, middleware, applications, etc.). For those of you who have not read or can’t remember what I wrote, the following is a quick recap. Much of the innovation in technology over the last few years has been aimed at integrating and automating the IT stack. For example, SaaS combines the infrastructure middle layer of the database and applications layer into a single consumable product. In doing this, it automates and integrates many otherwise automatous components, resulting in lower TCO and tighter alignment with business functions. It may be less clear that this same collapsing IT stack will inevitably set in motion other significant changes in both the enterprise IT organization and it business model.
Enterprises created IT shared services organizations to centralize IT functions, professionalize services and sell high-quality services back to the enterprise at lower prices. The concept worked well improving the reliability and performance of IT, lowering unit cost of IT components and creating a professional team of technology experts for the wider organization to rely on. These enterprise IT functions naturally aligned around the technologies they supported broadly organized by infrastructure, middle ware, application maintained, application development, security, project management and so forth. Each functional team organizes around creating high quality functional services which are then resold to the broader organization. All of this makes a great deal of sense until we consider the collapsing stack which now integrates and automates much of what the functional teams currently do.