Tag: enterprise IT as-a-service

Demand Management Is Made Possible through as-a-Service Model | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Demand management has been the unicorn of enterprise IT – something frequently talked about but rarely seen and never captured. Every centralized IT organization would love the ability to accurately manage user demand. It would provide tremendous return if it were possible; but to date it has been largely or completely thwarted in large enterprise IT organizations. But there’s good news, thanks to the as-a-service model.

The reason demand management has been thwarted is that IT is organized on a functional basis; the data center, servers, network, purchasing, and security app development and maintenance are all defined functionally. IT leaders are held responsible for driving out cost and building capability that is shared by multiple departments. The problem is there is no relationship between demand and supply capability because business users don’t understand how to measure their usage/demand.

When IT asks business users how many servers they you use, their response is often “How many did we use last time?” Or when IT asks how many programmers will you use and why, business user typically respond with “We need 10 percent more than we had last time.” There is no relationship between actual demand and the actual demand drivers and the estimates they must provide to IT. This is a hopeless and fruitless exercise. It’s like a broken clock that is right only twice a day. This demand estimate is doomed to be wrong every day.

So what’s the answer? We need a service construct where IT is organized into service models. This construct gives business users a way to understand their usage or demand. For example, a healthcare payer understands how many people it expects to enroll. This is a metric the business can use to predict usage and the time frame in which they will need the service. IT can then manage the demand for the service it provides to the payer based on the number of enrollments.

When companies organize IT along service lines, they can translate business activities into technical consumption. The as-a-service construct attempts to make as much of its service chain or supply chain as elastic as possible. It adjusts each part of the supply chain to the usage demand. So unlike the traditional functional IT structure, business users only pay for what they use.

There are three mechanisms to make a technology or service elastic:

  • Share it (such as AWS); when you’re not using it, someone else is
  • Automate it; spin it up, do the work, and shut it down
  • Buy it on a consumption basis

Typically, as-a-service providers use all three of these techniques to allow them to use their full service stack with the business metrics that the technique serves.

The as-a-service model achieves one of the Holy Grails of centralized IT – it provides a realistic demand management vehicle where the business can make accurate estimates. It also provides paying for the services only when they are used; this is the consumption-based model that the services industry is moving to.

Demand management to date has been completely illusive to centralized IT because of the take-or-pay nature of IT. This method for building capability – and business users sharing the cost to be able to use it – has no connection to business metrics that the business can control and understand how to estimate their technology capacity/demand. But the good news is the as-a-service model puts a rope around the unicorn. It creates the ultimate answer to demand management.

Three Ways Services Customers Can Switch to as-a-Service Model | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

As the services industry begins moving into the as-a-service era customers look for providers that change their traditional services to make them elastic or consumption based. We at Everest Group have spent some time studying this, and we believe there are three key ways to change take-or-pay (fixed costs oriented) services and make them elastic (pay as used). One or even a combination of all three ways are present in the services model that customers now demand.

1. Multitenant sharing

Customers benefit from a provider sharing its capacity among multiple clients. AWS and Salesforce are classic examples of this elastic type of service. They redeploy servers or capacity when not in use to other customers and therefore achieve an extremely high utilization rate. In fact, arguably, AWS has over 100 percent utilization rate because it can charge customers for capacity when they’re not using it, yet can use that capacity for other clients. The model is much like an airline selling more seats than its actual capacity.

2. Automation

Repeatable process automation (RPA) or robotics spins up a virtual robot to do the work and then shut it down again. This fundamentally aligns a customer’s costs with usage and thus makes the service elastic.

3. Change purchasing method

The third way customers can have elastic services is to change their purchasing so that they only buy services as they use them. An example of this would be changing the way a customer acquires software, switching from enterprise licenses to consumption-based licenses where the customer pays for the software only as they use it. A note of caution here for customers: Although this makes the service elastic to you, there may be a stranded cost to your provider, and that cost may be embedded at a higher cost to you in your cost structure. So be careful about overly using the purchasing mechanism to make a component of your IT service stack be elastic.

Although customers can use these three methods separately, it is also beneficial to look for service providers that use a combination of all three methods to make a material difference to an entire service line to make the service far more flexible and consumption based to meet your needs.

We have not uncovered other mechanisms to make a provider’s service line elastic, but we are very interested to know if you have discovered another way to achieve elastic services. Please post your comment and share your experience.


Photo credit: Flickr

The Empire Strikes Back in the Services World | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

I’ve been blogging about the changing world of services and how the growth is in the SaaS and BPaaS space. However, capturing SaaS and BPaaS opportunities is incredibly frustrating for large service providers, especially incumbents. Their efforts to win these deals often end up like David defeating Goliath.

That’s because, for the most part, customers select the new players in the SaaS and BPaaS space, like Salesforce and ServiceNow, instead of existing providers. This is similar to where we were in the dot-com era with startups threatening to sweep away the traditional players. Why is this happening?

Two frustrating challenges for providers

First, SaaS and BPaaS tend to originate in SMB markets, which is not where the revenue is for the large incumbent service providers; large enterprises adopt SaaS and BPaaS as point solutions. As point solutions, SaaS and BPaaS hold relatively modest opportunities for large providers’ growth and revenue.

Secondly, SaaS and BPaaS offerings are based on a different business model. The as-a-service business model requires a complete rethink of traditional service providers’ delivery systems. This forces providers to move to either a multitenant environment with all the implicit change management issues for clients, or to an automated vehicle that is likely still in the early stage.

Like the Star Wars movie saga, the empire will strike back

At Everest Group, we believe that now, as happened in the dot-com era, the empire will strike back. We think the way this will happen is through switching to an Enterprise IT-as-a-Service model. Borrowing from the Star Wars movie, we believe the dominant providers will strike back and reassert their role in services.

Instead of coming at IT services from a point solution and multitenant environment like SaaS and BPaaS, Enterprise IT-as-a-Service moves the entire service supply chain, component by component, into an as-a-service model. Rather than trying to have the entire supply chain operate on a single platform, it allows enterprises to migrate the individual components – data center, platform, talent factory, software licensing, etc. – into a supply chain model with components aligned with service lines.

Not all providers will be able to make this change, but those that do will be able to flourish and reignite their growth. The Enterprise IT-as-a-Service model favors large incumbent providers over startup SaaS and BPaaS providers.

SaaS models are most robust in SMBs. In the large enterprise, they manifest as point solutions, thus breaking the Dillinger principle – you rob banks because that’s where the money is. Service providers go after large deals in large enterprises because that’s where the money is.

Increasingly, the investment thesis on Wall Street favors the SaaS and BPaaS providers and rewards them with higher valuations because of their potential to disrupt industries. But we think the empire has a good chance of striking back. Traditional providers’ existing knowledge of the enterprise environment and ability to orchestrate the entire supply chain through the Enterprise IT-as-a-Service model will be favored over the SaaS and BPaaS players entering the market.

SaaS versus Enterprise IT as-a-Service | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

New business models are capturing growth and stand to reshape the services industry. Two of the most promising of these are SaaS and “Enterprise IT as-a-Service.” Buyers need to understand that each model takes a different approach to delivering services; their risks also are not the same, and each approach has different consequences.

They are the same in one aspect: both models attempt to change the relationship of IT to the business by better aligning the IT environment to the customer or business needs and making the IT infrastructure more agile and responsive to changes in the business environment. So the prize is better alignment to business value, more responsiveness, shorter time to get new functionality, and more efficient use of IT dollars.

But how they deliver that prize is very different.

SaaS approach

The SaaS promise is strong on efficiency gains. SaaS is inherently a multitenant-leveraged approach in which common platforms are built, standard functionality is developed and is allowed to be configured to a customer’s needs. The platforms come with flexible, powerful APIs that allow the SaaS offerings to be integrated into enterprise systems. But at its heart, SaaS is a one-size-fits-all, unyielding standard. Efficiency gains in a SaaS approach come from having many customers use the same software and hardware, limiting customization through configuration and APIs.

SaaS apps are typically function-based, so they evolve quickly. When the SaaS owner brings innovations, it does so in one stable environment, not having to update or take into account very diverse environments that traditional software packages must accommodate. Therefore, SaaS delivers rapid changes in functionality that benefit the entire ecosystem. In contrast, the traditional software model evolves much more slowly and imposes constant requirements for upgrades that are both expensive and have knock-on consequences for the systems that integrate with them.

Enterprise IT as-a-Service approach

The Enterprise IT as-a-Service model takes a supply-chain approach, moving each component of the supply chain into an as-a-service model. This allows the whole supply chain to be better aligned. It loosely couples each part of the supply chain, allowing each component to evolve and allowing the supply chain to capture the benefits as each component evolves at its own pace.

Similarity in benefits

Both models deliver similar flexibility and agility benefits, but they achieve them in different ways. The Enterprise IT as-a-Service model allows far more customization than the SaaS model. It assembles components into a customized end-to-end offering, whereas a SaaS vehicle achieves those aims through API configuration.

Both models also achieve similar benefits in cost savings. Both approaches can achieve significant efficiencies. SaaS achieves this through high leverage over an unyielding standard. The Enterprise IT as-a-service approach achieves efficiencies partly through reducing the over-capacity that all functional-driven IT departments maintain inside their ecosystem.

Substantial differences in cost, risk, and technical requirements

The two models differ substantially in cost, risk, and technical depth. The risk and technical depth to adopt a SaaS vehicle can be very substantial, particularly if it’s a system of records. Existing systems of records come with substantial technical depth in terms of the integration of the system, unamortized assets and also ongoing software licenses. In moving from that environment over to SaaS, organizations often face substantial write-downs and a risky implementation.

The risk is different in the Enterprise IT as-a-service model in that it can be managed component by component. Organizations can achieve substantial flexibility by not having to move off existing systems of records or existing software. Those platforms can be migrated down this path, therefore lessening the technical debt and presenting a different risk profile.

Which approach is better?

I believe that both approaches are important to the future of IT. At the moment, large enterprises adopt SaaS mostly as point solutions. Enterprise IT as-a-service poses the opportunity to operate at the enterprise level, not at a point-solution level.

I don’t believe the two approaches are mutually exclusive and expect that organizations will embrace both capabilities over time.

Customers Changing Core Objectives for Services Industry and IT Delivery | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

There is a secular shift occurring within IT services. Many businesses are shifting from functional orientation – where cost and reliability are the key objectives – to a new focus where business value and cycle time are the new objective functions. This shift has big and very serious implications for organizations that encompass the technologies they use and the third-party services ecosystem they use to meet these needs. Accommodating these needs requires a significant rethink of traditional IT delivery, whether it’s through internal centralized IT services or third-party IT services.

Cost and reliability are still important; but these are now secondary issues and no longer dominant issues. C-level executives now drive IT spend. They increasingly focus on aligning IT and business value with the voice of the end user/customer as well as the speed at which IT can make changes and respond to the business needs.

I’ve blogged many times over the last few years, observing this shift of influence out of centralized IT into the rest of the organization (business units, CFO, CMO, etc.) These powerful stakeholders now believe technology more than ever is central to their moves to change the game. They want better value – technology that meets their needs and also responds far more quickly to their needs.

Functional IT structures has disciplines that frustrate these stakeholders because:

  • Projects or initiatives take too long (often a year to 18 months) for them to get the functionalities/capabilities
  • IT often focuses on how to do those functionalities cost-effectively instead of focusing on the customer or user experience and the value derived from that.

Therefore, their requirements can’t be met through a traditional structure of IT where technology orientation is based on functions (data centers, applications maintenance, application development, etc.).

To accommodate the change in demands – the new core objectives – enterprise IT must realign by service lines and have persistent teams that align from end to end on the service lines that focus on achieving business value instead of aligning on performing excellence in a functional way.

Therefore, organizations are rethinking their IT services and a new Enterprise IT-as-a-Service model is taking off. I’ll discuss this new model in upcoming blog posts. The implications are profound for internal services as well as third-party IT services.


Photo credit: Flickr

Health Net – Centene Merger Leaves a (Slightly) Bitter Pill for Cognizant | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

On July 2, managed healthcare companies Centene and Health Net announced a merger in a cash-and-stock deal valued at US$6.8 billion, becoming the latest deal in an intensifying wave of consolidation in healthcare. The agreement has been approved by both companies’ Board of Directors and is expected to close in early 2016. The deal combines the two companies, with the joint entity having more than 10 million members and an estimated US$37 billion in revenue this year. The large-scale reform of US healthcare (instigated by the Affordable Care Act) was never expected to be a smooth and genteel affair. One of the immediate impacts was provider consolidation as health systems (which had endemic cost and profitability issues) looked for scale, efficiency, and lean cost structures. A similar trend was also expected in the payer space, but the rollout of the Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX), which operationalized last year, delayed the eventual M&A frenzy. Last month, America’s numero uno insurer, UnitedHealth Group (UHG), approached the number three, Aetna. The latter responded by buying number four, Humana, for $37 billion on July 3, capping a seminal week for mega mergers in health insurance. Humana was earlier reported to be close to a similar deal with Cigna. The second largest, Anthem, is in the midst of a messy takeover attempt as it relentlessly pursues the number five, Cigna (which rejected an initial US$47.5 billion bid). We covered the potential impact of the potential UHG-Aetna and Anthem-Cigna deals on IT services in a blog soon after the first rumors started floating.

Collateral damage – the Cognizant story

The announcement comes at an extremely inopportune time for Cognizant. The company had announced (with much fanfare) a marquee seven-year US$2.7 billion deal with Health Net last August. The engagement was unique in multiple ways. Along with Accenture’s Rio Tinto deal, it is the flag bearer of a bold new deal construct, which epitomizes the fundamental tenets of the As-a-Service economy and widely expected to herald the era of a consumption-based IT services model. Under the terms of the seven-year master services agreement (MSA), Cognizant was to provide a wide gamut of services to Health Net across consulting, technology, and administrative areas spanning claims management, membership and benefits configuration, customer contact center services, information technology, QA, appeals & grievances, and medical management support. Cognizant was to be held responsible for meeting specific SLA targets for improving the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of multiple operating metrics. These included claims processing and routing times, customer contact center response times, and contact center customer satisfaction targets. In effect, a fairly wide ranging set of services with ambitious KPIs for accountability and governance.

The planned implementation was scheduled to begin in mid-2015. Given the Centene-Health Net deal, the implementation is being deferred, while the deal is completed pending the merger review and approval process. As a result, Cognizant does not expect any contribution (previously pegged at about US$100 million in H2 CY2015) from the deal, which the company can easily absorb without tempering its ambitious revenue guidance for the current financial year. Additionally, it also foresees that if the merger is completed, the existing MSA is not likely to be implemented, which (if it materializes) will be a major setback. Cognizant will still remain a strategic technology/operations partner to Health Net (under a prior contract) through 2020 with a total contract value (TCV) of about US$520 million. Cognizant has also negotiated the right to license certain Health Net IP for use in its solutions and “As-a-Service”platforms, which is not expected to be impacted by the proposed merger.

Looking ahead, despite the short-term loss of US$100 million incremental revenue, Cognizant’s CFO Karen McLoughlin has reaffirmed 2015 guidance as strength in other areas of the business are expected to offset the lost revenue. 2015 revenue is expected to be at least US$12.24 billion with non-GAAP EPS at least US$2.93. Overall, the contract was expected to be margin dilutive in the early years and in generally only “margin neutral over the long run.

Lessons for the services world 

As overall macroeconomic confidence is on the upswing and various industry drivers come into play, the M&A activity is only bound to intensify. This has a profound implication for service providers who are deeply entrenched in such large enterprises and need to be prepared to come out on top of any eventuality. One potential impact of such M&A is the tendency for the combined entity to rationalize its vendor portfolio – choosing to stick to a short list of key strategic vendors by trimming the sourcing pie. The selection criteria for vendors then boils down to specific value-differentiators, maturity of service portfolio, senior management relationships, competitive positioning, and account-level exposure. Technology/operations budgets also tend to shrink as enterprises leverage economy of scale and target operational efficiency.

The following image illustrates the current exposure of key service providers across UHG, Aetna, Anthem, and Cigna. As is evident, these mergers tend to benefit larger service providers that are typically well entrenched across the combining firms. However, a few, may find their portfolios at-risk given competitive underpinnings, sourcing maturity, and enterprise penetration.

Account-level exposure of key service providers

Net-net, we don’t expect Cognizant to be unduly impacted by the proposed merger given the current state of affairs and its leading position in the healthcare and life sciences landscape (poised to reach US$4 billion in annual revenue in the next 18 months). The opportunity at hand is not under threat but there will be significant shifts and redistribution between vendors. The healthcare market is poised to witness increased turbulence (we believe this is just a teaser of things to come) and service providers need to realign and reposition themselves to utilize this opportunity. Let the games begin!

Groundbreaking Rio Tinto and Accenture As-a-Service IT Deal | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Rio Tinto, a global diversified mining company, recently announced a groundbreaking initiative they are undertaking with Accenture. This can best be described as moving Rio Tinto’s enterprise IT function into an as-a-service model. Game-changing benefits permeate this deal, and it’s an eye-opener for enterprises in all industries.

Let’s look at what Rio Tinto gains by pulling the as-a-service lever to achieve greater value in its IT services.

First, it changes the relationship between the business and IT. It breaks down the functional silos of a traditional centralized IT organization and aligns each service. In doing so, it creates an end-to-end relationship in each service, whether it be SAP, collaboration or any other functional services.

Second, this initiative moves Rio Tinto’s entire IT supply chain to a consumption-based model. This is incredibly important for a cyclical commodity industry, where revenues are subject to the world commodity markets. Rio Tinto’s core product, iron ore, is a commodity that can result in revenues slashed in half in the course of a year, leading to the need for cost reduction initiatives. Correspondingly, in boom times, commodities can double and triple in price, resulting in frenetic energy to expand production. The as-a-service model ends this commodity whiplash impact. It gives Rio Tinto a powerful ability to match costs to their variable consumption patterns.

This move will change the pace of innovation within Rio Tinto, allowing it to future proof its investments in IT. As many enterprises discover, multi-year IT projects often end up being out of date by the time they are implemented. Rio Tinto sought to shorten the IT cycle time so it can take full advantage of innovations the market generates. In the as-a-service model, it can pull those innovations through to the business quickly – which is a struggle for traditional siloed centralized IT functions.

These are game-changing benefits. It’s important to recognize that the journey to capture these benefits required a complete rethinking of how Rio Tinto’s IT (applications and infrastructure) is conceived, planned, delivered, and maintained. Moving from a siloed take-or-pay model to an integrated consumption-based model required wide-ranging re-envisioning and reshaping the ecosystem for deploying its technology; it touched IT talent, philosophies, processes, policies, vendors, and partners.

Clearly this journey will be well worth the effort given the substantial game-changing benefits. Challenging times call for breakthrough answers. The cost benefits alone are significant; but even more important is the ability of this approach to accelerate the transformation of the company into a more digital business. Rio Tinto chose to partner with Accenture to move its organization to this fundamentally different action plan for delivering and consuming IT and meeting the rapidly evolving needs of the business.


Photo credit: Rio Tinto

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