The yellow cabs have been ferrying us for an eternity, but when Uber and Lyft came to the party, the idea of traveling from one point to another was redefined. Only the other day, when I was in one of the Uber cabs, I asked myself – as a customer – what it is that I can learn from the business that can add value to my occupation, which is to steer a corporation toward offering practically anything as a service. The observation only strengthened my belief that technology can be a boon only if it’s leveraged with an outcome-driven approach.
In today’s heavily-digitized landscape, CIOs are perpetually focused on technology rather than end-user benefits and business outcomes. In this age of hyper-consumerism, the 21st-century CIO must reinvigorate the practice of learning from what customers truly yearn for. Everything as a service (XaaS) is what Uber is offering – from having the liberty of choosing my ride to tipping my chauffeur for his professionalism. And, there lies the essence of progress.
Catalog: You Get What You See
Let’s consider another example. Amazon, the e-commerce giant, is serving an average user base of 250 million, with no lesser than 15 million products. Yes, technology plays a huge role in making that happen, but what really is crucial there is the philosophy of bringing business and experience to the fore while technology assumes the role of the dark knight that functions from the bulwark of a corporation. In enterprise IT, why then are the CIOs emphasizing technology infrastructure upgrade when all they have are 500-odd items and less than 50,000 users to cater to? What is the trick that is being missed by the CIOs in the quest for medium-source benefits?
I say, they are missing the long-term vision of looking at business from the perspective of business, and instead, are positioning technology as the hull of the ship.
While booking my flight from San Francisco to Newark, I was met with a very pleasant surprise. The carrier’s website “offered” to check me in with a choice of seat and food. Now, some of you may feel that it is so commonplace in new-age traveling, but do you also have the same ease of operation when it comes to enterprise IT? If the airline business has found a way to “serve” their clientele all the way from booking to flying to reaching the destination, what they have emphasized is a robust catalog.
The other day, I chanced upon a success story of how Magellan Health, an American for-profit managed healthcare company embraced an outcome-driven approach through XaaS and in the process ‘democratized innovation’ to deliver competitive advantage. The company embarked on its journey towards XaaS a few years ago with PaaS, IaaS, SaaS, AWS, and internal hybrid cloud infrastructure. Today, the internal IT team is capable of offering around 300 services through an easily searchable catalog – an essential requirement for the cloud service model to work seamlessly.
The idea behind this entire initiative was to provide Magellan’s business users with an opportunity to access self-service capabilities and enjoy “Amazon-like experience”. Eventually, such a catalog-driven model helped the company streamline its order process and reduce the number of order approvals. Quite similar to what Magellan does, Netflix or Prime Video offers an archive on cloud, but they do not shift their focus from the service to the technology. Similarly, the hospitality sector shows you rooms and amenities, and “allows” you to choose everything from the catalog. No bad promises, no bad checks.
When the XaaS model is at play, it is nothing but a thorough catalog-driven approach that puts the customer experience in the very center of the universe. But, when it comes to enterprise IT, the center of the universe is lost in the nebula of technology and that is what businesses cannot afford.
Towards an Evitable Future – The Shift to Service-oriented IT
As a young boy in India, I would often watch movies in theatres, and for archival value, buy video cassettes of those movies that I loved. If I were to share the experience with a school or college goer today, they would ask me, “Why buy a cassette that you must maintain and reel when you can simply watch it for a subscription?” Yes, times have changed, and hence, the approach must too. Today, I ask myself as an enterprise IT policymaker, “When a product can be availed as a service, why stress over architecture and capital investment?”
Today, laptops are offered on subscription. As a customer, you do not “invest” on a computer; instead, you “subscribe” for the compute – the service without the burden of ownership. Enterprise IT is no different. It’s high time that CIOs accept it on face value to transform IT from a cost center to an innovation partner.