An Elegant Solution to the Service Integration and Management Problem
Within the scientific community there has long been a tradition, sometimes veering close to an obsession, to strive toward solutions that are deemed, by virtue of their simplicity and practicality, elegant.
Discoveries made by Newton, Einstein and other notable thinkers are often revered for their seeming beauty; their ability to solve multiple unexpected problems with one simple solution. A great example of the modern zeal for elegant solutions is demonstrated by the work of Stephen Hawking who has dedicated a large percentage of his life searching for the theory of everything, a solution whose very title thrills with simplicity and the promise of elegance.
Interestingly, the fascination with elegant solutions is not limited to just the realm of science as it is equally evident in technology, engineering and business. When you look at the success of Apple, who cleverly infused elegance as part of their design precept early in their business, clearly there is a general appeal for elegant solutions across all realms of industry.
The appeal of an elegant solution was instilled in me during my years at University when I encountered a computer science lecturer who liked setting diabolical assignments that involved minimizing the code, memory and time it took for a program to run. While I found these assignments to be the most difficult during my time there, I also found them to be the most rewarding, and interestingly, the only ones I can recall while writing a blog some twenty years later!
So you will imagine my joy after news that some leading CIOs have begun to adopt an elegant solution to one of the biggest technology management challenges facing CIOs today. Let me lay out the problem for you.
A consequence of the recent trend to move away from large end to end outsourcing agreements was the proliferation of vendors providing specific tasks within an enterprise. This increase in suppliers has introduced new challengers for CIOs who struggle to manage the disparate vendors while ensuring consistency in service delivery and quality.
For some CIOs the solution was to increase their investment in managing service vendors but for others they considered out-tasking the vendor support, effectively hiring a vendor to perform the service integration and management of their environment. While service integration and management (SIAM) is now considered a common business model there still remains the problem of figuring out how an enterprise can accomplish cohesive coordination and accomplish its business objectives with a large number of service providers.
To accomplish this CIOs are mandating a simple uniform policy across all parties, be they internal or external, that provide support for their environment. This policy places a consumer service level to measure the satisfaction of how the entire collective IT department is performing. By directly linking (sometimes personal) rewards to the satisfaction level for everyone who supports the environment CIOs are driving powerful behavioral change that benefits not only the consumers of the services but also the corporation as a whole.
The reason why this works is the now commonly understood view that the best measure of an IT operation is the satisfaction levels of their constituents who ultimately consume their services. IT typically touches every aspect of an enterprise and as such, if the consumers of the IT services are not happy with the quality they are receiving then it will have an impact on productivity (and most likely moral).
This approach of aligning everyone who is contributing in IT to the common goal of delighting their constituents is a classically elegant, in that it is simple in concept but also solves several problems. It manages to focus the support teams to a common goal, a rally cry to strive to make sure the client is receiving the best possible services. Alignment also reduces finger pointing, levels the playing field on definition of success and focuses the energy for better collaboration from multiple vendors and support teams. It also rewards good behavior and ultimately aligns thinking across all of IT endeavors.
Aligning all suppliers against a common goal of client satisfaction is the most elegant way of managing a modern business.