Everything as a service

By: Jens Lidholm

Operating successfully in a digital world demands agility, speed, flexibility and the ability to pivot rapidly to pursue new opportunities and keep up with a fast changing business environment. Rather than building the systems they need from scratch, enterprises should increasingly look to achieve results through as-a-service models—with two-speed IT investment and hybrid delivery—that are expressly configured to deliver specific business outcomes in hours, minutes and days rather than weeks, months and years.

We’re already seeing some companies in the Nordics pursuing these as-a-service models. For example, retailers are exploiting digital channels to drive innovation and growth. To do that effectively they can’t afford to develop and build the systems they need using traditional approaches. Instead they are seeking scalable, agile, intelligent services that they can plug into immediately in order to achieve tangible business outcomes at pace. Or take the example of managing global collaboration and mobility across the enterprise. Many companies in the Nordics are dispensing with the complexity of managing multiple systems and contracts and are instead leveraging intelligent telecom expense management solutions as a service. These deliver global spend management and optimized billing plans where services are paid for in line with the savings they achieve. Users are encouraged to adopt the new services through gamification techniques along with feature-rich and intuitive front-end apps, from any device.

The concept of buying aspects of IT "as-a-service" is, of course, not new. For example, in the risk and security area, companies have for some time bought risk assessment and resulting security activities as services to mitigate and manage the threats they face. Cloud has become quickly established as a way to scale up IT "on demand," providing business with the agility and flexibility to meet changing demands and address new market opportunities.

In the digital era, with businesses putting technology at the heart of all processes and in all products and services, this new approach to providing IT is starting to gain serious traction. Businesses’ technology needs are becoming more complex, as they seek greater agility, and constantly accelerate time to market. Today, the internal IT department is often perceived as a barrier to adoption of change. In response they are themselves transforming to become leaders in the integration of the types of hybrid business services that are required to operate successfully in a digital environment. What this means is that the buyers of "everything as a service" are shifting from the traditional IT department to business itself, and the IT department is becoming the broker of a hybrid business service catalogue

Senior business executives are not concerned with the hardware and software that will deliver the results they are looking for. They are focused solely on the outcomes and value that they can achieve: How do I stay ahead of my competitors? What’s the new business model I need to compete with new digital market entrants? Is my IT able to cope with the "new" style of digital business? How quickly can I scale? How do I move a service between geographies? How can I pay just for the value I get? Where is innovation coming from?

To achieve their goals, businesses need to move from traditional, capital-intensive technology provision to new opex-based as-a-service models. Rather than locking in to a service provider over a fixed period of time, spend and capital expenditure, everything as a service models offer instant "plug in" access to services that can scale up and down rapidly and change, adapt and augment as quickly as the demands on the business change.

In today’s world, the scale of capital investment in technology is shifting from a source of competitive advantage to a barrier to rapid and agile action. The advantage has shifted to born-digital players that build their businesses around everything as a service, opex models. Traditional businesses, with significant legacy IT estates, need to catch up. By experimenting, piloting and scaling quickly, they can. But the time to start is now.