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IT as a service: How to succeed as an IT broker

Is your organization moving toward offering IT as a service? Find out what CIOs and experts have to say about succeeding as an IT broker.

In the first part of this story, we looked at how IT can master cloud governance. Here, we determine how to succeed at delivering IT as a service.

Simplifying IT service delivery doesn't mean going on autopilot Offering services should be intuitive and easily self-served, yes, but there must also be established mechanisms to fix problems or improve upon services, stresses Ian Clayton, senior vice president of operations at U.K.-based G2G3.

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A common method for improvement is something IT organizations generally lack, he said -- in part, because they do not regularly engage the business.

"IT brokers need an engagement mechanism, so they can listen to changing needs and they can convert them into [the technology]," Clayton said.

Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., believes the internal service broker concept for cloud offerings will work only if end users understand the concept themselves.

"The broker is only going to succeed if we can change the expectations of our internal business customers that they're not getting custom-delivered infrastructure," Bartoletti said. "We're basically providing infrastructure, on loan, for a certain amount of time."

Users should have the assurance that IT will be on hand to support the infrastructure they've identified to do their jobs, but they also should know that IT will make the technical decisions that best serve the enterprise -- e.g., whether that computing infrastructure will reside on premises or in the cloud.   "The more that we build that trust relationship the better."

IT brokers need an engagement mechanism, so they can listen to changing needs and they can convert them into [the technology].
Ian Clayton, senior vice president of operations


CIOs seem to be embracing the cloud services approach. Chris Ward, CTO of Kittery, Maine -based technology consulting company GreenPages Technology Solutions, said a major initiative for his firm this year is helping customers develop their own service brokerages. Many of their customers are being handed down executive level edicts to "go to the cloud." The most common reason given? Because business leadership assumes it's cheaper. "The question you have to ask is 'cheaper than what?'" Ward said.

IT departments should begin by picking a standard configuration out of an Amazon service catalog, then figuring out how much it would cost to deploy that exact configuration in their private data center. More often than not, internal IT won't be able to do it, Ward said.

"Until you can define what your internal costs are and what that looks like to do an apples to apples comparison with the outside, how do you know it's right? That's something you have to determine," Ward said.

Does agility come standard?

Fewer choices, fewer steps, faster and cheaper with improved governance -- but does IT standardization also equal business agility? That depends, says Bartoletti. As cloud and other services are being standardized, by necessity someone customers' choices are being reduced.  They may well see this reduction in choice as a reduction in their agility. They need to be made to understand this could be a good thing for them -- and everyone -- in the long run. Bartoletti knows this to be true, because he experienced it as an IT customer in his own company.

When Forrester moved its corporate email to the cloud, he and some of his colleagues worried the options would be limiting. What he found was a worthwhile, beneficial trade off.

"What we found out was our IT organization spent all of their time after [putting email in the cloud] making our internal processes better and bringing in applications that added value and not satisfying every teams desire for email support," Bartoletti said. "We lost some choice but we gained more agility [as a whole]."

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