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HP Software's community for IT leaders // March 2014

Clearing the obstacles to being a service broker

The need for SIAM—and the move of IT Ops into a broker’s role—isn’t going away. So why aren’t organizations embracing this role?

The bottom line

What: IT is no longer a closed shop, and Ops leaders have to deal with a wide range of third-party services, infrastructure, and applications.
How: The smart move, for your enterprise and your career, is to master service integration and management as a broker of IT services.
More: Download the Frost & Sullivan report, "The new IT: Managing and delivering services in a multi-vendor environment" (reg. req’d).

Most IT organizations have heard that they need to adopt a service integration and management (SIAM) approach, in which they act as service brokers on behalf of the business. And while they may have no choice—mobility and cloud aren’t going away, after all—many organizations aren’t stepping into the role well or willingly. We spoke with Markus Mueller, HP global lead architect for SIAM, about the obstacles that stand between IT and successful brokering.

Q: We’ve spent a lot of time telling CIOs and VP-Ops that IT has to become a broker of services. How well do we see enterprise IT departments doing it?

Markus Mueller: The short answer is that they are still far away. The term "broker" seems to have different interpretations depending on who you talk to. When we talk about brokering, we’re talking about being a trusted advisor, facilitating transactions, giving expert advice. It’s strategic, and IT departments are not yet stepping into this role. A lot of energy is consumed by maintaining the status quo and traditional IT. There’s a hierarchy of competencies involved in brokering, and I see many organizations that still struggle with the basics.

Q: What’s holding them back?

MM: There’s obviously a growing demand for concepts of service brokerage, but it’s in an early phase. And right now, why would an organization want to become a service broker? I haven’t seen an organization yet that can come up to me and say, "We can prove cost-wise that the broker model has saved us x dollars." So we deal with early adopters, where change is not driven by IT itself but by the business, which puts pressure on IT departments to source services externally, either by cloud or traditional sourcing options. But the business sometimes does not fully understand what that means in terms of IT, and we start to see shadow IT developing. Traditional IT budgets are shrinking, but business seems to be getting more money to spend on IT.

Q: What about the organizations that are attempting it now? What’s the biggest challenge for them?

MM: We always say that services should be defined in terms of business outcomes, but it’s not easy to move away from purely technical-focused services to business outcomes. Companies buy a lot of pieces of software to fix their problems, but the problems are often of an organizational nature, not a technical nature. So we need to focus on business outcomes and remember that service brokering must deliver benefits to the business, not to the IT department. You need to understand that acquiring this-and-that cloud service doesn’t solve the business problem: they’re just pieces of the puzzle. Many IT departments have adopted cloud on a small scale, but few organizations are adopting cloud for large-scale strategic workloads.

Q: These changes won’t happen overnight, of course. But how long does a transformation like this really take?

MM: I have seen several customers—the ones that are the most mature—take 4 to 5 years to establish a very solid foundation for service integration and management. Brokering services is not that easy: all services—no matter if brokered or legacy—still need to be integrated. And brokering external services adds an additional layer of complexity.

Q: We hear often that IT needs to do a better job of building trust with the business. But we’re talking about more than just a good relationship, right?

MM: Yes. The interface between the business and IT is essential for brokering, and it’s about trust. But many IT organizations don’t even trust themselves to be a service integrator. You need to know the business, the industry, and sometimes even have sophisticated market knowledge. And that means IT needs a completely different set of competencies in order to act as a broker. But IT often says, "The business doesn’t understand what they want us to do."

And on the other side, the business says, "The IT organization doesn’t understand what the business requires!" The broker is the translator between these two parties, who live in different realities. That leads me to a suggestion: If you want to realize a seamless value chain from business to IT, you need business analysis skills. But how many IT experts do you know who have those skills? I sometimes think maybe a service broker should not be sitting in the IT department but in a business department—someone with business analysis skills, linking back into the IT organization.

Because it’s not just about trust, it’s not just about relationships and better conversations. You have to bring in knowledge that you didn’t have before. You have to do your homework.

Markus Mueller is the global lead for HP Software Professional Services’ service integration and management practice.

For more on multi-vendor management, listen to the Frost & Sullivan/HP on-demand webcast "Managing vendor sprawl: How SIAM can help you gain control" and download the Frost & Sullivan report, "The new IT: Managing and delivering services in a multi-vendor environment" (reg. req’d).


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