To stay relevant in the modern world, IT departments around the globe are poised to shift from reactive service-support organizations to proactive service brokers. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Simon Geddes, Product Management Lead at BMC Software, about IT service brokering.
Q: What is an IT Service Broker?
A: IT service brokering is the idea that IT will act as a trusted adviser to the business, furnishing workers with the tools they need everyday. It’s the ability to broker services from multiple external and internal sources, both in the cloud and on premise. The goal is to curate an actual catalog of hardware, software, and services – a single pane of glass to all business and IT services.
Q: Isn’t that what IT does today?
A: No, not at all. Today, IT acts very reactively to what the business needs. They don’t really have a clear understanding of what it takes in 2015 to operate various business units, like marketing or HR. This causes employees to go around IT, effectively creating the concept of shadow IT.
Q: What are the benefits of service brokering?
A: There are three big advantages that we have seen.
First, it increases employee productivity. There are statistics showing that the average business user wastes something like two days a month on IT-related issues. With a service broker model, the goal is to get the downtime to zero.
Such an improvement will lead to both higher customer satisfaction with IT and, more importantly, faster innovation across the company. Happy workers – armed with the tools they need – can deliver products and services in a much more timely fashion.
And lastly, you want to lower IT support costs by deflecting level-one requests, such as procuring an iPhone or asking for access to salesforce.com. The self-service component of service brokering tends to reduce routine calls to the help desk by 30 percent.
But also, managing all these service and request catalogs is driving up administrative costs as IT has to dedicate more and more manpower to manually run this growing jungle of portals. Consolidating the catalogs cuts costs immediately.
Q: How big of a problem is catalog sprawl?
A: It’s big. We are talking to some customers that have 25 different proprietary catalogs within their organizations. And according to one survey, over 70 percent of IT professionals operate at least five service catalogs in the workplace.
Obviously, this results in end users running around looking for the right catalog, which hurts worker productivity. But it also increases administrative costs and software license expenditures.
Q: What about Shadow IT? Can IT really control that?
A: No, but what we want them to do is embrace shadow IT. They can create a secure environment for procuring products and services. Shadow IT isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s the result of people not getting the services required to do their job properly. So instead, they themselves go out there and find what they need.
What service brokering is trying to do is have your IT department work with the business units to find out what’s required, and then stock the shelves with those products and services. It’s like an Amazon shopping experience, but for the enterprise.
Q: Can IT really bring an Amazon-like shopping experience to the enterprise?
A: The challenge is to have an integration layer and a library or marketplace of ready-made connectors to plug into the various sources. If IT has that layer and those connectors, curating the products and services into one single portal is easy. It’s not a technology problem. It’s more of a cultural shift that has to happen.
Q: What cultural changes are needed to switch to a service broker model?
A: In the past, IT was focused on planning, building, and running solutions. But that is an outdated methodology. Now, they need to on-board, manage, deliver, and track the services the company needs. Let’s not build solutions that already exist. Let’s focus on integrating those solutions into a modern user experience.
Q: How do I become a service broker?
A: First step is to work with the various business units to find out what they need. Talk to them. Poll them. Use surveys. Whatever it takes to gain a better understanding of their operations. Then build an ecosystem of partners and vendors that provides those products and services. And finally, set up a centralized user experience. Workers aren’t going to use IT if they have to jump from catalog to catalog – it’s just easier to go straight to the vendor and buy online.
Q: What tools are available for service brokers?
Not many. Cisco and HP have some point solutions in the service app store category, but there won’t be a complete end-to-end product available until this fall when BMC releases its MyIT Service Broker solution.