In a desperate attempt to keep the momentum up on the whole buildings and IT comparison thing I have laid out in the last two posts I want to investigate a little more. Very much work in progress but then what isnt these days 🙂 We call it WIP. In another world it has a different connotation of course. Funny old industry isnt it.
A while back I posted about the concept of Back Office and Front Office. Some call it BOFO. For an IT organization this BOFOis a big deal. It is where they decide to invest their cash. The keep the lights on in the BO, and try and innovate and contribute to business growth in the FO. BOFO. It is where an IT organization struggles daily with the pressures coming from the consumers ( internal and external ) in the FO and the impact on the speed of change ( or lack of ) in the BO.
For anyone advising an IT organization therefore this BOFO becomes an even bigger big deal as consumerisation kicks in at work. You see a lot of people ( customers and consultants ) still take technology ( it doesnt really matter what flavour and brand ) and attempt to apply the features and benefits to an IT organization regardless of the make up of the BOFO characteristics. So people selling virtualization technology to a customer who has a big FO and a little BO may come unstuck because they have already done some virtualisation. Or someone selling app dev to a customer who has legacy BO infrastructures that do not sit easily with modern development technologies may also come unstuck. In the building analogy its a bit like trying to sell double glazing to someone who has it already or is living in a listed building and who cannot change the exterior facade no matter how compelling the options may be.
Look at these diagrams below. what do they represent.
As technology matures and becomes consumerised the speed of change has shifted the focus from Back Office to Front Office. The 1990s were full of traditional heavy lifting back office processes and technology. Most of IT existed in data centers surrounded by traditional tools and processses. Helpdesk services were all run in house and the Front Office was limited to web sites for marketing and basic consumer and customer interaction. Very 9 to 5. IT was 90% of the transaction with its end user customers. During the 2000s virtualisation and Managed Services began to transform the Back Office as people realised they could improve service and reduce cost by reducing the size of the Back Office both pyhsically and in terms of cost. In return the way applications could be delivered to Front Office staff and customers meant a more 24×7 service that relied less on the Back Office.Now today ( 2010s) sees a very lean Back Office built predominantly on cloud services ( public and private ) that pushes most of the IT into the hands of the employee and consumer and where the most of the transaction occurs without any direct IT involvement i.e. self service helpdesk, B2C transactions, 24 x 7 service.
Now imagine a building that has also gone through these last 3 decades. In the 1990s it would have been very traditional. Open plan office with a mix of side rooms. Very dated furnishing and decor. The same as everyone elses. The experience of using the building was predictable and the costs of running the business were all going on keeping the building open – power, cooling, maintenance, staffing. The same building in the 2000s would have gone through an internal change as its consumers demanded more flexibility on the internal structures and services offered. Still the Back Office of the building management was remaining traditional but the way the services were delivered became more agile as the consumers demanded more and choice was growing for alternative working patterns. The modern building is now ( 2010s) much more open. The exterior may have gone through a total revamp. Interior change has become total. The building now grows with its consumer. Agile working practices demand that the building is capable of being remodelled to suit new consumers on a much more accelerated nature but still taking advantage of sustainable resources and offering a better cost model to both running the business but also consuming the building.
Why is this distinction important. Well it highlights to me ( anyway ) that an IT organiszation is more like a building than we perhaps think.Just like the modern architects who are seeking to innovate with their use of construction materials, reusable components and environmental features, a modern IT environment has to cope with the differing speeds of their BOFO.
Cutting to the chase within the building and modern IT infrastructure things happen at different speeds. A lift versus the HVAC system have different characteristics lifetime, maintenance schedules etc. cleaning the outside windows maybe an annual recent whilst cleaning the desks and carpets may happen nightly. Ditto application upgrades may be a intermittent event driven by software lifecycle policies whilst a request for a new user maybe driven by a well defined SLA on the service desk. Monitoring the car park CCTV may be a constant process for security personnel whilst monitoring firewall logs may be a reactive activity only called upon when there is a perceived breach. Wear and tear of desk furniture may be written off across a 10 year period whilst a consumer may be able to access their IT services from anywhere in the building as they embrace a BYOD policy. Assets in the building may still undergo a regular physical quality control check to conform to a H&S committment whilst other assets may use a Machine2Machine process ( SIM in a smart meter basically ) to alert a central console of a capacity issue or fault situation. The list is endless. Events inside a building happen at different speeds. Events inside a IT organisation happen at different speeds.
This speed is the big deal. IT Organizations steeped in the ‘fat Back Office’ often struggle to adapt to the speed of change. Perhaps they dont realise they need to unless it is too late. Whereas the IT organizations who have move to a leaner Back Office and faster Front Office are now fully engaged with how technology can help its consumers become more self sufficient and productive.
I find this a fascinating subject and if you can get your ‘story’ straight you can really come across as someone who can take ‘technology and all who sail in her’ to a customer and help them make sense of how they can turn their IT organization into one that understands the speed of change.
Buildings and I.T – similar?