Bhaskar Ghosh, Group Chief Executive, Accenture Technology Services
Current application management operating models are not designed for today’s high-velocity, software-driven business world. Accordingly, application management as we know it—focused on tickets and transactions, rather than business priorities—is at a turning point. The fact is the ongoing maintenance, support, and enhancement of complex application landscapes—with a mix of legacy systems, digital, and SaaS—consumes too large a share of IT resources and restricts their ability to drive digital growth. For these reasons and more, application management models need to be re-imagined for the digital era—where speed and customer-orientation is paramount.
1. In A World of Perfect Applications, Application Maintenance is Obsolete
“Perfect” applications are ones built with higher quality and user centricity from the start. They are an outcome of today’s era of liquid delivery, where IT responds to users rapidly through continuous software delivery and where lean engineering techniques limit application failures dramatically. The adoption of Agile and DevOps, in combination with more modular architectures, has allowed consolidation of traditional development and management processes—all but eliminating enhancements.
Application maintenance does not exist in its traditional form in the digital business, rather it is part of continuous delivery, and fully integrated with application development. This fundamentally changes the way IT departments have historically worked, with a sizeable wall between application development and application maintenance. Inherently at odds with each other, developers focus on speed to release while maintenance teams strive to repeatedly test to avoid failures. A move to site reliability engineering, pioneered by Google, shifts the focus of operations teams to engineering. Applications are “perfect” upon launch, but they need site reliability engineers to monitor their effectiveness as they grow. This orientation enables IT to drive competitive adaptation of the business, rather than “keeping the lights on.”
Automation And Analytics Are Transforming Application Management From A Passive It Role To An Active Business-Enabling Function
2. Pre-emptive is the New Help Desk
Automation and analytics are transforming application management from a passive IT role to an active business-enabling function. Armed with data and analytics, teams can spot trends and predict failures before they can inflict any negative consequences.
The ability to extensively monitor internal and external systems and data, including customer feedback on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, is incredibly powerful. It means being able to proactively and even automatically resolve issues before or just after they even occur. Instead of fixing things after a break is formally reported, application management becomes all about anticipating and satisfying the business needs of customers and suppliers—making IT a frontline, dynamic business function.
We’re already seeing this evolution in the marketplace. Although high levels of automation are still a few years away, customers and suppliers are increasingly moving towards an automated, and predictive online environment. Automated, end-to-end service management across applications, content providers, hardware, network, social media—and practically every business function in between—are the keys to spotting and resolving problems before they reach the end user.
3. As-a-service is Clearly the Future, but Getting There is Hard
Increasingly, application manage-ment will be delivered by service providers to clients’ on-demand or as-a-service basis, with a focus on consumption or business outcomes. Headcount- or FTE-based contracts will become obsolete over time. However, while outcome- or consumption-based models are gaining momentum, they are still more the exception than the rule.
As-a-service arrangements are challenging because they require business change, not just technology change. Commercial terms are based on business performance, rather than technology performance.
As-a-service represents a dramatic culture shift in how application management deals have been structured over the past decade or more when FTE-based models reigned supreme. Going forward, instead of clients and service providers working at odds (clients always want fewer FTEs and cost, while providers want more FTEs and revenue); as-a-service will bring them into closer alignment. The trick is defining common measures where both the client and provider can benefit. Service providers will need an intimate knowledge of business and industry to be successful in the looming as-a-service economy.
Beginning the Journey
While application management isn’t going away, it is getting a dramatic makeover. Going forward, application management will be more about engineering and automation and therefore smaller, more specialized and more business-savvy. With less tension between business and IT, client and provider, and development and maintenance, application management can become a means of competitive adaptation for the enterprise.
IT leaders have never been in a better position than they are today to be a positive catalyst in their organizations. The biggest challenge is getting “unstuck” from old mindsets and ways of working to seize the opportunity to disrupt, rather than to be disrupted.