How to prepare for disaggregation

Published 16/09/2019 by James Green, Managing Director of IT Services

How to prepare for disaggregation

The Government’s drive to disaggregation – opening up the market to a broader range of technology suppliers designed to encourage innovation and give smaller outsourcers a better chance to be included – was the topic of discussion at our most recent roundtable. [For some scene setting, you can read our previous blog ‘Can disaggregation help businesses avoid the next IT outsourcing disaster’.] A lively debate was held, with open discussion encouraged. Involved were IT consultants, as well as representatives from the wealth and asset management and public sectors. There were a number of views shared, as well as some top pieces of advice given to enterprise organisations who want to take advantage of this move.

The session was hosted by the Managing Director of our IT Services division, James Green, who kicked it off with the current status of disaggregation. Liam Maxwell – the former National Technology Adviser to the UK Government and the Government’s first Chief Technology Officer – has championed disaggregation, to ensure transparency and better service quality. He is committing the government to three ‘Open’ pillars of disaggregation: Open Standards, Open Source Software and Open Data. These pillars helped to structure the G-Cloud framework, a repository of Cloud technology providers whose offering(s) meet the government’s criteria around quality and compliance.

One of the key aspects of disaggregation is the move away from the large-scale monolithic contracts towards embracing innovative smaller specialist enterprises – specifically, encouraging government bodies to choose multiple providers to meet their range of needs.

One of the key topics of debate was how disaggregation – driven by the public sector - is now moving into the private sector. Many tenders are following the separated Service Integration and Management (SIAM) model, split into ‘towers’ of services, which fundamentally dictates how you outsource your IT. But, just like the G-Cloud, this model allows organisations to choose smaller providers with specialist capabilities to meet their specific needs.

Having debated the pros and the cons, there were the four pieces of advice for organisations to take away:

  • Ask yourself, do you have the internal capability to support a disaggregated model?
    The debate ranged from the total outsourcing of vendor relationship control, to the concept of managing external service providers yourself. Whatever route is taken, the session agreed it was necessary to agree the roles and responsibilities, with providers held accountable against them, in order for the business to receive the service they have purchased. To truly benefit from disaggregation, your multiple providers need managing well.
    If you choose to disaggregate, the role of your organisation will change as you become concerned with translating what will benefit your business into what you require from your IT; ensuring you are compliant with the necessary regulations and following the required policies; managing your vendors; and achieving service innovation. You will need a strong service integrator who can make sure you act in line with ITIL, ensuring the co-operation between you and your providers happens both technically and operationally. For true success, there needs to be tight technical integration between your multiple suppliers. And those suppliers need to be held accountable to strict operational agreements (OLAs). 
  • Be open to, and aware of, innovation opportunities across your IT ecosystem
    Many felt that one single provider lulled organisations into lethargy, not communicating true transformational opportunities – whether through lack of specialism / expertise or wanting to maintain lucrative contracts. There was agreement that there is simply no room for such behaviour, and that smaller, specialist providers are more likely to challenge, provide precise advice and execute innovative strategies in the area of your IT in which they are an expert. Whether you maintain the status quo with a single provider, or choose a more innovative range of multiple suppliers, what is key is that their service maps onto the business goals you may have around modernisation and digital transformation.

  • Disaggregation is not always the answer
    Before deciding to disaggregate, you must understand the value (or not) for your business. Disaggregation comes in many forms, and it is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Working with IT specialists can help you choose how you want to disaggregate, and what style of it will work for you. The traditional SIAM model breaks your IT into groupings such as network, service desk and hosting. But you don’t have to choose this way. Assess the size, complexity and internal capabilities of your organisation, decide how involved in your IT management and delivery you want to be, and then build a model from that.

  • Embrace technical leaders as business innovators
    The role of the CIO is transforming, as their team is now in control of driving significant organisational change. It was argued during the briefing that usually, they are in the best position to know IT gaps, the businesses ambitions and help develop the specific requirements to map the two areas together. Only from that position can the strongest strategies be developed and executed. This often requires a cultural change, to ensure business stakeholders understand the value of digital transformation. The reality is that disaggregation – whatever route you go down– will, in the short-term, be a challenge that your technical leader needs to be able to articulate in the right way to the rest of the business.

It became clear, during the session, that no matter whether an organisation is to disaggregate or not, there is great value in consultants and / or expert providers who support these multiple options and help businesses take the right route as part of a bigger digital transformation journey. There are undoubtedly both pros and cons, but it is definitely the direction the industry is taking. Organisations need to be able to adapt, and embrace this opportunity – but might need a helping hand to ensure the right decisions are made. IT is no longer an investment just to ‘keep the lights on’; it’s an investment in ensuring you innovate and grow, so you’re agile enough to compete successfully now and into the future.

We’d welcome your thoughts on the topics covered in the blog.