The XaaS generation IT architecture – built for people and change
Posted by Claus Jepsen
Everything-as-a-service (XaaS) is all around us. The media writes about it. Analysts talk about it. Enterprise software vendors talk about it. Everyone wants to become an everything-as-a-service company. But what does it really mean from a business perspective to become an everything-as-a-service company? And importantly what are the technology requirements to support the transition?
What does XaaS mean?
XaaS is more than a new smart revenue stream. It is a strategic and operational blueprint which significantly changes how companies need to look at their operation. The majority of companies operate in silos, each silo offering specific business capabilities, products, services and processes. In many cases, the silos also contain different technologies and solutions optimized towards maximum efficiency to deliver against a defined set of KPIs. A model that has worked perfectly fine in the past. However, in a world of increased “Ubernization” – where there’s a very short distance between desire and gratification – this model works poorly, as the time of desire to gratification becomes too long – as a function of complicated inter-silo processes.
Uber is an often-used example illustrating the changes extremely well. Pre-Uber ordering a taxi required the requestee to call the dispatch (CSR), who would take the order and provide an estimated time of arrival for the taxi. The dispatch would then broadcast the request on a radio and decide, based on feedback, which taxi would be the best one to do the trip, and hand over the request to the taxi. The taxi would then drive to the address and pick up the customer. Between the point where the customer hangs up and until the taxi arrives, the customer has no insights into the progress, where the taxi is, when they will be picked up and so forth. With Uber the whole experience changes, the different silos are broken down – and a new holistic view of the complete end-to-end process is created. Short distance between desire and gratification, supplemented with constant knowledge about time for gratification.
This is exactly what XaaS means. Instead of having silos, services are perceived as a collection of horizontal services, that can be leveraged throughout the whole organization, not limited or constrained to operating within a specific organizational unit.
Another, more technical, example of this is SaaS – Software-as-a-Service – which essentially provides the same experience as the Uber example. Previously buying software meant placing an order, have the vendors service organization come installing and configuring the software, receive training – and then start using the product. Long distance between desire and gratification. SaaS significantly shortened the distance from time of purchase to ability to use, hence, it is well on its way to becoming the preferred means of acquiring software.
The net effect is, that XaaS is driven by customer expectations for instant gratification, as a function of increased digitization.
How Technology Supports the Transformation to XaaS
At the core XaaS is about digital transformation where the digital transformation process is about understanding, holistically, the inner workings of your businesses processes, coupled with market change and customer expectations. As market and user expectations change at an ever-increasing speed, it is imperative that businesses can be agile when external changes require changes to internal processes to stay competitive. Technology provides a catalyst for transforming an organization entirely, from the back-office to customer services, helping reinvent business processes and the ways people work.
However, enterprise software today, typically due to the architecture, cannot change fast enough to ensure companies stay relevant. For businesses to be able to make changes to their internal systems, they must be able to abstract the functionality, data and business processes from existing enterprise solutions, and making them available for consumption by new purpose-built business services.
Another equally critical element, apart from being able to extend the existing solutions, is the underlying architecture capabilities for seamlessly integrating with 3rd party offering – to support businesses in integrating with new emerging solutions and services facilitating the transition to a XaaS supplier.
Architecture facilitating change
Our People Platform architecture is an open and event driven architecture, providing the required encapsulation and abstraction of the underlying applications, offering the foundation on which companies can engage in digital transformation. It facilitates breaking down the existing silos within companies, by delivering a horizontal perspective on all applications, breaking them down to business services, functionality, business processes and data. Essentially making everything within the Unit4 eco-system available for building cross application purpose-built business services and seamless integrating with 3rd party offerings. This is the next generation technology organizations require to build the foundation for a new generation of enterprise IT that can support the change and diversity required in an XaaS business model.