The Cloud: It's Not Just a Technology - It's a Catalyst
Let's focus on how IT leaders are improving performance of their services to deliver better experiences and payoffs for businesses and end-users alike. We're joined by our cohost, Chief Evangelist at HP Paul Muller; and Jean-Michel Gatelais, IT Service Management (ITSM) solution manager at Steria, based near Paris.
The discussion is cohosted and moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Listen to the podcast (25:39 minutes).
Here are some excerpts:
Dana Gardner: We have a fascinating show today, because we are going to learn about how a prominent European IT-enabled business services provider, Steria, is leveraging cloud services to manage complexity and deliver better services to customers.
Paul, is that what you are finding -- that the cloud model is starting to impact this whole notion of effective performance across services in total?
Paul Muller: This is a conversation I've been having a lot lately. The word "cloud" gets thrown around a lot, but when I drill into the topic, I find that customers are really talking about services and integrating different services, whether they are on-premises, in the public cloud arena, or even that gray land, which is called "outsourcing."
It's the ability to integrate those different supply models -- internal, external, publicly sourced cloud services -- that really differentiate some of the more forward-leaning organizations from those who are still trying to come to grips with what it means to adopt a cloud service.
We've all come to realize that cloud isn't so much a technology issue as it is a business opportunity. It's an opportunity to improve agility and responsiveness, while also increasing flexibility of cost models, which is incredibly important, especially given the uncertain economic outlook that not only different countries have, but even different segments within different countries.
Take something like the minerals and resources areas within my own country, which are booming right now. Whereas, if you look at other areas of business, perhaps media, or particularly print media, right now, they're going through the opposite type of revolution. They're trying to work out how to adjust their cost to declining demand.
Gardner: With that, let's move on to our guest. He's been a leading edge adopter for improving IT service delivery for many years, most recently as the IT Service Management (ITSM) solution manager at Steria, based near Paris. Please join me in welcoming Jean-Michel Gatelais.
Jean-Michel Gatelais: Thank you very much. At Steria, I'm in charge of the Central ITSM Solution we provide for our customers, and I am in-charge of the Global ITSM Program Roadmap, including the ongoing integration from ServiceCenter 6 to Service Manager 9. I'm also responsible for the quality of service that we deliver with this solution, and of the transition of new customers on this platform.
Steria is an IT service provider. We are about a little more than 40 years old. Our business is mainly in system integration, application management, business process outsourcing, and infrastructure management services.
We have big customers in all sectors of industry and services, such as public sector, banking, industry, telecom, and so on. We have customers both in France and UK mainly, but in the whole of Europe also. For example, we have British Telecom, Orange and the public sector in the UK, with police, etc.
Gardner: What's different now about IT service delivery than just say few years ago?
Gatelais: It has changed a lot. In fact, few years ago it was something that was very atomic, with different processes and with people running the service with different tools. About three to five years ago, people began to homogenize the processes to run the service, and we saw that in Steria.
In Steria, we bought some companies and we grew. We needed to establish common processes to proceed by a common platform, and that what's what we did with Service Manager. Now, the way we deliver service is much more mature for all the processes and for the ITSM processes.
Muller: The desire to standardize processes is a really big driver for organizations as they look to improve efficiency and effectiveness. So it's very similar what we're seeing. In fact, I was going to ask Jean-Michel a question. When you talk about homogenizing processes or improving consistently, how does that help the organization? How does that help Steria and its customers perform better?
Gatelais: This allows us to deliver the service, whatever the location or organization, because we're an IT provider. We provide services for our customers that can be offshore, nearshore, in Steria local premises, and even in the plant premises. All the common processes and the solution allow us to do to this independently of the customer. Today with this process, we're able to run services for more than 200 customers.
Gardner: I see among your services that you are delivering cloud Workplace on Command, for example, Infrastructure On Command. Is this a bigger part of your business now? Do you find that servicing your cloud customers is dominating some of your strategic thinking?
Gatelais: Yes. Actually, it's growing day after day. We launched our cloud offering about 18 months ago. Now we can say that we have an industrialized solution, allowing our customers to order infrastructure in a couple of minutes. And this is really integrated with the whole service management solution and the underlying infrastructure.
Gardner: I suppose this gets to this self-service mentality that we are seeing, Paul. End users are seeking a self-service type of approach. They know that they can get services quite easily through a variety of consumer-based means. They're looking for similar choice and enablement in their business dealings.
It seems that an organization like Steria is at the forefront of attracting that sense of enablement and empowerment and then delivering it through a cloud infrastructure. They're interesting on two levels: one, they're delivering cloud and enablement, but they are also using cloud to power their own ability to do so.
Muller: We see almost a contradiction within enterprise users of cloud. We see groups that will quite readily go out and adopt cloud services. The so-called consumerization trend is quite prevalent, especially with what I would describe as simple services. For example, office automation tools, collaboration tools, etc.
Yet, simultaneously, we see reluctance sometimes, particularly for the IT organization, to let go and cloud-source services and applications. I sometimes refer to them as "application huggers" or "server huggers."
In other words, if they can't see it or touch it, they're reluctant to relinquish control. The most fascinating part for me is that you can often find those two behaviors inside the very same organization. Sometimes, the same person can have diametrically opposed views about the respective merits of those two approaches.
Gardner: Are you selling and delivering cloud services to the IT department or others? Maybe we could call that "shadow IT," Jean-Michel?
Gatelais: We do both. In fact, the cloud today is used both for internal organizations and also for our customers. Then, the cloud offering set-up asks to study a business model to study the way we will sell such service. For us, at the central level at Steria, there is no difference between internal delivery and delivery for our customers.
In fact, what we're trying to do is to standardize, as much as possible, the basic offering we propose. On top of that, we have additional requests from our customers. Then, we try to adapt our offering to the specific request.
Providing infrastructure services is not so difficult, but providing Platform as a Service (PaaS) features can be. Even Software as a Service (SaaS) can be simpler than PaaS, because you provide some package services, startup services, instead for platform services. It's very consumer-specific.