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How IT as a Service Creates Competitive Advantage

March 24, 2011 - 0 Comments

Not a week goes by that I don’t talk with a customer about the reality of IT as a service (ITaaS). The question I am asked most often is, “Does ITaaS really create a competitive advantage for my company?” My answer is always “Absolutely.”

If you’re wondering why I’m so confident about my answer it’s because the ITaaS approach, when embraced by a company, empowers IT to sit closer to the front end of product and service creation. Repositioning IT to the front end allows us to become a strategic advisor to the rest of the company.

As a strategic advisor, IT can develop best practices, lessons learned, and business value examples from actual implementations done within IT’s own organization. These IT learnings help the sales organization and ultimately benefit the customer, which is what creating competitive advantage is all about.

Before I go on, a word about vocabulary. In the ITaaS model IT vocabulary and business vocabulary must be one and the same. If IT is to be a strategic advisor to the business and the decision-makers on the customer side understand business vocabulary, then business vocabulary wins. IT must be able to “talk the talk.”

To better illustrate how ITaaS can give a company a competitive advantage, let me give you an example from my own personal experience.

We worked with a Cisco business unit (BU) on our new internal collaboration platform, the Integrated Workforce Experience (IWE) powered by Cisco Quad. As you know, any new product creation results in lots of input from different sources on usability, design, functionality, performance, etc. As communities across Cisco were being created using this new technology platform, imagine all the IT people in a global company providing individual input, plus all the input from other teams around the world. That is a lot of input. And of course it’s all important. But it can be overwhelming if you are not equipped or experienced to handle it all.

In our ITaaS approach, one of the most critical services we provided to the BU was to be a single source of communication back to the BU for all of the IT communities’ feedback.

Because we had already created and launched our own online community on Cisco Quad the BU didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We were able to share our lessons learned with them. The overwhelming input wasn’t an issue and we already had processes in place that could easily be replicated for future IWE community launches. Now, not only is IT a strategic advisor to the BU on the Quad product, but we are trusted strategic advisors.

Bottom Line: The ITaaS model enabled the BU to stay focused on its core competency, trusting that IT was able to take some of the responsibility for implementation of the internal collaboration communities within Cisco and the associated usability and business value metrics. Every time IT helps a BU or other organization within the company launch an IWE community, we learn something new and those lessons learned evolve into best practices that we can then share with our customers.

Now you know what I think. What about you? Do you think ITaaS creates competitive advantage?

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