Engagement versus marriage to your IT service

So you don’t want to host your systems management environment any longer? Perhaps you want to reduce the management complexity and focus on running the business applications rather than keeping the systems management environment alive. Well, opposites attract, and for those who don’t want to run their infrastructure, IBM actually offers to run it for you. This is called software as a service (SaaS), and our SaaS offering is provided on IBM Service Engage. But why did we call it “Engage”? In this blog post I want to discuss why an engagement is different than a marriage and demonstrate that a SaaS offering is more closely related to an engagement.

In IBM we have a 100-year-long tradition of engaging with clients. As we shift from an on-premise model to SaaS delivery, we continue to engage with clients—just in different ways. We inform and educate them about our portfolio, we provide assistance and support when they need help, we enhance our products based on client feedback and we learn from the usage of our software to invent new capabilities. All of this is performed through IBM Service Engage.

Engagement in real life and in service management

Ultimately, being engaged is way for a couple to share with each other, friends and family just how serious the relationship is. It allows them the opportunity to learn about one another and to discuss life, hopes, dreams and expectations.

Similarly, Service Engage allows you to probe and explore the products and their supporting features. If you don’t like a particular management solution, you just give it back. But if the offering provides the management aspects that you are looking for, you can simply promote the test drive into production, again within Service Engage.

Advice on staying engaged

Marriage means wanting to spend the rest of your life together and making a big commitment in your relationship. The same is true for IT. Unless there is a strong business need, you probably want to stay with the software you already have deployed and instead focus on the topics that need more attention.

In a SaaS world, clients are not “married” to the vendor any longer. The multi-year, up-front commitment to software and vendor no longer exists. If clients are not satisfied with the functions provided, they can simply terminate the contract and switch to a different vendor. Therefore, a vendor needs to continue to be charming to its clients, just like being engaged in real life. Here are a few other aspects of staying engaged.

Be responsive

When clients need something, you respond in time. In the background of the IBM SaaS offering, we have set up a DevOps culture. Code updates are pushed on a frequent basis. And, by the way, the developers are responsible for the operations side as well, to make sure that things do not break at the next update.

Stay in shape

When a new function is required, you assess it quickly and turn over the new capability quickly. You can’t afford to defer the function to the next release, which might not come up until a year from now. At the same time, the provider needs to assess if the requested function is a true market requirement or a one-off.

Manage your bad hair days

Everyone has bad days, but having several in a row can be especially challenging. One small event doesn’t have to set back your entire relationship. But how you handle bad days is important: are you open about it, are you receptive to critique and so forth. In marriage a couple sticks together when they’re ill, sad or in trouble. They will stand by each other even when they’re in the wrong. Providing a service level agreement (SLA) helps a vendor to overcome smaller events and shows commitment, but they are not a means to overcome significant or reoccurring failures.

Be open

If something is not working out as expected or planned, let’s talk about it openly—as the service provider but also as the service consumer. These challenges could be related to functionality or the quality of service delivered. We in IBM are open to enhancement and suggestions that clients have. We also need to be transparent about the service we provide to the users of the SaaS offering. And yes, we are using many channels to communicate: blogs, FAQs, videos, forums. In addition, you can connect with us using phone, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Be spontaneous and show gratitude

Every now and then you want to surprise your client. It could be a new feature that he hadn’t thought about before, an improvement in client experience of the offering or a new way to analyze or present the data. Likewise, every now and then a quick thank-you note goes a long way.

Foto by manikrathee @Flickr (Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/manikrathee/8524137260)

Never date anyone you wouldn’t marry

Realistically, there is not a black-and-white way to handle your infrastructure. In a SaaS model, you will still integrate services with other applications and functions, making it harder to “disengage.” But as you do integrate components together, you perform the integration through well-defined interfaces. This is very different from on-premise integrations where all interfaces that potentially exist are used—documented or undocumented. Splitting from these well-defined interfaces is much easier than finding out the hard way all the relationships and dependencies that may exist.

Generally speaking, you can (but you shouldn’t) be engaged to multiple people at once, but you can pretty much only have one marriage at a time. Some readers may argue that polygamy can exist with IT service providers, but I’d argue that this is an exception. Mapping this to SaaS may be a topic for a future post.

Ready for a date? I think when you spend a little time with us you will want to get engaged because it will bring some stability to your future IT operations, whether that is on premise or in the cloud. Learn about Service Engage this week at IBM Pulse or meet us online at ibmserviceengage.com.



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