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Is it time for “everything”-as-a-service?

Business Process Re-engineering

The explosion of “as-a-service” providers is giving a lot of traditional organisations huge headaches, and big opportunities in equal measure. Is it the ticket to a simple life?

Can as-a-service be the simple life
Can every business tasks be bought as-a-service? An emerging band of companies, including ourselves, think this is not only possible, but preferable. The new businesses are fleeter of foot, carry less baggage and are more innovative. And lastly, they are apolitical.

It only really got going a few years ago with dull web hosting; suddenly the idea of buying racks of equipment and supporting them manually seemed very ice-age. The companies that came into the fill that gap were big players – Amazon, Google, IBM and despite the slow uptake from IT Departments (do you still have one of those?) cloud is now the way to go, and pay-as-a-service is the preferred option for most scenarios.

But it hasn’t stopped there. Google, Basecamp, Pingdom, BazaarVoice, Live Person, Open Table, Salesforce, Intuit, SAP By Design, WPEngine, Live Ops, RackSpace, and now even Microsoft have true as-a-service offerings. In fact, you can run almost any business on entirely rented and cloud-based services.

It’s heralding an interesting time of change. We’re sitting at the confluence of changing work patterns and emerging technology. It’s deeply disruptive and it’s changing the game forever.

But wait, is there more? How about buying marketing-as-a-service? Or innovation. How about backing all of your operational functions off to trusted third-parties. What would that look like?

For a start, it would be cheaper. Estimates suggest than moving to a UK-centric service model (i.e. no dodgy cheapo Ukraine service agreemnts or back-end support in Bangalore) saves at least a 25% of the cost. We’ve seen, first-hand that the savings can be a markedly higher, closer to 50% if managed well.

And you can expect an increase in (most) measures of customer service. The 99% of CS issues can be dealt using scaleable programmatic solutions. Buying those as a service allows you to wind up and wind down the service quickly so you better fit the needs of the clients.

What about the 1%. Sadly, they are victims – anything that falls outside of the programmatic offering has to be dealt with by hand. This is slow and expensive, a challenge yet to be overcome. By way of example, we deal with around 2,000 support tickets and 1,500 work items per year. Out of the 3,500 parcels of stuff we suffer less than one serious problem per week.

Is this hard to implement?

You may remember IT or the geek-team telling you that cloud computing is hard, has problems and you should avoid. You may also recall when you were aware of the active work required to maintain your email or internal servers?

There’s none of that to do anymore. One of the joys of implementation is the end-of-worry it brings. Implementation for the most part is fast and simple, even in areas your never thoughts about.

You probably outsource your PPC, SEO, Social, Data Acquisition, Design, Finance, Content Planning, Sales Fulfilment, Email marketing etc. In fact you’re probably doing more buying as-a-service than not. You just need to think about what other services you could outsource as-a-service.

And the core benefits

  • Low barriers to entry
  • Choice of best-of-breed
  • Mix and match solutions and providers, change at will
  • End of legacy code management and liabilities
  • (often) Risk reduction
  • Faster deployment, and change
  • Little or no capital expenditure as infrastructure is owned by the provider.
  • Massive scalability is very common
  • Multi-tenancy enables resources (and costs) to be shared amongst many users.
  • Device independence enables users to access systems regardless of what device they are using
  • Location independence allows users remote access to systems and applications.
  • Reduced liability, in terms of maintenance contracts, staff agreements and insurance
  • Less working space required

In fact, is there anything you can’t outsource? How much capital could you free up? How fast could you scale any part of the operation?

Maybe it’s time to sell your house and possessions and rent a whole new life?

By Martin Dower,
A committed agile, and as-a-service advocate.