Consider this scenario: An IT services firm submits a proposal for a massive IT transformation project. A few days later, the COVID-19 pandemic sends the world into lockdown mode. The client still needs the project to be executed. So, a couple of weeks later, they request a meeting with the service provider. But of course, a face-to-face meeting is out of the question, for the health and safety of everyone involved. So, the entire discussion, including due diligence, negotiation of terms, milestones, commercials, and everything else, needs to be done remotely. And once the business is awarded, even the transition of services needs to happen remotely.
This marks a major shift in the service delivery framework. Because now, if the project is approved and kicked off, the IT services firm must be ready to shift to a remote engagement model with their clients immediately. Managing a large, complex project in a remote working model requires seamless and secure communication, collaboration, and monitoring. And while this is no mean feat, in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, remote-engagement scenarios will become exceedingly common.
IT Service Delivery Evolution through ITIL Standardization
About three decades ago, when “offshorization” was introduced as a delivery model, there were many concerns around connectivity, security, data, service delivery processes standardization, etc. This led to the creation of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework.
Over time, processes were built and implemented to ensure synchronization and infrastructure improvement. This enabled offshore operations to evolve from being the least risk-prone and least complex tasks, to the current day situation, where offshore operations manage business-critical processes and services.
ITIL-enabled standardization eliminated discrepancies and ensured consistency in the quality and output of IT services being provided to organizations. Since then, the ITIL framework has been the go-to service delivery framework for IT services across the globe.
In the Wake of COVID-19: A Critical Need for Evolved Service Delivery
Today, it has never been more urgent for organizations to transform digitally. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the game. And organizations know very well that to rely on age-old, analog, traditional business models (onsite-offshore) is to risk their survival. Technologies such as software-defined infrastructure, Internet of Things, cognitive platforms, and so on, are rapidly stepping-in to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds. The underlying framework of the IT service delivery model, as a whole, needs to be rethought.
I see the following five aspects as key components of this new service delivery model:
Focus on service delivery resilience
An effective IT service delivery in a post-COVID world needs to possess one quality above all others—resilience. For any existing business framework to survive, it is critical that the service delivery framework is built to respond, adapt, and recalibrate in the face of adverse or challenging conditions. To achieve this, service delivery resilience needs to include the diversification of digital infrastructure suppliers, striking a balance between downtime and redundancy, implementing robust IT risk management practices, investing in strong and upgraded cybersecurity and, finally, framing effective disaster-recovery plans.
Transformation of the onsite-offshore model to “essentialization” of services model
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the global supply chain, which will have a cascading impact on the work being done locally versus at another location. As uncertainty prevents business leaders from planning far ahead, at least one thing is certain: social distancing is the new norm, and it will be in effect for the near future. Today, in an ever-shrinking world, the “localization” of services is quickly losing ground to the “essentialization” of services. This means that, for customers, what is essential from their business objectives/vision/mission perspective, will need to happen in front of them while work/tasks/products can happen remotely with resiliency measures such as failsafe, backups, and service continuity along with service delivery cadence, reporting, and productivity.
Leverage the skill ecosystem
To manage the impending change in the delivery framework, it is imperative to optimize the skill sets available. To acquire and cultivate the right talent, organizations may end up creating a platform for skills (for both internal and external) that has a real-time availability of skills. These skills (to be deployed on an as-required basis) will become an integral part of service delivery. Such a platform will allow organizations to utilize skills most efficiently. Given that work from home could become an integral part of the service delivery, we may see women who may have taken leave/left active service delivery to be able to integrate themselves well.
Changing nature of client interactions
We have already mastered offshorization and the way services are delivered. Tasks or services that can be delivered remotely are done remotely, and those that require interaction with the customer’s organization are done at the client’s location. However, this will change, and a significant amount of interaction will be virtual. We may end up seeing that a sale is closed without any face-to-face meeting. In such a scenario, we will need to train our workforce to excel in the new work from home interaction. More specifically, clear and precise communication (as there are limited visual cues) must be promoted to make them more interactive and engaging while remaining focused on the outcomes.
Make organization culture an integral part of service delivery
Building a strong brand requires a change from the inside out—in other words, a large-scale cultural change. The first part of this is about customer-centricity: IT firms are no longer just IT solution providers but the stakeholders in their customers’ business and growth. Besides providing outcome-based/solution-based models, IT firms need to integrate themselves with the client’s business and growth. This requires a massive shift in the way IT firms interact with customers as well as a realignment of cultural mindsets so that service providers see their customers’ goals as their own goals.
Secondly, it’s important to build a sense of sustainability in business practices. Organizations are not islands. They depend on society and the natural environment. So, they need to “give back” as well. This is why following the principles of conscious capitalism or stakeholder capitalism becomes important, where business practices don’t just benefit shareholders, they also enrich society, conserve and support the natural environment, and prioritize the wellbeing of people and employees.
The Way Forward
Such a transformation throws up several pertinent questions. Considering the uncertainty about the future, it’s worth considering whether work from home will necessitate the revamping of existing SD standards in the long term. And if so, do we need to redefine the measurements of productivity? Or perhaps relook at the very definition of productivity itself?
But ultimately, however the situation unfolds, certain fundamentals remain unchanged. At HCL, our business is underpinned on the principles of the “Relationship Beyond the Contract (RBTC),” where our primary focus is to strengthen and grow our cherished client relationships.