The alliance between former market antagonists IBM and Apple makes a lot of sense. IBM possesses world-class data mining and analytics technologies that enable companies to generate actionable business intelligence from their Big Data resources.
Apple is great at making complex information intuitively navigable to mobile end-users. So together, the two companies should do a good job of delivering ready-to-deploy BI solutions for today's hyper-mobile workforce.
But as IBM, Apple and an ever-growing legion of cloud vendors empower IT to more easily expand its service portfolio, is it similarly enhancing its ability to connect the right users to the right services in that larger, more complex portfolio?
Or, put another way, is IT's ability to broker services evolving as quickly as its ability to acquire them?
Service brokerage models put IT in the position to become the most agile and achieve true IT as a service (ITaaS). As a result, the business gains more value from the apps and technology services made available by IT.
IT: Between the back-end and the front-end
This issue of IT moving toward a brokerage type role is important for two reasons. The first reason is that IT is getting "hollowed out" by cloud on the back end and consumerisation/BYOD on the front end.
If services are increasingly running on third-party provider infrastructure and users are increasingly accessing those services via their own iPads and 'Droid devices, then IT's mission will increasingly be to effectively broker connections between the two.
This brokerage gets more challenging as IT keeps adding new services run by an expanding cast of providers - and as consumers' needs become more fluid. This latter reality should not be under-estimated. People are changing jobs more quickly.
Companies are making greater use of contracted "virtual" staff. M&A activity looks to be on the upswing. These factors and others are adding to the fluidity of end-user populations and their daily needs, making it more important than ever before for IT to understand their users and deliver agile services that match their needs.
A requirement for the agile enterprise
The second reason why IT must shift into a broker-oriented role is that it is becoming more important to do this job exceptionally well. Business success depends more and more on the effective technological enablement of everyone across the extended enterprise - including contractors and other trusted partners. If you can't quickly connect your constantly changing cast of users to the services they need, your business will suffer. And you won't get maximum return on your investments in new services.
Well-managed service brokerage can help you in other ways too. It helps you see which services are actually being used by the business - and which ones aren't. It helps you safeguard compliance with regulatory policies regarding service access.
It can even help you better allocate enterprise IT costs to your various LOBs. So service brokerage excellence isn't just a nice-to-have. It's an indispensable discipline for the agile enterprise.
That's why CIOs contemplating the impact of the IBM-Apple alliance shouldn't just think about how it may help them roll out a few good mobile applications. They should also take it as yet another signal that it is time to look at a service brokerage models as strategic priority.
Tracey Mustacchio is the CMO of RES Software.
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