IT on the Hot Seat

If IT organizations don’t start embracing alternative delivery models, they’ll risk being bypassed by the line of business

It’s a familiar lament of the chronically overworked, woefully understaffed, and underbudgeted enterprise IT organization: no matter how one tries to keep up with escalating demand, its users -- and sometimes its line-of-business clients -- inevitably get tired of waiting and circumvent it.

Call it disintermediation -- of a particularly vexing kind.

If industry watcher Gartner Inc. is right, this is a problem that could get worse -- unless IT organizations learn to stop worrying and start embracing alternative delivery models. Gartner identifies 14 delivery models it says could completely transform how IT is bought, sold, and consumed over the next five years.

Gartner analysts argue that the typical IT organization now has -- or soon will have -- more options to deliver, package, and procure IT solutions than ever. Any one of these alternative delivery models has the potential to dramatically change how IT is accounted for. As a result, Gartner cautions, IT leaders must explore and thoroughly understand these delivery models -- before frustrated business units beat it to the punch.

“Traditional practices of technology life-cycle ownership, where the organization buys, configures, manages, optimizes, and retires technology for its own use, are being questioned as to their efficiency and effectiveness, so alternative delivery models for technology and services are emerging,” said Mark Margevicius, research vice president at Gartner.

“Alternative delivery and acquisition models include new channels for acquisition, use, and payment. In some organizations, alternative models involve only users and business units, bypassing the IT function.”

Among the alternative delivery models, Gartner cites the emergence of Web platforms, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and virtualization as three particularly exciting new schemes.

The salient point, Gartner analysts agree, is that these and other delivery models are more modular -- i.e., more flexible -- than ever. “Today’s environment enables a level of IT decoupling and modularization never before available,” said Claudio Da Rold, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Technologies such as virtualization and Web 2.0, as well as mobility and ubiquitous computing, allow for extraordinary changes in how IT and business services are delivered.

This accelerated change and the associated market excitement will affect the business and technical spheres. Drivers in both areas are converging to create a new market order where traditional and alternative acquisition and delivery models coexist.”

Other delivery models include business process utilities (BPUs); infrastructure utilities (IUs); storage-as-a-service; grid computing; communications-as-a-service (CaaS); utility computing; capacity-on-demand; remote management services; SaaS; Web platforms; community source; software streaming; software-based “appliances” (SBAs); and user-owned devices, Gartner says.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.