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Local, technical innovation in an outsourced world
 

Local, technical innovation in an outsourced world

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Presentation given to ILRT/Bristol University on the effect of the increasing adoption of SaaS on local capacity for innovation

Presentation given to ILRT/Bristol University on the effect of the increasing adoption of SaaS on local capacity for innovation

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    Local, technical innovation in an outsourced world Local, technical innovation in an outsourced world Presentation Transcript

    • Local, technical innovation in an outsourced world Paul    Walk p.walk@ed.ac.uk @paulwalk http://www.paulwalk.net 1
    • “We don’t do IT development it’s not our business - I’d outsource my granny if I could....” 2 A chance remark from a senior IT manager in a UK University
    • What effect does outsourcing your granny have on your ability to innovate? 3 So, the question I'd like to consider (briefly) is...
    • some assertions • universities  have  discovered  a  growing  appetite  for  outsourcing  technical   services  (cloud,  SaaS  etc.) • steady,  incremental  innovation  happens  in  a  local  context 4 going to limit myself to thoughts about incremental technical innovation - not because innovation cannot be non-technical in nature - it’s just where my interest and professional focus lie
    • the SaaS relationship • Software  as  a  Service  -­‐  where  the  software  is  delivered  to  your  users  across  the   network  -­‐  very  often  accessed  through  a  Web-­‐browser • new  features  added  by  the  vendor  and  rolled  out  to  all  customers • considerable  economies  are  made  possible,  but: • local  customisation  opportunities  are  limited,  and  you  are  one  of  many  customers   (potentially  many  more  than  in  a  pre-­‐SaaS  world) • to  offer  some  local  integration  and  customisation  potential,  vendors  increasingly   offer  machine-­‐readable  Application  Programming  Interfaces  (APIs) • APIs  change  the  picture.... 5 we’re familiar with the notion of Software as a Service? you pays your money, you takes your chances - although we're getting more experienced at negotiating and managing SLAs
    • APIs are interfaces for developers 6 not for machines. This is important. You probably have machines, but do you have developers?
    • simple SaaS relationship HE Institution End user requirements & opportunities User or domain expert SaaS Service Manager Account Manager Developer Strategic requirements Technical requirements & opportunities Technical Staff 7 green star is focus of knowledge about users’ behaviours, needs etc. red star is focus of capacity to innovate technically gap between them is pretty large red line is technical dialogue - dotted means it’s a weak dialogue
    • it’s usually more complicated.... HE Institution SaaS 1 End user requirements & opportunities Service Manager Developer User or domain expert Strategic requirements Account Manager Technical Staff Technical requirements & opportunities SaaS 2 Developer Service Manager End user requirements & opportunities User or domain expert Account Manager 8 same gap between knowledge and capacity we risk mirroring the classic internal IT divisions but making this worse as the tech capacity is outside of our organisational control. Loss of organisational understanding of technical issues
    • SaaS providers prefer this arrangement HE Institution Strategic requirements End user requirements & opportunities Account Manager Dev Consultancy Service Manager User or domain expert Developer Project Manager Technical Staff Developer SaaS 2 Developer Technical requirements & opportunities End user requirements & opportunities SaaS 1 Service Manager User or domain expert Account Manager Strategic requirements 9 SaaS providers would often rather work through a partner with a track record of development with their product, than through each customer directly. After all, this is partly the appeal of the SaaS model to the provider. Here the focus of capacity to innovate technically in context is with the partner. Note that the nexus of development for the institution is still outside the institution.
    • closing the gap between understanding & capacity HE Institution End user requirements & opportunities Strategic requirements SaaS 1 Account Manager Service Manager Developer User or domain expert Strategic Technical Developer SaaS 2 Technical requirements & opportunities Developer Service Manager End user requirements & opportunities User or domain expert Account Manager Strategic requirements 10 The local developer is able to exploit the APIs offered by the different SaaS providers to build a tailored solution the gap between understanding of users’ requirements and the capacity to deliver technical innovation is reduced, and importantly, the next innovation project will add to this understanding and capacity. but, I believe that we need to get to the point where we can conceive of a strategic local developer
    • the value of the local developer • should  understand  local  conditions  better  than  an  external  supplier • is  more  accessible  -­‐  very  important  when  adopting  agile  development • through  (web)  APIs,  can  tailor  remote  services  to  idiosyncratic  local  needs • can  engage  the  technical  people  in  an  external  supplier  -­‐  not  just  the  pre-­‐sales   people! • can  engage  with  and  exploit  available  open  source  developments 11 can make cheaper services into better services
    • the strategic developer • is  experienced,  both  technically  and  in  the  ‘business’  of  Higher  Education • has  good  local  (sometimes  tacit)  knowledge  -­‐  such  as  the  real  business  processes   of  the  institution • has  moved  beyond  ‘problem  solving’  as  the  extent  of  their  perspective • can  align  technical  planning  and  interventions  to  strategic  goals  -­‐  has  an   institutional  perspective • gives  a  technical-­‐development  dimension  to  strategic  planning • offers  leadership,  beyond  project-­‐management  and  can  identify  new  ICT-­‐based   opportunities  to  innovate 12 is probably disguised as a manager :-) does not really exist as a role, yet, but if it did....
    • the case of the missing career-path junior senior PG/research developer strategic Academic ? ? Undergraduate Employed developer 1 2 Manager 3 4 13 1. we have a rich source of raw talent coming in (our students) 2. we can and often do employ some of these. They gain the domain and tacit knowledge. Then we start to lose people 3. those that stay normally have a choice of going back into academia or moving into management 4. by this point we have lost all of our experienced developers. It is rare to have someone with a developer’s experience at a strategic level in our institutions
    • institutional memory and understanding junior senior ? ? 1 Introduction of new technologies strategic 2 judicious use of technologies coupled with understanding of local context 3 4 o rg kno anisa ti wle dge onal (tac it) un stra de te rs gic ta nd ing 14 1. 2. 3. 3. 4. technical (latest stuff) - new technical ideas (18 months to get up to speed on technologies) technical (judgement) and an understanding of local context organisational knowledge (tacit knowledge - how things work and how to get stuff done at my institution) domain knowledge (how higher education works, how libraries work) committee work, strategic planning, leadership (not on offer to our developers)
    • recommendations • we  should: • evaluate  our  capacity  to  do  local,  technical  innovation  to  get  the  best  return   out  of  our  investment  in  turnkey  or  outsourced  systems • invest  in  this  capacity:  local  developers  empower  our  organisation  to  innovate • be  mindful  of  the  importance  of  institutional  memory • don’t  forget  the  supply  of  raw  talent  in  the  student  cohort 15
    • "If  the  UK's  creative  businesses  want  to  thrive   in  the  digital  future,  you  need  people  who   understand  all  facets  of  it  integrated  from  the   very  beginning.  Take  a  lead  from  the   Victorians  [...]:  bring  engineers  into  your   company  at  all  levels,  including  the  top." 16 Anyone know who said this last year? Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google Thank you!