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Personal Shopper or Tailor?


Recent analyst reports from Scandinavia and North America, continue to enforce the notion of IT departments being squeezed between resource availability and business expectations. According to feedback from IT decision makers, the discrepancy in expectations from the business and what IT really can deliver continues to grow. This growing discrepancy paired with new phenomenon introduced on the market calls for a revamped view on the future IT strategy and the partners/SIs organisations choose to implement it.

The future of IT system integrator organisations

The IT landscape of today has introduced a growing flora of cloud native applications for various purposes (AWS already has many products available on their webpage and phenomena like Serverless Architectures, including Function as a Service (FaaS) and Backend as a Service (BaaS) as third party services. With these capabilities we are starting to see the tooling required to industrialize the IT industry that is described in the Radar Group 2018 report, which is an outlook with predictions for the development of the Scandinavian IT landscape.


The tailor

With increased pressure to deliver more and faster, budget constraints are no longer the primary restrainer for the IT department but rather a lack of resources. In a situation like that it is natural to look for new ways to deliver and to question how things have been done in the past. The traditional way to deliver on business expectations for IT solutions has been to hire a team of consultants to fix the issue. Sometimes this team has consisted of resources sourced from different System Integrators (SIs) and sometimes the whole responsibility for the project has been handed over to the SI. In essence it’s been about handing the SIs a bunch of money to solve the challenge through development of a custom made application. This process is often both expensive and time consuming. Customers have often found themselves in all kinds of project and management related issues while trying to get the most out of the investment and managing resources from different SIs.

The above described approach has resulted in many organisations getting stuck with tailor made application infrastructures that are costly and time consuming to maintain and develop. This approach creates obstacles for the IT department to respond quickly and efficiently on business requirements. However, this approach is often supported/pushed by larger SIs, as their focus and business models are still on selling CVs and pushing utilisation levels, rather than focus on the actual value delivered to customers. I would describe this approach to that of a tailor. A tailor will always deliver exactly what you are asking for and always say yes, when asked if a certain modification or extension can be made. He will charge you by the hour or a fixed price for something that is tailor made for your requirements. Maybe you can even find a tailor based in a low cost country that can do this whole process for a few dollars less an hour (might have an impact on the quality though).

The issue however is that the result will be something that is tailor made for your requirements at that specific moment. When you want to modify your garment or add something, you must find the same tailor and wait for him to be available alternatively find someone that is equally skilled to handle the garment for you. This can be a costly and time consuming process.


The personal shopper

The flora of competent cloud native applications and FaaS and BaaS availability however has presented IT departments with an option to opt for ready made, easy accessible pieces of code that can speed up the development process for new applications. These solutions may not have exactly all the capabilities requested by the business, but they are close enough especially when speed often is prioritized above a 100% requirement fulfilment.

Chosing the right cloud native app or set of FaaS/BaaS may let you take advantage of the development of these apps in order to add new capabilities to your application at a low cost. To me, this means that the traditional delivery model of SIs will be questioned. A modern, adopted approach is to act as an adviser that assists customers in combining the right development methodologies with the right tooling and available cloud apps and or FaaS/BaaS capabilities. Put together in the right way this will:

  • increase speed and agility,
  • lead to lower costs as you can choose "pay as you go solutions",
  • allow you an adaptive price models as your capacity requirements increase,
  • not charge you for things you don’t use 
  • and minimise risks as you don’t have to invest so much in failures as you have previously done. 

To me the behaviour of future successful SIs will be like a “Personal Shopper” that assist you to make the right decisions and configurations, rather that act as a “tailor” that will make something for you at a high cost over a longer period of time.

Being an Open Source focused system integrator we have worked with a “best-of-breed” approach for many years. The nature of a developer used to working with Open Source products and frameworks is to search for useful components that can be combined together to create something even better (why invent something that is already invented?).

If some specific functionality is missing or needs to be fixed, one can just focus on that specific functionality, add it/fix it and then contribute back to the project/founder. This way each specific product gets improved and the specific implementation get its characteristics, at a fraction of the cost compared to build everything bottom up. It might not be tailor made, but my guess is that it will be pretty close to your organisations expectations.

I started this (rather long) blog post with the intention of comparing two software delivery approaches.

“Tailor made” – high level of requirement fulfilment, but costly and with a high risk against the “Personal shopper” approach – lower level of requirement fulfilment, but lower costs and risks due to the usage of more ready made components.

Today both approaches exist, with a tendency to go for the tailor made option rather than the Personal shopper approach (at least in large organisations). My feeling is that moving forward we will see the approach of the “Personal shopper” growing, supported by availability of the FaaS and BaaS growing combined with an even increased focus on speed on delivery. This is supported by recent market reports published both globally and in Scandinavia. Being an Open Source company I think Redpill Linpro is well positioned to assist organisations with choosing and combining the best functionality for their purposes, since this is basically what we have been doing for the past 15 years or so.

So my final advice to the reader of this post (if you have managed to stay on until now) is to consider looking for a “Personal shopper” instead of a “Tailor” when you are to invest in your next IT project.  

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Written by Fredrik Svensson