Convergence will make IT departments 'service brokers'

The IP-driven convergence of IT and telecommunications services will put more pressure on system administrators to give management the services they demand

The convergence of IT and telecoms means IT departments will have to become service brokers "to justify their continued value to the enterprise", according to a report published by analysts at Forrester this week.

The report, entitled Converged Service Delivery: The Missing Link in Achieving Business Flexibility, claims business leaders are becoming frustrated by a lack of tools and resources that can provide a "consolidated view across the different layers of IT and telecom functionality".

"Businesses and processes have globalised, but IT support for the business services is just a piece," one of the report's authors, Thomas Mendel, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday. "The IT department itself is becoming more of an internal service," Mendel said, explaining that many departments have concentrated on providing what they thought was important, rather than what their internal customers felt was important.

The current problem, Mendel claims, is that IT services and telecoms services have traditionally "been managed and funded out of different buckets of the underlying operational budget".

This is an increasingly inappropriate approach to take in a rapidly converging environment, where legacy telecommunications technologies are being replaced by services such as Voice over IP (VoIP).

Mendel and co-author Pascal Matzke believe that the convergence of IT and telecoms is finally happening as companies migrate from legacy systems to IP — the "all-encompassing" standard for data, voice and video.

"What we've seen is that technology, particularly around service management, now enables service providers to go to market with the kind of offering that the business decision makers are looking for," Mendel said.

This standardisation of platforms enables the creation of "service building blocks" — which should help IT departments select and deselect services as needed — effectively making them "service brokers".

"The IT organisations were running the show, [but with] the situation we have today the business is playing a bigger part in decision-making," said Mendel. "If IT is not offering the service they want, they go elsewhere".

One business line manager quoted in the report — which followed interviews with companies such as Cisco Systems, HP, IBM, T-Systems and Wipro — said he had to "go to more than 10 different departments in the company" to get a holistic view of its IT operations.

"We found both the IT departments and the service providers had similar issues," Mendel told ZDNet UK, highlighting how management difficulties in contracting services locally across different territories were mirrored by the inability of most service providers to operate globally.

This meant that "end to end service was very difficult to achieve" and prices were difficult to measure and compare, said Mendel.