By Sairam Bollapragada
It was an interesting conversation with one of the industry experienced business colleagues the other day before when this topic of standard service offerings in Digital/SMAC/IoT space was brought up.
It was more to do with the perspective as a business leader where an equal responsibility for this LoB in the organization was emphasized on. The need to create a slew of service offerings to potential clients was getting discussed and the compulsion of pushing hard to get that done on a priority so that business could kick-off quickly.
He also went on to tell me that they looking at hiring an experienced practice/delivery manager (sorry what was that?) who would have delivered a few projects in these areas. On how he expected this role to be technology + sales + delivery + Architect + Solutioning – all rolled into one. This was a tipping point when I put forth my views and would like to share the same with all.
SMAC/IoT today is still at a partially nascent stage as just because we have seen a few implementations does not vouch for the maturity of the area. The area will be considered mature or standardized from software engineering standpoint when we have standardized ‘templated’ ways to :
- conduct due-diligence on the ask,
- estimation techniques to arrive at the engineering efforts – (which can be quite fragmented due to various components constituting the solution),
- arrive at delivery components,
- team constitution needed in permutations/combinations to deliver the solution,
- testing techniques to be adapted and many more
Assuming one size fits all cannot be more disastrous than in this case.
If we were to take smart city as an example, the entire concept is made up of so many disparate components that still need integration at some point in time to either complete a business process or from governance standpoint. Let us take two components of the smart city – say Smart Care and Retail services. They are from the Healthcare and Retail vertical lines. While Healthcare in itself comes with a huge array of offerings from various healthcare vendors, Retail would also vary in the offerings to the clients (both onsite and online) with various economies of scales and profitability driving their best deals.
In both the above cases, the SMAC/Digital space can help with data analytics, fraud analytics, mobile shopping experience, shoppers behavior analytics, faster or rather real-time claims settlement mechanisms, policy products preferred patterns, targeted customer shopping experience, and the list goes on.
The common areas could be around citizen demographics, the database, the preferences in a particular area, the subscription patterns, customer attrition analytics, etc.
What can be standardized is the interfaces between devices, the data storage mechanisms, PaaS offerings for a service, etc. The other satellite components would need to be glued to create a complete offering. Each offering would then need to be stitched in a specific manner as per the business needs of the customer. While some of the technology stack can be baselined, what cannot be totally baselined, is the offering types and flavours as each client wants to be different.
The notion clients carry is how can I embrace the next wave of technology and still be ‘Different’. Nobody wants to be a copy-cat unless playing a large catch up game. In the era where we will see more hyper-personalization of products and offerings, the need to be different is in itself a need which will demand that your plain vanilla offering (if you were to build one) must come stacked with top-up variations which will create several extrapolated offerings in it.
In the world where the competition is growing ferocious by the moment, everybody is in the mood to create the best and fastest and be the first-to-customer, else be ready to get wiped out.
Hence the realization that the rules of the game have changed drastically!! Digital technologies must drive us to create the experiences driven by what people want – not what we want them to have anymore. They want to create different experiences with the technology and they want to create the best experience which will create a psychological branding!!
Every offering has to be customer-centric and different. While this is so, the critical part of how much and how long also assumes lot of significance..
Engineering efforts for creating these solutions cannot be straight forward affair and we would need to create a conscious mechanism of capturing the requirements meticulously while also suggesting innovative ideas reflecting our thought leadership. The emerging technologies will challenge us with each new tool to develop or enhance a solution. This is like an ever changing foundation which will challenge us to be on our toes and baselining estimates does not seem to be any easier in the near vicinity till we standardize some of the solution components.
Added to all this will be huge demand on security around all these billions of connected devices, openly connected APIs, etc.
In addition, the methodologies for developing these solutions will add additional efforts, leave alone governance. Today it may be limited to a great extend to the IoT Labs and academics, but for a client who is insights-driven, it will need to move beyond that in a matching pace.
At the same time, proactively exploiting these trends can open new horizons in terms of business models, careers, products, services and lifestyle preferences – that are difficult to visualize leave conceptualize by even the most digitally-savvy industry experts.
Hence the efforts to cage the SMAC/IoT engagements into standard offerings, cost, estimation models, at present looks to be an area which needs lot of work if an organization were to offer solutions – else they will only be offering a product each time they try to sell a solution.
So how does one create unique solutions and how does one build collaterals enough to engage new clients? How does one build the basis to capture further requirements? How do clients understand what to buy from whom? How do we size the efforts? How do we compartmentalize various components and create a break down structure to make solutions more a mix and stitch phenomenon? How can we categorize components to make usability in lieu? Many questions that need constant thinking and perseverance to create and build new solutions….