Beware of Incomplete Travel Advice for your Journey into ‘as a Service’

Mind the ‘advice gap’. The advice might look and sound good – but is it? Where’s the crucial detail? More often than not it’s missing, or at best incomplete. This is evident in a lot of the materials aimed at helping organisations move to ‘as a Service’ right now. Don't let partial advice put you off investigating the very real rewards that can be had from a shift to consumption based models.

Recently I attended the 2016 ALGIM Infrastructure Symposium targeted at Local Authorities. I went because ‘as a Service’ was very much part of the agenda and there would be several high-powered presenters. I was keen to hear what they said about this critical topic, and to see how the audience reacted.

Game-changing plays such as ‘as a Service’ and Shared Services that leverage economies of scale should be very attractive – even compelling – to organisations trying to manage budgets, increase agility and flexibility and better serve communities.

The speakers at the conference all stressed the same core messages:

  • To get the real benefits of the new consumption models organisations must look at their overall operating model – in effect be prepared to stop doing some stuff. The cost savings come from the bigger picture, not just a point replacement of one service with another. One speaker made the very valid point that stopping at a partway point in the transition could well be worse for cost savings, agility and effectiveness.
  • The emphasis in ICT shops will shift from capacity management and provision to demand management.
  • TaaS – the DIA-led Telecommunications as a Service – is up and running. The catalogues exist and are ready to buy from without the need for a lot of complex contract negotiation.
  • The supply industry as a whole is moving to consumption based services as the means to deliver to their clients. This is a major transformation of the industry. (The scale of this transformation is not fully appreciated, partly because there are still many examples of the ‘old ways’ in play).

My perception is that most of the audience were less than convinced – not because they are sceptical about the promises or benefits of moving to aaS, but because of the difficulty of making the transition. Their scepticism and confusion may stem from what I call the ‘advice gap’. The advice gap was evident at the symposium, i.e. the speakers stressed the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’ but didn’t spend enough time delving into the ‘how’.

Travel sites and articles suffer from the advice gap when they offer pearls of wisdom like:

  • Don’t drink bad water
  • Catch the right taxis
  • Avoid the wrong parts of town
  • Watch out for scams and touts
  • Avoid badly cooked food

You can’t argue with that, but it doesn’t cover the how… how do I know: when the water is bad, which taxi drivers I can trust, where the wrong parts of town start and stop, what scams to look out for, if all street food is to be avoided?

It’s what we call bumper sticker advice. It sounds sensible enough (in fact it’s irrefutable) but doesn’t inform you, and may just serve to alarm you. Time and time again I read business articles that also purport to offer sage advice, and which set out some entirely correct statements, but turn out to be less than helpful.

To return to the symposium, many of the questions that people had after the presentations were of the ‘how’ variety:

  • What does “change the operating model” mean and how do we do that?
  • How do I make sense of 200+ services in a catalogue in order ascertain which ones work for me?
  • How do I get cost benefit? When I compare the price for a specific service it’s more expensive than what I’m currently paying.
  • It looks like it’s designed for the big boys in the big cities. How does it work for smaller organisations outside the main centres?

These are very valid questions.

When you travel through a new country that’s likely to be challenging, you don’t avoid the questions. You address them upfront, with your eye on the prize – your destination. You read Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor and find out which places are dangerous, what safely prepared and cooked food looks like, etc. If travelling through more adventurous and uncharted places you might hire a specialist guide.

In 2009 I travelled to the Ross Sea region in Antarctica with the help of an expert guide on an expedition trip. Navigating 10-12m waves, getting trapped by pack ice and re-charting our course, kayaking in the Ross Sea, getting up close and personal with a leopard seal, and a bracing polar swim at the foot of a gargantuan iceberg would not have been possible without my guide. The rewards were more than worth it, as we mutually challenged each other to work out what was possible and safe. On that trip I learnt the difference between a ‘tour’ and an ‘expedition’.

Moving to aaS is uncharted territory for many organisations. While at the services end there is a play book in the form of the catalogues, the actual transition, the change management, and the decisions about exactly which services are most suited, still require a specialist guide. Each organisation’s journey, by necessity, is different because everyone starts from a different place. The commonly held truths are different and the drivers are different.

There’s a very real possibility that, as soon as the journey becomes threatened by perceptions of danger, organisations stop investigating making the transition. That would be a real shame. As many people at the symposium stated quite correctly, this is a time to be bold. (But not stupid).

Moving to Consumption Based Services has caused the Supply side to seriously challenge themselves and implement entirely new rules. That change is still in play and bedding in, as it will be for a while. We believe the Customer side also needs to challenge themselves – the potential gains are so significant – but to use experienced guides able to help them through uncharted territory and to keep moving them forward when it seems too hard.

Voco is a company built for the purpose of guiding transformations and charting change when there isn’t a pre-set map. We would be delighted to talk with you about the ‘how to’ of this expedition.

For an in-depth guide to your journey into as-a-Service, download our free ebook here.


To discuss the topic further, please get in touch with the author, Paul Gordon, on 021 718 190.


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