In my last post, I covered how unified automation plays a crucial role in the consumer driven enterprise. By automating the cloud and the client, we can dramatically reduce the complexity of heterogeneous, non-uniform IT environments and applications.
Today I’d like to talk about the emergence of what can be called the “just-in-time IT” model, the opportunities it represents and how organizations should be aligning their architectures now to take advantage of it. The concept isn’t new. Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing was developed and refined by Toyota more than 30 years before it gained worldwide popularity in the 1980s.
Those who are familiar with push-versus-pull manufacturing can jump ahead to the subhead titled, “What IT can learn from Toyota.” But if you’re not familiar with these manufacturing models, read on, because they have profound lessons for organizations wrestling with the demands of consumer driven IT.
Before JIT, the traditional manufacturing model held that companies would maintain a substantial inventory of raw materials to ensure maximum throughput on the manufacturing line. This approach is called the “push” model, because organizations anticipate what resources will be needed and gear up in advance (i.e., push) to meet demand.
The downside: Manufacturers tie up capital in inventory of raw and unfinished products. They also can’t respond quickly to changes in market demand because existing product is still winding its way through the pipeline.
Compare that to JIT manufacturing, where the inventory burden for raw materials and components is offloaded to suppliers. Manufacturers only take delivery of materials or components sufficient to fulfill that day’s (or even that hour’s) requirements. This eliminates large inventory costs and lets manufacturers have an agile response to changes in demand or design.
So, JIT manufacturing is a “pull” model, where the manufacturing process doesn’t start until the market demands delivery of product. The manufacturer doesn’t anticipate demand, but rather, responds with agility to what’s happening right now.
What IT can learn from Toyota
There’s a weighty lesson here for business and technology leaders in the era of consumer driven IT. Users (and, by extension, their organizations writ large) are rejecting the old “push” model, in which IT plans and deploys rigid systems that attempt to anticipate the businesses’ needs.
What are users moving to? You guessed it: a JIT “pull” model that can respond to the immediate demands of the business with agility and fluidity. The IT department is being tugged in specific, dramatic directions by the user community — and that’s not just employees, but executive leadership, customers, partners, vendors and even government entities.
Yes, even Washington is embracing consumer driven computing, requiring organizations to use cloud services as opposed to faxing a document, or capitalizing on social media for civic communications and service delivery, to cite two examples among many.
So, if consumer driven IT is changing the market model from push to pull, then we need to align our architectural model to deliver just-in-time IT. Unified automation is a crucial enabler of this alignment. With unified service automation, there’s an IT service supply chain of sorts that’s strikingly similar to the manufacturing metaphors I described earlier.
This can help the IT organization evolve from the traditional planning and delivery of services created in-house to meet the anticipated needs of organization, to one where IT is a service broker (my colleagues Andi Mann and George Fischer wrote about this phenomenon recently, too). With this approach, IT is not necessarily directly producing all of the IT services they’re delivering, but rather, they’re assembling (even curating) services for users and making those services available on demand through, for example, an enterprise apps store — powered by automation.
These services can be based on SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, cloud services, mobile apps — you name it, and it can be productized and its delivery automated for users in a self-service (i.e., “pull” model) fashion.
Savvy IT organizations are recognizing that success in the consumer driven enterprise is all about the efficient management and the orchestration of IT service supply chains. Whatever comprises the “services inventory,” automation is a catalyst to delivering just-in-time services that align systems, managerial and operational approaches with that of their technology consumers.