Delivering Business Outcomes Through Zero Maintenance

By Srinivasan Thiagarajan, Assistant Vice President, Global Managed Services, Cognizant

Application maintenance is one of the most critical services delivered by IT service delivery organizations with various engagement forms ranging from fixed-bid, to managed services, to business outcome-based models.

Among the many operational challenges corporations continually face is the question of how much time and money they should allocate to application maintenance. It is imperative for organizations to free up their IT maintenance budgets to allocate funds to fuel business growth.

In today’s digital age, responsiveness and agility are vital for businesses to remain competitive in consumer-focused market conditions. With a complex application landscape and infrastructure bloat, it is going to be all the more challenging to serve the business purpose.

To address these challenges, businesses need to look beyond the traditional practices of IT cost optimization. The application portfolio needs to be modular and componentized to handle any changing business requirements. The infrastructure should be optimized to meet the “right” demand. And finally, IT should be able to deliver value and make an impact on business performance and not merely focus on IT service level agreements (SLAs).

“Zero maintenance” is a philosophy that underpins application maintenance models and helps reduce the cost of maintaining applications by eliminating effort as well as work. It is not sufficient to eliminate the effort required to maintain applications, but to invest in increasing resiliency and building the functionality needed for business growth to improve the “technical value” and “business value” of the portfolio.

The maintenance of applications is generally in the following order of maturity: Move from a “fail-and-fix” mode (for example, restoring a server after it has crashed) to a “predict-and-prevent” state (for example, using alerts to prevent the failure of a system by taking corrective action or auto-upgrading of disk space when it reaches its threshold), and finally to a “fail-proof” state (for example, back-up infrastructure kicks off automatically when the primary fails, providing a seamless experience to the end user).

Zero maintenance aims to progressively improve the IT portfolio maturity to a “fail-proof” state by:
  • Reducing non-discretionary spend,
  • Optimizing discretionary spend, and
  • Delivering business outcomes.
Reducing non-discretionary spend is about eliminating activities that are not absolutely necessary and automating those that are. This is done by eliminating the effort for delivering a service (by reducing the incidents) and optimizing the infrastructure by reclaiming unused or underused infrastructure.

Optimizing discretionary spend focuses on lowering the cost of enhancing the applications to make them stay relevant and reducing the time-to-market for new functionalities. The framework measures technical value of the application portfolio and has interventions to make them ‘fit for use’, significantly reducing the waste induced by multiple factors such as complexity, heterogeneity and quality.

Delivering business outcomes is to counter-balance the overt focus on cost. The application that is ‘fit for use’ needs to be ‘fit for purpose’ as well. A framework to baseline and enhance the business value becomes imperative to delivering the desired business results. A two-way drill-down (top-down and bottom-up) approach will ensure that the applications deliver what the business needs.

In a typical client context, these three components of zero maintenance will need to be applied in the right proportion in order to deliver on the client’s short-term and long-term goals. Organizations battling with legacy platforms would want to control their op-ex as a top priority and may want to focus on controlling their non-discretionary spend. Mature organizations would up their ante towards business outcomes as most of their non-discretionary and discretionary spend are in the right proportion. Alternatively, organizations looking to go digital may have to focus on all the three―cap-ex, op-ex and business outcomes.

This approach has been seen to deliver on a wide variety of objectives, which is very important, specifically because, no two organizations have identical needs when it comes to application maintenance.

The zero maintenance approach sustains and enhances the business as well as technical value of application portfolio, positively impacting cap-ex, op-ex and business performance. With structured tools and frameworks in place, this journey can be accurately measured and tracked for any stated objective and turned into competitive advantage.


Hareesh said…
Very useful article Srini