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SIAM – bringing a layer of clarity to complex environments and vendor ecosystems

Written by Brian Horsfield, SIAM Operations Director, Xalient

A new approach is required

Today’s modern IT environment is complex and challenging for organisations to navigate. Not only has the threat landscape evolved, but we are seeing more compliance and regulation as well as ongoing economic pressures. This is all putting additional strain on already resource-stretched internal IT teams.

Wind back just a few years and the average IT worker was a skilled generalist who could confidently turn their hand to virtually anything that was technology-based. Fast-forward to the present day and, in our hybrid world with all kinds of tech at our disposal, be that on-premises, virtual, or in the cloud, IT teams now rely on more focussed specialist help to enable the day-to-day running of the business and to drive new innovations and digital transformation initiatives.

Even the largest of organisations with reasonable IT budgets and resources struggle to not only keep up to date with the latest IT trends, but also to justify keeping infrequently used specialist skills within their team. Consequently, many outsource different aspects of their IT landscape across many third parties, and this can lead to a fragmented and disjointed approach to vendor management and coordination.

 

Coordinating multiple suppliers and contracts

As a result, SIAM (Service Integration And Management) has gained a lot of traction in the last 5 to 10 years. For those less familiar, SIAM is the coordination of multiple suppliers and contracts around systems integration and management. SIAM has emerged to help bring order to a chaotic vendor management challenge.

Widely recognised as an approach to multi-vendor management rather than a strict methodology, it is in effect an outsourcing service model designed to introduces the concept of a single, customer-facing logical entity known as the service integrator. The term is often used interchangeably with multi-sourcing services integration, or MSI, and provides guidance on good practice in managing multiple suppliers of IT services.

In many respects, it is an evolution from the typical activities that a managed service provider delivers, but it also incorporates a broader set of integrations across complex vendor management landscapes. In some cases, organisations may seek to appoint a SIAM provider for aspects of IT which they previously managed themselves but no longer have the skills, bandwidth, or resources to deal with internally.

 

SIAM in complex environments

There is no doubt that SIAM is applicable to organisations that have a complex IT ecosystem, and it is certainly not suitable for all organisations.  I would also suggest it to those going through large-scale IT-enabled transformation programmes where managing the technology suppliers is becoming a problem for them. That doesn’t mean that smaller enterprises couldn’t benefit from a lighter touch offering, but complexity is the key requirement for SIAM services.

In the case of an MSP, who might be managing both internal and external providers, governance and co-ordination are critical for an end-to-end vendor-neutral SIAM approach. There must be a level playing field and all vendors must be managed in the same way. However, to deliver SIAM, the MSP needs to be agile and flexible enough to get to the nub of a range of requirements.

 

To some extent, a fresh perspective is required around the term and more education about the growing community of SIAM expertise and best practice, which is not as narrow as conventional IT service management practices.  Today SIAM is more about people and communications and managed service providers looking to deliver SIAM will need to provide extra value and demonstrate the ability to react to and manage problems as and when they occur. The difference between a traditional MSP and one that provides SIAM services is its ability to orchestrate and coordinate multiple providers to deliver integrated and seamless services to the client. The goal is making sure the different service providers work together to meet the customer’s needs.

 

When and Why would a company adopt a SIAM approach?

There are several triggers that might prompt an organisation to go down the SIAM route. For example, the organisation has an unclear delineation of duties among its vendors and there is a lack of cooperation and coordination between vendors.  The organisation may be disappointed with the lack of innovation from its vendors and feel there is low accountability and or transparency around vendor processes and that quality assurance is expensive and labour intensive.

If there are many vendors to manage, with diverse IT services and the complexity of the services required is growing, the need for standards to measure vendor performance might be another reason for adopting SIAM services.  Likewise, if the organisation is divesting or going through an M&A or is in an industry that is heavily regulated, SIAM can bring clarity and efficiency to a complex legacy set-up.

Certainly, here at Xalient, our SIAM team works very closely with our professional services and managed services team.  In other words, one of our sub-vendors is Xalient and this means we must be as tough on ourselves as we are on the other vendors and additionally very transparent in the way our services are reported. That vendor-neutrality is critical for credibility and authenticity, especially if you are managing the team providing those services.

 

Delivering and demonstrating value

Demonstrating value from SIAM can be quite challenging, therefore it is important that the SIAM provider can show improvements in incident response and resolution across multiple vendors.  As SIAM matures it is key to see where some of those efficiency drivers will come from, such as automating support processes. Many of the benefits will come from the technology used to manage and monitor multiple vendor services.  Typically, when supporting thousands of assets, there needs to be a high degree of automation and a single pane of glass view for senior leadership, combined with a highly flexible back-end ecosystem.

In effect, the SIAM model addresses the assurance layer that organisations are looking for.  SIAM won’t be right for every organisation, but it certainly brings a layer of clarity to complex environments and diverse vendor ecosystems.  If you are currently considering SIAM but are not sure if the model is right for your organisation, below is a recap of the typical reasons an organisation may adopt a SIAM approach:

 

  • You have an unclear delineation of duties among vendors.
  • There is a lack of cooperation and coordination between vendors.
  • Low accountability understanding or transparency of vendor processes.
  • You are disappointed by the lack of innovation among your vendors.
  • There is a low level of reporting and quality assurance is expensive and labour intensive for vendors.
  • You have many vendors with duplicate vendors and diverse IT services.
  • The complexity of the services you need to provide is growing.
  • You have 24/7 operational needs that are difficult to fulfil.
  • Your focus is on project/transformation activities not run activities.
  • You have no set standards for measuring vendor performance.
  • You are divesting/carving out or acquiring.
  • You are in a regulated industry.