In what the company describes as a premium service, Hewlett-Packard is offering to help the world's largest organizations impose some discipline on how they manage their multitude of IT service contracts.
HP's Multi-Supplier Integration (MSI) will provide CIOs and other business managers with a uniform way of evaluating the quality of their IT services, as well as a process to quickly restore services to operations should they fail, explained Peter Yates. Yates is the director of the service, which is part of the HP Enterprise Service Management division.
"This offering is for our top 500 customers. It is a large enterprise play," Yates said. Such customers, Yates said, "have the biggest IT spend, have the biggest scope, have the largest global footprint -- and they have the biggest challenge in integrating all these capabilities."
In years past, a large organization may have hired a single prime contractor to handle all or most of the IT operations, giving the organization a single point of contact to deal with when issues arose. More recently, however, many organizations procured services piecemeal, leading to a multitude of contracts with different service providers. While this approach provides more capabilities, it also becomes a management headache when operations go awry, leaving IT management to deal with multiple contractors blaming each other for problems.
CIOs can "lose control of providers, of the service availabilities," Yates said. "Enterprises need a helping hand to help integrate these different services into one coherent business service."
With software cloud services and personnel, HP will provide reports about how well each IT service performs, as well as analyze problems when they occur. In effect the service acts as "an agent to the CIO," Yates said. HP could also help the customer frame the service interoperability requirements for new contracts, working with service providers to look for areas where they can improve performance and incident reporting.
"We are helping [providers] interoperate with the rest of the system. Any provider that is selected to be part of this ecosystem needs to have a clearly stated set of expectations within every contract," Yates said. This will assure that providers know what precise performance data to supply customers.
Yates was quick to point out that HP doesn't assume liability for a customer's system that fails. But it can provide the tools the CIO or manager will need to restore the system to operation, and to financially penalize the correct parties. "We don't act as an intermediary with the suppliers," Yates said.
At present, HP supplies this service to 10 large firms already, and performs these duties as a prime contractor for many other organizations. While those engagements were arranged on one-by-one basis, the new offering is a "productized" version of this work, Yates said.
"There are definitely a number of customers who are interested in this" kind of service, said Bill Martorelli, a principal analyst for Forrester Research. "It is a complex undertaking to make different vendors play nice."
Martorelli also noted that a number of other IT integrators and consultants will offer this service, though HP is among the first to offer it as a discrete product.
The cost of the service depends on the number of services being managed, the number of personnel needed for running operations that can't be automated, as well as the number of incidents that arise, Yates said.