What are Digital Services [SMAC] and How is it Different from IT ?

Defining SMAC ServicesDigital Services are the key focus for IT services vendors today with increased investments by vendors in building capabilities in this area. The term digital services or SMAC refers to a computing paradigm that is essentially a confluence of four different technology forces, namely a) Social Media, b) Mobility, c) Analytics and d) Cloud.

Social Media & IT
The ever increasing use of social networking platforms has opened up new avenues for customer engagement, marketing and brand building by organizations across the world. Social Media helps firms widen their reach across geographies and demographics; connect with customers and proactively seek real time feedback. For instance, most technology products have social networking sections on their websites where users exchange their experiences with the products and help each other fix bugs, minor technical issues etc. This helps these firms address customer support at lower costs than complete reliance on in-house support teams.

Increased usage of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets and high mobile internet penetration has created the demand for ‘anytime/anywhere’ data access. Enterprises are being forced to switch to mobility-driven solutions as customers have started engaging more through various mobile applications. Mobility driven enterprise solutions offer the potential to cut cycle times and make organisations more responsive to the needs of their customers. For example, an enterprise with on-field sales personnel could use mobile computing technologies to provide hand-held devices that access the firm’s order management systems for real-time order processing.

Analytics (Big Data)
Analytics, or Big Data analytics as it pertains to digital services, is the process of analysing extremely large unstructured data sets. These data sets typically are from multiple sources that are difficult to process using traditional databases or data processing applications Users on social networking sites and blogs are generating large volumes of data beyond the ability of conventional databases and tools to store or manage them. IBM expects data volumes will grow from 4 zettabytes in 2012 to 35 zettabytes in 2020, a 31% CAGR. Big Data analytics help analyse this massive unstructured information to identify behaviour patterns, trends and thereby provide insights into consumers psyche and preferences. This information can be leveraged to identify new business opportunities and
improve decision making.

Cloud Computing
The term cloud computing refers to the sharing of computing resources on a hosted model over a network. The key distinguishing features of a ‘pure cloud’ model are a) on-demand computing power, b) hosted delivery of computing, and c) managed services. Cloud computing aims to convert computing power into a near-utility model, putting enormous computing power at much more inexpensive rates in the hands of organisations. Public clouds provide internet based software and hardware services to individuals and organizations that are managed by third parties at a remote location. As shared pool of resources such as data storage spaces, networks and applications are provided on a ‘pay per use’ basis, cloud services significantly reduce investment costs, provide flexibility and improve scalability.

How are digital services different from previous technology shifts?
The digital services shift could be said to be different from previous shifts in computing due to the fact that it is a confluence of multiple technologies rather than a single predominant technology shift (e.g. personal computing, web based applications). Salesforece.com introduced its cloud based services in 1999, followed by Amazon Web Services in 2002, Google Docs in 2006 and Microsoft’s Azure in 2009. High performance mobility, however, did not go mainstream till Apple launched its iPhone in 2007, and more importantly, the iPad in April 2010. With increased proliferation of mobile devices, social networking also increased exponentially, bringing in the need for Big Data analytics, which in turn increased the demand for processing power for computing systems, forcing organisations to look at cheaper solutions for large amounts of processing power i.e the cloud. In short, digital services based solutions implement a combination of social, mobile, cloud technologies and Big Data analytics to deliver a cutting edge, customer focussed computing solutions in a much more cost-effective manner.

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