Part 3: Disaggregation vs. Disintegration
Updated: Jul 5
In this blog I wanted to discuss two things..... the trend for disaggregation in UK Government ICT supply, and the risks posed by taking this too far..... something I refer to as disintegration. Lets start with the meaning of those terms:
Disaggregation: A division or breaking up into constituent parts, particularly the analytic disassembly of categories which have been aggregated or lumped together.
Disaggregation has become a buzzword in UK Government Digital and Technology, synonymous with the break up of large systems integrator contracts into insourced services and shorter, smaller scope contracts through frameworks such as G-Cloud and DOS.
The key feature of disaggregation is that it breaks up individual services which have been lumped together unnecessarily. Fundamental to the process is the idea that these services will be "loosely coupled" with standard and clear interfaces to the other parts such that the customer doesn't have to then pick up a big burden of effort to integrate the services of multiple suppliers.
The risks of disaggregation
The reason for hiring big Systems Integrators in the first place was to manage that burden. So unless your internal Systems and Service Integration capability is already mature, this can lead to either failure or delay as your internal team has to solve complex challenges with multiple suppliers.
It is arguable now that many of the large Systems Integrators have lost (or never had) the capability to lead a disaggregated solution, having ceased to invest in repeatable process and lost their capable individuals to the contractor market.
It is certain that most customers will not have organisational experience in drawing new technology and service boundaries (in the right places) across their technology and managing multiple suppliers to deliver a cohesive solution and service.
Those from a development background, without large scale infrastructure experience can assume technology is inter-changeable and modular like micro-services, but until technology services are actually replaced or modernised, this is simply not the case. This can lead to.......
Disintegration : The falling apart of single system as the bonds that hold it together fail or are broken.
Unlike modern digital services, most Government technology infrastructure is currently not designed or constructed to be entirely modular and standards-based. Rather than dealing exclusively in the "new shiny", Technology teams have to handle technical debt (aging applications on out of date platforms), "Highlander Services" (there can be only one) such as Single Sign On, Multi-Factor authentication and the increasingly common integrated product eco-systems such as Microsoft 365 and Google's G-Suite.
If you don't have expertise in these systems and you start to break them up, you run the risk of disintegration, rather than disaggregation. Components that to the layman might appear loosely-coupled can actually have clear dependencies on each other, meaning a simple "swap it out" approach will either limit functionality or cause problems in live service.
You also start to build a more complex picture of vendor relationships and integrations.
Two pieces of the puzzle might look similar from a distance..... or from a vendor sales-pitch
….but if you do swap them you're likely to only spot you have a problem when your puzzle is put together..... and in disaggregated solutions, it often becomes the customer's problem to fix it.
1. All but the latest end user computing solutions are not truly modular.
2. Even the newest systems make good use of supplier eco-systems like G-Suite and Microsoft 365 which are designed and economically licensed as a suite, not a menu.
3. To move to a multi-source disaggregated model takes indepth knowledge and experience of the current plumbing, not just the target solution.
4. Issues may not become apparent until the puzzle starts to come together again.
We're here to help, if you plan to disaggregate or insource your IT provision, or have already started and are running into issues, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or start a conversation @through_tech and on our home page.