by Clint Boulton

XaaS success: Proving the value of ‘everything as a service’

Jul 24, 2018
AnalyticsDigital TransformationInnovation

CIOs are consumerizing IT in new ways, including rolling out self-service analytics and proof-of-concept-as-a-service solutions. Welcome to the age of XaaS.

self serve gas arrows sign gas station xaas
Credit: Getty Images

Consumerization of IT, in which technologies introduced in the consumer market spread to enterprises, was once exemplified by employees using their own smartphones and mobile applications to do their jobs. Now it’s extending to the enterprise, as CIOs are rolling out sophisticated technology services that employees can access with minimal intervention from IT.

The age of everything-as-a-service, or XaaS, has arrived.

From self-service analytics to proof-of-concept-as-a-service, leading organizations are fast proving the value of empowering business users and customers to leverage innovative technical services without having to loop in IT every step of the way. XaaS is part of a larger trend that has forward-thinking CIOs leveraging innovative solutions in an effort to topple prevailing business models, shake up the competition, and generate new revenue streams.

Following are four successful instances of IT departments developing XaaS capabilities for their companies, each of which received a CIO 100 Award in IT excellence this year.

GM takes data-as-service for a spin

Data-as-a-service, or self-service analytics, is fast catching on as a way IT can facilitate business value by providing business users access to data traditionally locked away in silos. Data-as-a-service platforms enable data scientists and business managers alike to search for insights, typically through a Google search-like interface, without IT’s intervention.

General Motors is one such organization “democratizing” data with a self-service analytics platform, says Les Copeland, the automaker’s CIO of global data strategy, artificial intelligence and analytics services. The platform, called Maxis, helps GM support strategies such as pricing, marketing, sales forecasting, sales leads, as well as safety and contact center text analytics, he says. 

“Our ability to leverage that data and the vast amounts of other connected vehicle data we collect from millions of vehicles daily as the world leader in connected vehicles, presents us with multiple opportunities to design analytic solutions and will continue to be a competitive advantage,” Copeland, who manages Maxis under the direction of global CIO Randy Mott, tells

Timely access to information is even more critical as the automotive industry is rapidly transforming thanks to the rise of autonomous vehicles, which GM believes will help reduce crashes, emissions and traffic congestion. Each autonomous vehicle produces more than a petabyte of data per month.

The data-as-a-service platform, which ingests more than 30 billion records daily and has amassed more than 1.5 petabytes of information, enables employees to access internal, vehicle, and third-party data from any computing device. Anyone from engineers to C-level executives can type a business question into Maxis’ user interface to search for data that may help generate new insights. A mobile version of this tool displays critical key performance indicators for GM senior leadership on Apple iPhones and iPads as well as Android phones and tablets.

“Everyone from novices to data scientists can discover, interact, and analyze data from all facets of the business in a user-friendly environment that makes it easy to access, visualize, and share,” Copeland says, adding that the system is available to more than 75,000 GM employees. “It’s the first time data has been democratized within GM.”

GM estimates that Maxis drove an excess of $100 million in benefits to its business in 2017, the first full year it was fully deployed. “We’ve seen an exponential increase in overall value that business partners can generate on Maxis,” Copeland says.

Innovation as a service comes to real estate

For real estate company Cushman & Wakefield innovation can’t be an afterthought. To help identify opportunities where technology could create greater efficiencies or generate new revenue, without pulling brokers away from serving clients, the company launched a proof-of-concept-as-a-service (POCaaS) offering. The initiative fosters innovation by matching the commercial real estate firm’s intellectual property and staff with startups, universities, startup accelerators, and early-stage vendors, says James Jenga, portfolio manager for Cushman & Wakefield and leader of its POCaaS efforts.

“The industry is changing rapidly, and there is a risk that if [our] brokers are focusing on their clients today, we will miss opportunities coming down the pike,” says Adam Stanley, CIO of Cushman & Wakefield. He adds that the initiative allows the company to avail itself of technologies that otherwise would be out of reach because of competitive pressures and development costs.

Pilot projects have included next-generation 3D visualizations employed by a leading C&W broker in Texas, advice on blockchain concepts for a client in Great Britain, and a robotic receptionist bringing refreshments to guests in Singapore.

C&W is currently running POCs involving 12 different companies, tapping technologies ranging from big data to IoT to natural language processing. Janega and Stanley say they are also keeping an eye on what the future holds for real estate as blockchain, autonomous vehicles, and other emerging technologies disrupt business models.

C&W brokers or other staff fill out an online form indicating their interest in exploring a project; Janega and his team help them find the appropriate partners and other resources. The company uses knowledge management business intelligence (BI) software to share and track POC outcomes and insights, and analyze success rates.

POCaaS comes in the wake of hit-and-miss innovation efforts that failed due to the wrong structure or personnel, Stanley says. “[POCaaS] created more structure and enforced the right people being involved,” he adds.

Allstate adds convenience to claims processing

Allstate’s QuickFoto Claim expedites the insurance estimate process. The feature, accessible via the company’s mobile application, enables customers to take and submit photos of their cars’ damage to the insurance company, whose adjusters create a damage estimate.

For customers, QuickFoto Claim eliminates the hassle of traveling to a drive-in location for an estimate, “giving them control to take the photos when and where is most convenient for them,” according to Allstate. It also shrinks the claim payment time from days or weeks to hours or minutes.

Allstate conceived of QuickFoto Claim in 2015, but it wasn’t until late 2016 and into 2017 that the company implemented “digital operating centers” to support the virtual inspection process.   

Accenture drives insights with self-service analytics

Accenture is another organization making good on data as a service. Its Enterprise Analytics Platform and Enterprise Insight Studio are transforming the consultancy into an insights-driven company by delivering actionable, data-driven insights across the business.

Composed of a massive data lake, BI and reporting, analytics, and data science, the platform includes “nearshore data marts”— small, fungible data sets serving a specific need — that are quick to develop and change.

This model gave data analysts fast, self-service access to a secure environment for generating insights across broad swaths of previously inaccessible Accenture data, according to the company. Moreover, new tools let the analysts blend data sets into visualizations to retrieve and share results.