When embarking on any kind of IT transformation, it’s important to consider the entire landscape including infrastructure, development, and operations. A move to the cloud is no different. The effect on people and process are key considerations, and a defined strategy is a must. Engaging the business and getting their buy-in is critical to success, which means ensuring the benefits are crystal clear, and the transformation costs and impacts are managed effectively.
It’s all about strategy
If you’ve decided that there’s a need to move to the cloud (private or public), you’re probably wondering what to do next. Wll obviously setting clear goals is the first step, but where do you begin? Cloud adoption is a fantastic opportunity to look at all of the underlying drivers that impact efficiency and effectiveness. They can be broken down into three key areas:
Bringing them together into a coherent strategy is key. We suggest defining the strategy in terms of the following:
- People – individual and team capabilities and competencies, the operating model and governance
- Process – integration of automation and orchestration, user behaviour and service definition
- Technology – the infrastructure required to effect the change. More than a lift and shift, there will be fundamental change in platform, security, reporting, licensing, etc.
- Strategy – a mix of people, process, and technology. The goals, outcomes, costs and benefits of the change. The success criteria, future operating model, service definition, migration plans, and cost benefits are all key elements here.
The great thing about this approach is that it aligns business transformation with IT goals. In forcing both to come together and collaborate on shared goals, you will uncover underlying issues and opportunities.
The model looks simple, but don’t be fooled! Here are just some of the relevant areas to consider as part of your strategy:
- Future Operating Model, including future state business model and IT design
- Cost benefit analysis
- Detailed plan of change
- Definition and design of services
- Requirements definition enabling selection of suitable Cloud Service Providers (CSP). Yes, there may be more than one depending on your requirements.
- Interface design – APIs into underlying services, such as configuration management
- Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) – an opportunity to optimise the current approach to software development and/or redefine entirely to leverage new technology to drive improvements
- Orchestration and automation
- Application design – monolithic applications may need work to be suitable for the cloud (cloud ready or cloud native)
The breadth and depth of potential improvement that makes cloud adoption so challenging yet incredibly effective. It highlights the need and opportunity to completely re-focus the way in which IT works.
Although cloud is clearly the way of the future, in many cases the timing may not be right; the organisation may be focused elsewhere, the money may not be available, or the will to change may not exist, in which case you should think twice. We’ve found that the following test is a great indicator of cloud readiness.
The SFA test
- Suitability – does it meet the critical success factors that the business operates within? Will it overcome a known issue or provide one or more clear opportunities? Will it capitalise on the organisation’s capabilities and support its financial and non-financial objectives? Are you sure it will provide a competitive advantage within the business or within IT?
- Feasibility – can the strategy be resourced (people, money, etc.) and can the goals realistically be met? Remember to challenge this. What you initially believe may not reflect reality.
- Acceptability – what risks are associated with the strategy? Will it’s implementation endanger the company or impact overall service quality? Will it meet regulatory needs where applicable? Have you accounted for the impact on employees? What processes, operating models etc. will you need to change to make this work, and is it factored into the business case?
If, after this, you’re confident that the cloud is right for your organisation then what next? Well… you get on with it. You’ve defined the strategy, costed it, ensured you’ll get benefit from it. Now it’s about the execution.
This means that you need to decide whether to execute it in-house or bring someone in – it’s likely to be a bit of both. Some activities are probably best done through a specialist; Future Operating Model design, technology change, process design and implementation, engagement with CSPs – many organisations don’t have these skills in-house. It’s also more efficient to let the change be managed through a third-party as it will disrupt your company culture and internal politics – it’s always handy to have a bad cop to support your good cop.
The boring bit – technology
Finally, the technology bit. Notice how long it has taken to bring this up – that’s deliberate. As stated earlier, cloud is really part of a transformation process, and the complexity rests in the people, process and strategy. Ultimately, you are going to have to consider the following:
- Orchestration – how you define, simplify and integrate the creation, use and destruction of infrastructure components
- Security – perimeter security, anti-virus, anti-malware, penetration testing, encryption in transit and at rest, entitlement management, role based access control (RBAC) – this list goes on…
- Platforms – types, version control, configuration management of databases, application servers, compute (perhaps) storage etc.
- Networks – integrating the cloud services into your systems
- Reporting – making sure the providers are doing their job and delivering the service you’re paying for
- Security – didn’t I mention security already? Of all of the things you need to worry about, this should be your main concern.
- Services – you’re not buying a server or database any more, you’re renting one. This has all sorts of implications in terms of support, culture, control and governance.
- Commercials – your service is no longer under your complete control. You must have a strong set of commercials in place as failure here could sink your company. It’s that simple.
We still haven’t touched on PaaS, containers, DevOps or any of the other weird and wonderful terms. We’ll come back to these topics in future posts,
Ironically, cloud transformation isn’t really about the technology. It’s bog standard organisational change management, with some very interesting technology thrown in for good measure. If you address the strategic changes inherent in transformation then it allows organisations to access resources that may have not been cost effective with older technology, bringing significant benefits in terms of time to market, cost, elasticity, improved developer efficiency and more. It means that many of the barriers to entry into new markets are reduced and the total cost of existing solutions radically reduced across the lifecycle, and that is what makes cloud transformation so compelling.
- Posted by John Shortt
- On 19/07/2017