Saturday, August 24, 2013

Five Key Principles To Consider When Starting a Cloud Computing Initiative

Thinking you can get to cloud without a concrete strategy is a recipe for failure. You need to understand what cloud is and the benefits before just diving head first into the cloud cool-aide.

Take a look at any CIO poll and most likely you will find Cloud Computing near or at the top of the list for CIO priorities. Cloud is a hot topic, the reason; solving business problems with technology isn’t easy and at times can be very challenging.

Cloud provides a simpler Vision of IT, and this gives business and IT hope that there is a solution out there to improve the current state situation. The hope of a better solution is fueling the demand for cloud thus driving the need for cloud technologies and cloud architectures.

The catch, while cloud is becoming a reality the conceptual view of cloud has grown faster than the technical capabilities. The cloud conceptually is different depending on who you talk to; cloud means many things to many people. When you engage in a conversation about cloud both sides come with a different context.

Given the different views of cloud it’s difficult to have a factual conversation about how to get to cloud. In addition to different conceptual views for cloud, cloud currently describes what needs to be done. It does not prescribe exactly how to do it.

Making the move from your current state to the future state of cloud computing is going to take more than just purchasing cloud technology or by putting your data in cloud. It takes more than creating a private cloud or signing up with a public cloud provider. Getting to cloud takes building a common vision for your organization, a model that is based on business value. This business value based cloud model then needs a well-defined vision, of which much be backed by a solid strategy and plan to help you get there.

Here are five key principles to think about when creating a cloud strategy for your organization.

1.    Business Value of Cloud
Many businesses see cloud as a way to impact the business bottom line. In some cases they see it as a way to reduce cost from the business while others are willing to accept a higher cost cloud model but are looking for innovative services. The Business value should be measurable. A key question that needs to be answered in order to help you make this decision - are you planning on being a consumer of cloud services, a producer of services or both? Your strategy, business value and level of complexity towards cloud will vary depending on your answer.

With a clear understanding of the business value you are seeking, it is important to predict when you will realize these benefits. The capabilities of cloud in many situations are competing. This means that you will need to make an investment in both capabilities. To realize the benefit of cloud it’s important to have clear quantitative measurable business cases for your cloud investment. The effort to put this together does take time, it takes financial analysis, interviewing key stakeholders. But this is a necessary step in building a successful business plan to help with your cloud initiative. All this should be mapped to the business value timeline showing when you will realize the benefit, and most importantly who is responsible for the realization.

The cloud architecture will require new capabilities; these new capabilities are components of your future state architecture. There will also be the baggage of old technologies that you’ll need to consider for in your strategy. You don’t just want to focus on new technology but decommissioning old technology as well. This transition from old to new technology requires people and process modifications, in your plan consider what is needed to retire the old technology to support the new mode.

2.    Choose Your Cloud Strategy Wisely
You may have identified what you consider a great opportunity for cloud and have a good idea of what it will take for you to get there.  Remember that The Cloud can mean many things to many people. Due to these different views it is important to bring all the stakeholders together to agree on the common vision for cloud. It you do not have alignment and a common vision with clear benefits you’ll have little chance in accomplishing a common cloud vision.

Like many organizations you will have different schools of thought with-in the organization. These schools of thought may all be looking to solve different business problems. Having these different views, developed in siloes, can complicate the problem; if each group implemented their own cloud solution it would create more complexity rather than reducing it. This could add to more cost to the business. To build a common vision the cloud strategy should be socialized, understood by other cloud stakeholders.

Creating and agreeing on a cloud strategy is key to being able to accomplishing cloud.

3.    The Right Architectural Capabilities
With the right business model in hand, that supports the needs of the organization, the next step is to align the architectural capabilities required to meet those business needs. Simply put, are you a consumer of cloud or producer of cloud depending on your answer your approach to cloud will vary. There is a lower level of effort be a consumer of cloud than to become a producer of cloud. You will also require different architectures to support the models. The way the market is headed - there will be more and more producers of cloud, giving consumers even more choices.

A must have for organizations is to know where their data and workloads are located; one key capability is the ability to keep track of and possibly manage all clouds across an organization. Another fundamental capability that enable cloud is virtualization, while true you can have a cloud without it, the technology is a key enabler. Other key cloud capabilities include the capability to meter, monitor, and do capacity planning and forecasting.

Clouds that don’t offer such capabilities provide less value to the business. Consider the transition to cloud, and what your technology plan will look like. How will you introduce new technology, migrate data and remove overlapping technologies. Successful IT departments are taking this opportunity to standardize their tools sets, create heat maps of competing capabilities creating standards and frameworks to support the common cloud goal.  

4.    Phased Approach
Getting to cloud is not going to happen overnight, it took years for organizations to build their operating models to support their current business models. Organizations are getting to cloud in stages. It takes some time to prove the model, retools the organization’s people and process to be able to support the new model.

With any new technology organizations expect to see immediate results from their investment. It is important to show quick wins with the technology. Cloud is a relatively new model; the sponsors of the initiative generally demand to see early progress. Do this by focusing on strategic quick wins that will instill confidence in the stakeholders and help proper the initiative.

A quick win doesn’t mean you should stop there, in your phase approach show how you are planning to gain lessons learned from a quick win and move on to realize the cloud vision. The phased plan must show how not only the technology will be implemented but how the organization will also be transformed.

Self-service is the norm with publicly consumed clouds, however in organizations their first cloud consumer are generally technical consumers. This technical consumer approach makes a lot of sense and is a good strategy for those organizations wanting a first steps towards cloud. So before opening up self-service to your end-users you want to be able to prove, harden and validate the solution.

5.    Streamline the Organization
Ensuring you have the right level of sponsorship should go without saying, however in many organizations this isn’t always the case, with the new cloud model the need for this sponsorship dramatically increases when you move into the cloud producer model and is especially important when you are trying to drive cost-out of your operations. The sponsor can help steer the organization to a unified solution with the best of both worlds approach rather than departmental.

A sponsor can also help guide the organization, help it choose the transformation algorithm, evolutionary vs. trans-formative. While an evolutionary approach is the most common this approach it generally takes more time. The sponsor can play a key role in stepping in when progress is slowed or teams are not cooperating.

With new technology the consumers will need to change how they think about and use the technology. Easy access to technology can lead to supply demand issues. Users should be aware of the costs, benefits and changes that are coming. They are concerned about what the impact will be to their daily life. If your consumers of cloud do not buy into the changes or they do not meet their immediate needs they will not consume the services you create.

With a change in your business model, you may also need to change your operating model to support the new business model. You will most likely need to add new functions to your IT organization to support the new technology. There will also be some new roles and responsibilities required to support the change. Be prepared to address these operating model changes to better prepare for the change.

Moving to a cloud model is possible, many organizations are taking advantage of the benefits of cloud. The key is to identify the business value; with quantitative business value you should put together a cloud strategy that has measurable benefits. With a solid strategy and vision for cloud determine what are all the capabilities you need to support the vision.

Getting to cloud won’t happen overnight - by breaking your plan up in to phases you can gain experience in cloud and provide incremental value to the organization. And finally you must streamline the organization; it is going to take people to accomplish the cloud vision. They need to be empowered with the right tools, process and training to make the cloud a reality.

John M. Hawkins has helped Fortune 500 companies achieve their short and long term goals. He is the author of Affinity: Managing Java Application Servers, and Building a Strategic Plan for Your Life and Business. Hawkins lives in Oregon Twitter: @hawkinsjohn

1 comment:

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