When it comes to cloud strategies, what is your development thought process?
I recently had an enlightening call with an experienced cloud strategist regarding the various ways organizations work out their cloud strategies. He stated that he believes some organizations are developing their cloud strategies in pretty much the opposite way that they should be.
The conversation with William Dupley, the Digital Strategist with Liam Associates was quite fascinating. His specialty is IT strategic planning and he was previously the Cloud Chief Technologist for Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Toronto Canada.
Here are some of the insights Bill offered:
Most CIOs and their team are considering cloud IT solutions as an option as they build their IT strategy. Some organizations are strong planners, but not everyone does their IT strategic planning well. I've worked on IT strategic plans for over 50 companies throughout my career, and the most common fault I see in IT strategic planning is the initial perspective. They start at the technical level instead of the Business level. They will start by saying “I have these new technologies and they need to be put it into action”. This can also be translated as “I have a strategy to put our work into the cloud”. That is just not the way to do it.
Start from the ground up to build a sound strategy
Any sound strategy has to start with the need to develop a solid, business-focused reason for change. You need to define what is wrong with a specific process or action? Then you can identify what you need to do to:
- As a business to grow our business
- Change your revenue
- Improve your asset efficiency and utilization
- Improve your cost margins
- Change your market expectations
- Improve your customer experience
In this way, the business and IT teams together identify specific change areas and nail down what it is exactly the business has to do differently. That work forms the outline of the new capability that IT will need to support to enable the business to accomplish that goal.
Then they work down from the business change to determine the functions required from their IT delivery model to accomplish this new business capability. Next, they define the technical architecture that would support those new functions and then build an implementation plan to implement these new functions. At this stage, they need to consider the implementation velocity that is required based on when they need to have these new functions in place.
How quickly should rollouts occur?
I'm very big on believing new functions have to come into production every quarter to support the reality of delivering actual improvements arising from a solid strategic plan. The reputation of IT is built in this way – and their confidence in delivering quality in a timely manner. The days of positioning all actions as part of a massive three-year plan where nothing gets delivered for three years are gone.
The failure that is commonly seen has organizations focused only on the technical view and they overlook the business view and the functional view. They have the attitude of “if we build it – they will come”. Of course, typically nobody comes. Quite a few companies have experienced this scenario—particularly with their cloud initiatives.
That’s why I go back to recommending that we start cloud initiatives by developing a defendable IT strategic plan and position cloud as one of the primary delivery vehicles of this plan. The mix of delivery options that is right for each organization has to be thought through in terms of workloads.
Once you think through the IT functions required and the workloads needed, then you decide where that workload belongs. Does that workload belong in a traditional production environment, a private cloud or in a public cloud? And finally, what kind of development methodology is best? Do we use a SaaS service, do we use a conventional development approach, should we move to a container architecture? All of those decisions are made throughout the strategic planning cycle.
What view are you using?
As an example of this planning approach, I was having discussions with a large company a while ago on the proper approach to doing strategic planning. During these discussions they said; “Oh we know what we did wrong now. We didn't do the business view and we didn't do the functional view. We just did the technical view. We thought we knew exactly what the customer needed. We built it and nobody used it.”
Do you see what can happen when you base your IT strategy on a technology? A well-crafted IT strategy does not stand alone, instead it becomes an integral part of the business strategy. In reality, there shouldn’t be a separation between these two.
It is great to start your cloud discussion with: “What does the business require from your team right now? What has been difficult for IT to deliver with the way your services are running right now?” The right approach is to make it about the business and their needs, then work down to the best ways to support them.
Let me know your thoughts and comments on this approach to cloud and the IT strategic planning process. In my next blog, I will return with more of Bill’s comments around Cloud, Containers and Velocity.
You can reach Bill Dupley at the following coordinates.
Liam Associates Inc.
“ Specialists in Hybrid IT Strategic Planning”
Hybrid Cloud Management