Do You Suffer from Cloud Strategy Deficiency (CSD)?

By Hiba S. Sharief, VP, IT, Oportun

Hiba S. Sharief, VP, IT, Oportun

Are you feeling anxious, frustrated, and exhausted? Do you no longer enjoy the things you once loved about technology? You may be suffering from Cloud Strategy Deficiency (CSD).

In their July 2017 press release, International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that public cloud services spending this year will reach 128 billion dollars, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2016. Worldwide spending on public cloud services is forecast to reach 266 billion dollars by 2021. So, if you haven’t yet embarked on a cloud journey of your own, then use this checklist to make sure your strategy has comprehensive coverage.

"Build a culture that is empowered by change-a culture where it is encouraged to take calculated risks, challenge the status quo and drive innovation"

Having developed cloud strategies for both startups and Fortune 500 companies, I have often seen leaders focus primarily on the technology facets of strategy. Fellow CIOs use the terms “cloud first” and “digital transformation” to describe their strategies and focus areas. Technology, nonetheless, is the easiest part of any strategy. Plenty of expertise, knowledge, and research exist on designing for high availability, security, and scalability. My warning to you is that maintaining an exclusive focus on the technology will only temporarily relieve your symptoms since the cure for CSD lies in making the People and Process the core of your strategy.

The Cure for Cloud Strategy Deficiency (CSD)

To gear up for long-term success, you need to develop detailed plans for the cultural transformation required to support your cloud journey. Build a culture that is empowered by change-a culture where it is encouraged to take calculated risks, challenge the status quo and drive innovation. Adopt new and agile approaches to getting work done. Adopt a culture where being honest about your failures and learning from them is valued and encouraged. Most importantly, embrace a culture of continuous feedback and improvement. The following six considerations are key to a successful strategy:

1. KPIs, Metrics, and Reporting

Use data to drive all decisions. Develop your business case and conduct your TCO analysis before moving to the cloud. In the spirit of Disciplined Agile, define your success criteria and KPIs before you start, then measure regularly as you go from inception to transition. Analytics is becoming just as important to technologists as it is to the businesses we serve. At a recent dinner with peer Silicon Valley CIOs, an emerging theme was that gaining the trust of your business and CEO highly depends on getting this part right. After all, if you do not know where you are today and where you seek to be, then how will you know you have arrived?

2. Organizational Support Model

Restructure your organization to align with a cloud-centric support model. The cloud has blurred the lines between IT and Engineering because all infrastructure is now code. The cloud has also blurred the lines between network, security, server, database and application layers. The new IT organization should comprise teams of end-to-end cloud architects and administrators with strong developer capabilities, along with a shift from legacy terms like NOC to Cloud Operations.

Likewise is a shift in process implementation and adoption. For ITIL-driven organizations, adapt and redesign your processes to work more effectively. Your weekly Change Advisory Board (CAB) meetings may need to turn into a daily standup given the amount of production changes occurring every day.

3. Talent Strategy and Management

To support a new model, you must also update your talent strategy. Hire people who think differently and have a thirst for learning new things. More importantly, bring in new blood that does not have a bias of doing things a certain way. Create healthy competition for existing team members. Cross-train and rotate team members to mitigate key man risks and build capabilities. Keep employees engaged and invest in training and networking. Finally, focus on skills such as project management and communication to strengthen your IT brand.

4. Automation and Self-Service

Focus on automation because it delivers the real business value of faster time to market, operational process improvements and measurable impact to the business bottom line. Be strategic about automation and prioritize high value, low effort activities first. Deliver consistent experiences, standards and factory-like blueprints to gain the most efficiency. Steer clear of over-engineering and customization.

Ultimately, your goal should be to enable self-service capabilities to your business. With Software as a Service (SaaS) on the rise, do not become a bottleneck in the adoption of new and innovative services. Provide the guard rails and define the controls within which your business should operate, and let them help themselves. Find the right balance between delivering capabilities and managing the risk of reduced control. Raise awareness and share accountability of risks.

5. Cost Management and Optimization

Invest in cost analysis tools and techniques to understand and optimize your cloud spending. Leverage the cost benefit of pre-paying for services. Make it your mission to find regular opportunities to either reduce costs or reduce the rate of growth of cloud spend. Cost optimization is mandatory for a successful, long-term cloud presence. It is easy to have orphaned or unused services you pay for by the hour. At a minimum, your automation should turn off anything not in use and minimize data duplication. Sophisticated automation in this area reaps significant and measurable benefits.

6. Education and Awareness

Teach your business about technology. Increase technology adoption by increasing the awareness of its capabilities. Educate everyone resistant to change or those with a mindset that the cloud is less secure, overly complex, or simply scary because it is unfamiliar. Educate in bite-sized chunks and open the lines of communication for your business to ask questions and seek guidance. Teach all of IT about your business and drive towards business value generation. Raise the level of discussion so that it resonates with the business and you become a trusted advisor.

Moving to the cloud in itself is not innovative. Innovation-led companies embrace the cultural and organizational changes required for successful cloud adoption. They run IT as a business with Everything-as-a-Service as their product offering. Most importantly, they preventatively focus on people and process so they are not infected with CSD.

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