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The Cloud Strategy – Organization and People

Digital IT Operations

Cloud

January 8, 2020

In the previous blog section we explored the architecture side of a Cloud strategy.

Architecture and business strategy integration drive the priority and the consistency of the activities on the digital journey. But it is the organization and people who execute it. Change is a constant factor affecting all organizations and very few business concepts have stood the test of time without change. Cloud is a major change to the way IT is delivered and has a major impact on the organization as well as on individuals. Without going into a detailed organizational discussion let me illustrate this through two examples from the Microsoft realm.

Example 1: Ownership of Azure

Most IT teams are traditionally organized by technology – there is the Unix team, the network team, the windows team, the oracle team, etc. As Cloud computing is being introduced, in this example the customer decides to start with Azure and no guesses as to who becomes the Azure owner in this setup?

But obviously it would be the windows team as both windows and Azure are Microsoft products, would be best adapted with the integrated working and are the best choice to handle Azure.

But the question is, are they really the best match? Azure not only includes virtual windows servers but so much more – Linux servers, databases, platform services, and so on. There is no natural landing spot in a classic IT organization. In addition, the organization needs to be readied to manage more than one Cloud provider as multi-Cloud is the new normal.

Example 2: Dynamics 365 – CRM vs platform

A customer proposed to introduce Dynamics 365 for CRM where the plan was straightforward from an ownership perspective. Infrastructure took care of the prerequisites, and the application team CRM owned the application side of things with a clearly defined business owner working with them. The project progressed, and the teams developed APIs for the backend and ensured the integration into e.g. IAM, so that employees could use it in a single sign-on mode.

Then came the one event that changed things fundamentally. Two other projects were also created to use the dynamics platform, one for a procurement management solution and another one for a program management solution. These two projects started based on the assumption that the Dynamics 365 platform is being managed by the CRM project/team and they can focus on configuring their business processes in it. The CRM team pushed back and rightly said their job is CRM and not management of the Dynamics 365 platform. Infrastructure also had clear boundaries. The challenges that arose as a result were that the new projects needed more budget as they could not rely on the CRM team and secondly the wheel was re-invented e.g. for some backend APIs, things other teams had done were not visible or ignored to re-develop functionality already available.

These stand out to illustrate that the organization and people who execute Cloud influence it majorly and this determines the level of success of the Cloud implementation.

The nature of a SaaS acting as the platform broke the existing organizational logic of infrastructure and application. The solution was an organizational reshape and the introduction of a specific new layer.

 

 

Change as a part of the Work Culture

Apart from organizational change, the other factors affecting Cloud on a bigger level are cultural change and individual skilling.

Changing the organizational setup is only one part of a successful organizational transformation. The people that fill the organization are the biggest assets and the most critical components. This is especially true in a world where the availability of talent is limited, which certainly applies to Cloud and digital resource. Deciding on the right skillsets of people after aligning them on a cultural and also from an individual perspective is essential to be successful in executing the digital change.

Culture is impacted in myriad different ways. It can be in the cultural change that goes along the introduction of agile principles or just small changes in the way people interact and define their roles and accountabilities. I have seen many organizations wherein the process of change as a part of the work culture was lost in nuances of finger-pointing and accusing, sticking to the old ways or open competition where the competition was not helpful.

Do not underestimate the impact of change at an individual level. There could be fear for the future, insecurity of being unable to handle change requirements or just small changes in procedures that require moving out of the comfort pattern and have a deeper impact.

Even the change from a dedicated development server to virtual environments in the Cloud, while logically perceived as progress, might have an impact. The reality is that behavior must change compared to how it was before, and behavior is one cultural component.

Ensuring the right skills in an organization is another topic that needs to be highlighted. From defining the skill needs and assessing the skills available on a broader perspective to the individual perspective of providing employees with the opportunity to upskill or change roles so that skills fit their needs is another proof point for the urgent need of a strategy as you cannot progress careers in a way of fail fast and fail often.

And even if you do things right in the strategy department for your organization and the people in it, in real life different interests and drivers will result in conflicts of interests and differences of opinions among people. An area where this will happen and that will need to be moderated is the area of governance and compliance. The next article will explore this area.

The Cloud strategy – Compliance, Governance & Summary

Compliance ties into a strategy in multiple ways. Firstly, it covers many of the same topics but from a different perspective and secondly compliance looks at risks and tries to

  • make the risks visible
  • minimize these risks

 

By doing so, it defines a major set of the guardrails for the enterprise to follow. Compliance forms an important part of all layers of strategy, starting with business strategy to the IT / Cloud strategy and even to that tactical approach of technical architecture.

A Cloud strategy should have clearly defined standards and rules for exceptions while dealing with misunderstandings and interpretations. Working within the rules and legal limits is critical as ultimately a whole lot of regulations are in shades of grey and depend on customer-specific interpretation. While the legal interpretation is reserved for legal counsel, internal and external, the strategy advisor can share experiences and help understand implications in the execution.

Importance of risk evaluation in determining the guardrails

In determining the risk advisory, you get to supplement specific knowledge and experiences and also methods on how to reduce risk (e.g. through contracting or technology). The risk evaluation is a critical part of determining the guardrails to be set.

Cloud Governance is an extension of the IT Governance, and from a strategy perspective, a check on where the IT governance needs to be adjusted is important and should not be skipped. Often enterprises address governance at an execution level like –

  • How to integrate the Cloud into monitoring
  • How to manage consumption
  • How to get security controls enabled

 

but then they miss out on adjusting their governance framework and processes. The result is that speedboats, Proof of Concepts, digital labs, etc. skip governance completely by claiming management exception and that the governance framework does not work for them/apply to them.

The challenge to the execution is often a direct result of neglecting governance as part of the strategy.

 

Take Away (reusable, sustainable and one tree planted per cup)

In conclusion, this can be summarized as:

  • Do not wait for the strategy and get started
  • But do not skip the strategy part and focus on technology only
  • Plan for change impact on the organization and on individual people

Endnotes:

Creation of a contact point for project guidance will make a difference to your projects in daily life depending on where you are on your overall journey, the strategy definition and the resulting tactical implementation, etc. There are also queries like do projects have the need for guidance and inputs This could result in simple questions like “who owns sourcing governance?” to detailed technical discussions like “which Cloud provider to use when connecting BI and AI to create a new product and what does this mean for the use of PII?” If you do not provide the support and guidance, the teams will define their own ways and cleaning up the mess is always more difficult after all prevention is better than cure.

About the Author

Matthias Popiolek

Matthias Popiolek

Matthias has more than 20 years of IT experience. He is dedicated to Cloud services fulltime since 2007. He has a unique set of experiences in areas including consultancy management through portfolio management, creation of cloud products, and classic data center delivery. Matthias is focused on enterprises adopting “modern delivery” as a standard way of working. In doing so, he works with customers on strategy, organization, processes and technology.

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