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You DO NOT need a Cloud Strategy – Cloud Strategies: Part One of the Series

Digital IT Operations

Cloud

November 7, 2019

Digital business can gain speed and agility through cloud services. Many organizations are now focused on cloud-first strategies as they turn their attention to advancing the use of cloud services across the business. We bring to you a series of blogs highlighting the dos and don’ts and the pros and cons of Cloud strategies. Get equipped with information about the right strategies before embarking on your Cloud journey. In this series, our Cloud expert, Matthias Popiolek, will pilot us through the ‘Cloudy way’ and share his knowledgeable opinions on the best strategies for Cloudification.

The question of a cloud strategy, the what, and the actual need keeps coming up in every customer conversation. Asking about the need for a Cloud strategy is like challenging the norms on whether Germany should introduce a speed limit on the “Autobahn”. It is so exemplified because the need for Cloud strategies is seldom fact-based and often driven by the individual’s motivation. While one side proclaims that the days of strategy—as in long-term planning—are over in times of fail fast and fail often, the other side’s counter-proclamation states that only a Cloud strategy will ensure a fruitful succession of digital dreams becoming a reality.

But what is the essence of this discussion?

Defining the cloud strategy

Defining the strategy – its Boundaries and Extents

There are multiple varied interpretations of strategy and also w.r.t the exact explanation of the Cloud strategy that is being referred to here. Without wanting to complicate the readers with a broader set of definitions like mission, strategy and more (Click here to read more), let’s get down to the nitty-gritties of the Cloud-driven approach. The most common approach I have come across is that Cloud strategy is associated with a technology-driven approach. Often it is a bottom-up list of decisions or ambitions regarding the methods to use certain technologies (the how) which can be referred to as the technology-driven tactical approach. This approach is often led by either pain or pressure to provide quicker infrastructure solutions.

The oft heard statements in this context are:

  • “We hired a technical architect, let him look at the Cloud use first”
  • “We need to focus on providing IaaS”
  • “Lift and Shift is our Cloud approach and we will be 80% on the Cloud by the end of it”
  • “We need to provide group XYZ access to Cloud ABC quickly”, etc.

Tactical approach for cloud strategy

In more structured discussions about the tactical approach to Cloud Strategy, topics like network connections, Identity and Access Management can be found sprinkled generously. To have a tactical approach and a plan on the technical side is an absolute plus and needed.

A glimpse into the strategical side of things

Strategy per se is ideally driven top-down. The major driving force for all activities in an enterprise should be its business strategy. This business strategy can have a variety of flavors from purely business-driven to a mix with philanthropic goals as well. It is the compass which everybody uses to orient their individual activities, the divisional strategies and the tactical execution.

Use of cloud strategy

Why should the use of Cloud be different? Why should it be decoupled from the business strategy?

The answer is, Cloud should not be restricted in usage or be decoupled from the business strategy. Cloud implementation is an obligatory part of the business strategy breakdown into its divisional strategies. From production to HR to IT, business strategy sets the priorities. But wasn’t there the statement that in days of Digital, Cloud and Agile strategy “the what” and “the why” is not needed anymore? That trying, failing and retrying has replaced strategy and planning? Anyone supporting this should take a step back and rethink about the agile approach through as is in many ways, it is comparable with the bigger strategy context. Even in a purely agile approach, there is a guiding compass like the strategy of an enterprise. The product owner role becomes the compass in agile as it is the product owner, who defines the guardrails of the product development and sets the direction. In an enterprise, the guardrails and the directions are defined by the business strategy.

The Strategy Confusion and its Solution

The reason why many people struggle with the definition of a strategy, business or derived divisional strategy, is that they perceive it as very narrow and defined. In fact, like a zoning plan for a region vs an architecture plan for a house, the difference is huge. So, how does the Cloud strategy play into this?

You might remember the title stating there is no need for a Cloud strategy. The reason is simple, as in the Cloud strategy should be part of the broader IT strategy. This is important as Cloud from a strategy perspective should not stand on its own, especially as it extends or replaces some of the classic IT described in the IT strategy. So why does Hexaware then offer a Cloud strategy advisory if there is no need for a Cloud strategy? Again, the answer is simple. Very few enterprises are at the point to review their full IT strategy or even renew it completely. So, the Cloud strategy as an addition binding into the IT strategy and extending the guardrails of the business strategy is how we at Hexaware interpret Cloud Strategy.

Cloud Success

Tactical Cloud architecture and a strategic Cloud perspective are two essential components for a successful Cloudification.

But does this mean that all activities should stop and wait for an update of the strategy?

Of course not, and this is the charm of Cloud computing. While in the “good old days” every trial was already a halfway-decision due to the investment into hardware and software, because of which investments for PoCs drove decisions and strategies, the scope for exploring and trials was limited the advantage we have now is the flexibility of defining the strategy and implementing the trial practices in parallel. Testing things in Cloud is easy and so taking the first step and creating the process speedboats to accelerate the digital journey are no contradictions to the notion for a need of a strategy.

Direction to operate with Cloud Strategy

Speedboat Maneuvering in rough waters and Guardrails

Enterprises and their IT departments should make sure that the digital labs or speedboat advances do not create a set of rules of their own as a parallel approach to strategy and digital activities can create contradicting results. You need to ensure absolute control for the speedboats. Often shortcuts are taken, or management exceptions are used to circumvent difficult decisions but be mindful that avoiding these points will not make them go away, and the consequences will come back to bite you later. This has the maximum probability of occurrence when things are getting pushed into mainstream production or applications using the full sets of customer data. This is where a Cloud strategy can help by setting the guardrails in which to operate.

In the next segment of this blog, we will analyze the approach to creating a Cloud Strategy.

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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