Cloud revised operating model

Cloud adoption consideration #2: Define and implement the revised operating model

This is the second of a series of blog posts discussing the five main considerations critical to successful cloud adoption by enterprises (if you missed it, the first post is here).  Today’s topic is the impact of cloud adoption on your operating model.

A common customer scenario goes like this.  We want to get the benefits of cloud computing.  But our organisation is so…slow…to…change and we have so much legacy to deal with.  So let’s set up a skunkworks team for application X that is coming up on the development roadmap, so that we can develop a small initial capability to design, deploy and operate a cloud-based solution.  So far, so sensible.

But then the advantages that this initial team had start to become disadvantages. They can’t scale. They don’t really have the organisational sponsorship as they’ve deliberately operated in a silo so they could move quickly, avoiding all those pesky organisational constraints. This is the old bimodal IT dilemma which has had far too many column inches written about it already (here is a good place to start on this topic), so I won’t add to them here.

Bite the bullet

At some point, the enterprise has to bite the bullet, define and then implement a revised operating model for the design, deployment, operating and retirement of cloud services at scale.  It needs to become the default model for the scenarios defined in the strategy that we did such a great job of earlier, not the exception.  Regardless of the technology selection, the operating model within the IT function needs to change, and in some respects this needs to be defined before the implementation phase.  This is a non-trivial undertaking and requires serious management commitment.

Most non-cloud-native, large enterprises have not got to this stage yet, regardless of what case studies are available in the trade press…digital flagship projects get all the coverage but the reality is that the vast majority of enterprise workloads are still in the data centre as we are just a few years into a very long journey, and so the evolution of operational models is tracking this trend.

So what does a cloud-ready operating model look like?

Well, it considers cloud adoption in multiple dimensions:

  • design, build and run…
  • …using the full range of cloud services – SaaS through to IaaS…
  • …considering the people, process and technology implications

Some of the aspects of the operating model can be radically new for an organisation, e.g. DevOps processes, multi-skilled teams.  And some can be refinements to existing processes to better support an environment that has greater and greater dependence over time on cloud-based services.  For example, vendor management needs to change to cope with the differing innovation pace, commercial models, legal implications and billing models of cloud providers.

The risk here is that your technologists do a fantastic job providing your staff with access to the underlying internal or external cloud services, but a pre-cloud-era operating model destroys the benefits by constraining the achieved agility and innovation.  In addition, the new operating model needs to be much more responsive to change itself, so there is a “one-off” redesign required here, but also an ongoing process of adaptation to respond to the still rapidly changing cloud landscape.  It’s still relatively early days…

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