Moving to the Cloud? Here is why you need a change management strategy built on agility
Cloud computing provides the advantage of a simulated computing environment, elasticity for workloads, and flexibility in resource utilization. This has implications on an organizations ability to build and deploy applications. Transitioning IT from a CAPEX to a subscriber-OPEX view forces a shift in operating models and priorities. More than iterative releases that shape the continuous improvement muscle or retooling of skill capabilities or gaining clarity on compliance policies, the leading denominator for a change strategy to guide a shift to the Cloud is just that — change, and the pace of it. At 30% public and 40% hybrid Cloud usage, we are yet to reach an adoption inflection point. For larger institutions, regulatory and security concerns still permeate the landscape with internal requirements not clearly understood. This means, we still have time to get it right, to course correct. The challenge however may not be so simple, it demands courage.
We are human
In today’s disruptive economies, organizations are changing so quickly that the old-fashioned idea of building a target operating model and formalizing structures is not keeping up (See: Journey to an Agile Organization, McKinsey, May 2019). Corporations require an “agile” change strategy that is structured iteratively in partnership with IT to deliver “Minimum Viable Solutions”. My current role affords me that perspective working to not only design operating solutions but to support interactions, experiences and shape cultural dynamics within IT Operations. Over the last 15 years, I have seen the same scene play out. A new technology is introduced, organizations race to be the first implementers with little thought given to the people-side. The embrace of spinning Cloud instances, Everything as A Service (XAAS) architectures, micro service best practices, containerized bundles, CI/ CD DevOps methodologies and various deployment models will always be constrained by the human-side of change.
Start up and rent
Harnessing Cloud capabilities effectively entails both the business and IT collaborate in outlining a path forward strategically. It requires defining how the re-ordered organization will be measured, what governance structures should be present to help guide decision-making, standardize best practices in the new world and make the people shift. It is no surprise that software-based compute advances offering every thing as a service continue to see higher adoption rates by start-ups and companies that do not have the legacy of technology debt or ossified structures, as explained by Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. These companies are and have essentially been conceived as product design companies with iterative tech-native DNA. They outsource and/ or rent most parts of their operations, have a good understanding of subscription-based models, are malleable to change, and move with the agility of lean enterprises. Hemant Taneja describes these companies as renting scale in his Harvard Business Review piece titled, Why Start-ups Are More Successful than Ever at Unbundling Incumbents, June 2015.
Nimble and steady? Consider these…
Other organizations, however, are finding their journey to nimbleness, to Cloud adoption a little more involved and are assuming a more gradual approach to outsourcing back-end computing requirements. Whether hybrid models or a mish mash of on-prem and public Cloud, it is evident and acknowledged that Cloud is more than just about the latest technology. It is also about talent and changes to working practices, pace of innovation foundational to business survival and a different approach to technology that empowers employee usage and sustainability. As companies prepare to embark on their Cloud transformation journey, to mature structures and processes, there are key elements to consider on the human-side to aid the culture conversations. Below are a few you should vigorously pursue.
1. Establish a Cloud governance committee
Determine the organizational guardrails for Cloud governance and establish enabling structures and frameworks to focus on strategy, policy and compliance. Managing the Cloud environment involves building solutions in line with mandated policies, standards and protocols. The governance framework is specific to both Cloud’s distributed nature and required agility in work practices, assuring an enterprise view of risk and IT investments.
Flexibility and balance need to be considered with speed of delivery and new ways of working, understanding there will be process and governance redundancies. Depending on the business, policy and standards development should include cost, security and resourcing. The latter dictates how and when teams are engaged (both internal and external), what processes they follow, how the technology will/ should be built and ultimately used. Metrics for adoption and consumption need to be identified to understand how to manage and adjust for change.
2. Define a Cloud 1st strategy and roadmap for the organization
Establish a clear vision for Cloud within the organization and develop an enterprise IT strategy & roadmap aligned with the business strategy. Embedded within the IT strategy should be a “Cloud first” approach with an emphasis on IT investments. Low-hanging candidate workloads that are deemed non-critical with evident business use cases should be first up. Cloud first should not mean Cloud only! Not all workloads should be candidates for Cloud and educating the organization on the long-term Cloud vision and plan is essential.
Cloud computing is as much about people buying into a new strategy as it is simply about new technology. Whatever path is chosen by the organization, whether spinning up new services to rehost or lift and shift or retiring services, these all have people impacts and should be clearly embedded in the strategy. What success in the Cloud looks like should be socialized, impacts to employees identified, and more importantly, actions the organization intends to undertake, either reskill or redeploy its employees, communicated.
3. Develop an operating model
Now that we have defined our Cloud strategy, we need to execute it. In most organizations, the business and IT are not in alignment. The Cloud operating model defines how this alignment is achieved to deliver strategic outcomes.
A Cloud operating model is different from the traditional (data center) model and requires a reimagining of the business and IT alignment dynamic. This is a transformation that weighs heavily on end-to-end customer value streams, re-configuring the People, Process and Technology (PPT) model.
A typical approach to developing an operating model is to map out the PPT interactions for a Cloud service, understand changes to each stakeholder and identify required capabilities to achieve operational readiness. With that has to be clarity of expectations defined not for each touchpoint interaction but for the entire value stream in achieving stated outcomes. The accountability for activities or functions that drive the value stream being distributed across teams (See: Cloud operating model, Sreenivasa Setty, Aug 2019).
4. Go agile in development, delivery and operations
What this means is to go agile right across the entire value stream. What it entails however is more involved. As Cloud Engineering (software development) and (infrastructure) Operations is generally segregated in most organizations with Engineering utilizing the SDLC framework/ DevOps practice and Operations the ITSM methodology, what is being asked here is a coupling of both through both application and a shift in mindset.
Foundationally, the value stream is iterative and flexible. However, Engineering sprints for the Cloud within the SDLC or DevOps is a discovery process of user stories through the CI/ CD pipeline, constant monitoring and feedback to eventual deployment. This is agile in practice, aligning DevOps to the business and speeding up the development process in achieving an end solution.
Cloud Operations lives in a more traditional waterfall/ cause and effect environment. This though is changing with predictive analytics, automation or AIOps. The deluge of infinite outcomes associated with a code drop in an increasingly complex environment ultimately affecting the customer experience makes it ever more pertinent to “shift-left” to proactive agility. This shift-left is where the coupling, the waltz, the earlier engagement with Engineering occurs, ownership for activities changes, new roles are created (and eliminated), and a deepening of skillsets becomes a requirement in order to be more responsive.
Remember, change is a journey and Cloud change is no different, it is not a destination. No two organizations or divisions within the same organization are ever the same. Nuances, personalities, politics, turf zoning, conflicting priorities and “we have always done it this way” team members always exist. It is conceivable to push through incredible transformational change with the Cloud and impact employee interactions in speed, quality and responsiveness, leveraging these guidelines. How do I know? I have and continue to do so.