HP Discover is a great event, providing numerous opportunities for direct customer interactions. That’s one of the reasons why I like being there. It gives me a true feeling of what customers are looking for, what questions they have and how they progress on their journey to cloud.
Today, I’d like to share with you two conversations in particular. The first happened during one of these pre-arranged meetings, in a small meeting room in a corner of the Discover Zone. The second one took place during one of the many evening events in one of the hotel bars. Both had something in common. They both revolved around the question, “How do we get started?”
A conversation about improving IT skills
The first CIO started in his job some months ago, coming from running their enterprise manufacturing where he implemented lean and kanban techniques to improve throughput and reduce waste. His CEO has asked him to transform IT.
He’d heard about cloud, like everybody these days, and was asking himself how to get started. Yes the department had virtualized some systems, but he wanted to go further. His question was really simple; “how do I get started and how can I assess and improve the skills of the department?”
We started the discussion by reviewing what had been done and pointing out that virtualization was a good first step, but not cloud yet. I talked about the advantage of automation and self-provisioning as the next steps from a technology perspective. But frankly, that’s not where the difficult steps are. In my mind they are in two areas:
- Building a strong governance between business and IT—allowing an open communication on what services are truly required by the business and how they are delivered
- Changing the attitude of IT—from a shop that delivers technology using its own environments to an entity that sources the appropriate service from the right source.
The latter may turn out to be the most difficult in many enterprises. In many organizations there is a strong resistance when the team is asked to perform a fundamental change in approach. Up until now, the IT department has portrayed itself as this somewhat mysterious group of people that delivered IT systems, often with a little black magic.
We all know that younger generations don’t buy this anymore, and so the change is inevitable. But there is job protection to consider, you know.
Cloud can be a good vehicle to transform IT. As Chris Andersen, editor-in-chief from Wired magazine said during one of the keynotes, if IT wants to address shadow-IT, it better be competitive. So, how do we get the IT department competitive? In my mind there are four things we can do:
- Develop a clear vision of how cloud will be used by the organization and what benefits it will provide for the company
- Describe how IT will operate once that vision has been implemented, establish how success will be measured and highlight the roles that will be available
- For each member of staff, review his/her skills, identify new growth areas, discuss a potential position in the new organization and what skills need to be developed to prepare for that position
- Sketch the migration between the current situation and the vision. Include timing and expectations
During the transition period, communication is of the essence. Make sure the vision is remembered on a regular basis. As things will change along the way, recognize the changes, explain why they are essential and re-assess the situation. It avoids uncertainty— which results in stress, fear and lots of time lost in fruitless internal discussions. As you can see, this is standard change management, but it is so important to make sure the transition is fully communicated. Many organizations overlook the benefits of taking the time to plan and communicate.
Using cloud for development and testing is often a good way to have IT departments experience cloud. But it provides little to the business people who are on the lookout for results. I often suggest IT departments start with development and test. I also often propose they complement that quickly with a collaboration environment such as SharePoint, Jive or something similar. This environment can be sourced as a service or implemented on the development and test environment. It will show the business that IT is serious in helping them out.
The second conversation—how many applications should you sample cloud with?
The second conversation quickly addressed the above as the CIO was already convinced he had to do something, but his main discussion point was around how he would evolve his existing applications. So, I bluntly asked him what was core to his business. I have talked often about Geoffrey Moore’s core versus context approach, and I did it here again. I’m often astonished that this seems new to people. It takes them time to think through what I ask. So, I explained him what I meant and how he should look at his business.
He told me he had more than 1000 applications, so where should he start. I suggest identifying a small number of applications (8 to 10) that added value to the business and have a large variety in usage over time. Cloud really adds value when the resources required running the application vary widely over time; it does less when applications are very stable in their use.
You really want to demonstrate the added value of the transformation to both the business and IT people, don’t you?
I then highlighted the four possible transformation approaches of integration, re-hosting, re-architecting and replace. I’ll come back to those in a future blog entry as they deserve a full discussion in their own right. In a nutshell:
- You can leave the application in the traditional environment but expose it through web services in your cloud environment, we call that integration
- If the application is SOA compliant it may be re-hosted to the cloud
- If you can re-architect the application, using SOA principles, you may be able to build a renewed application you can take to the cloud
- You may also decide to replace the application with cloud services, developed or sourced from outside providers (SaaS)
He found this to be a real interesting way to look at things. It’s pragmatic and makes a lot of sense. It allows for quick wins, demonstrating early the added value of cloud and the capabilities of IT. It helps IT to demonstrate to the business it understands their requirements and will do something about it.
Often IT is in a catch-up mode, with the requirement to demonstrate added value. So, spend time listening to the business users, gain an insight in what they are really looking for and how it can be delivered.
These were two conversations at HP Discover, two discussions around cloud and the hard realities of implementing cloud computing. Both demonstrate the importance of pragmatically addressing the day-to-day concerns. So, let me know what you would like to see addressed with this blog and I’ll do my best to get you the answer. Let the conversation begin.