In my previous post, I talked about how Enterprise Architects can (and should) drive cloud strategy and planning. Today, I would like us to take a look at a larger issue for EAs, CIOs, and anyone invested in IT strategy as it relates to business planning: The cloud and it's ability to be a game-changer. But first, I want to take a step back and talk about why this warrants challenging in the first place.
In general, it’s not a good idea for EAs to stir up conflict over every single technology innovation, but when there are game-changing technology innovations in play, the gloves should come off. We should be prepared to fight those battles, winning over the hearts and minds of executives by demonstrating why they are critical for business. Specificly, EA can sow leadership in by showing business and IT executitves why cloud is such an important technology, but EA's should do it through their soft skills (EQ driven approaches) not driven by their hard skills talking about why cloud technollogies are the greatest.
I have covered in previous posts this business and value first approach to cloud and will not repeat it here. Instead I want to take s step back and provide some context into how this very distruptive technology effects the industry and companies.
As cloud computing rapidly evolves, it has the opportunity to become a true utility for information technology. It’s not 100 per cent there yet, but the end goal is a visible possibility now more than ever.
The classic scenario for enterprise architects is to use the “city planner analogy” to describe what they do. Since we are talking about an architecture style, not a practice or EA competency however, I’ll describe the actual city, rather than the person who plans it.
The scenario we are in...
Cloud has changed IT in several key ways. It has provided a new backbone for the evolution of IT in the future, completely changing the business paradigm and driving elevated expectations with IT consumers.
There are three ways cloud is doing this:
- It's the backbone of the future
- Introduces a new business paradigm
- Provides a transformative path forward
#1 The backbone of the future
This new platform has spawned an entirely new generation of businesses, designed on the cloud, for the cloud. Some cloud-based businesses are now cloud services providers, thus creating a new “C2C” category. And venture capital firms are now sitting up and noticing that cloud services are changing the way startups utilize VC funding, skipping over infrastructure and traditional overhead costs, and moving straight into development, marketing, and partnerships.
More evidence of this shift to this paradigm is the major enterprise software vendors. There is a radical shift in the business models of these vendors from product selling to solution selling over the cloud. IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are all at light speed to the cloud space. This is occurring through major re-platforming, acquisitions and entirely new business that put a high degree of risk on cannibalizing their own revenue streams but if they pull it off they will win big.
Enterprises are seeing this as further evidence that this is where the future is heading. Much like distributed computing and SOA, the vendors set the tone for where the industry is going and that leaves many enterprises in a course-correcting mode.
#2 A new business paradigm
Cloud has truly changed how IT does business, from the way we plan and build software, to how it is selected and purchased. This revolutionary new infrastructure has established cloud governance as a key component of strategic planning, affecting everything from service selection and payment, to standards creation and lifecycle/policy management.
With the landscape focus shifting from infrastructure to software, a host of changes have rocked the business paradigm. A move to the cloud forces organizations to drill down deeper into vendor selection and security issues, and acclimate to the fact that with the cloud, certain things will no longer be under a company’s direct control.
The advent of the cloud has turned a lot of business processes upside down—in a good way. Traditionally, the option to “try before you buy” was not a realistic business model, but now, cloud computing makes it easy for customers to test drive products within in the context of their own businesses.
With a new IT deployment, users previously had to go to IT and be trained on new technologies before they could use them, but today, they simply click on a link and they are up and running, without concerns about training or security. And product lifecycle management has made great strides with the cloud as well, offering users information that can be utilized in real-time scenarios, along with connectivity across a company's network of suppliers, time zones, and cultures, enabling an extendable enterprise.
The cloud has also uncovered a number of new initiatives, and magnified the importance of others. By opening up operating scale to enable operational efficiencies, the cloud enables sales and delivery reach to be significantly extended. The cloud also drives adoption of service oriented architecture (SOA) across the enterprise, enabling businesses to holistically address problems, and respond faster to changes in the market.
The importance of security and regulatory compliance are elevated with the cloud. Whereas before they were treated as operational line items, today they have become business-critical as a result of growing cloud adoption.
#3 Transformative Path Forward
Like with all transformations, the path forward is difficult given all the past investments (legacy technology) is complex, overwhelming and often times extremely political. For many companies, there are systems that are living in their environment that have been around since the mainframe. These systems are not easy to turn off, they process our payments, track our receivables and payables, manage customer relationships, provide complex business rule processing and much more. These systems are not SOA enabled, internet connect nor cloud ready.
Think about this analogy, Hoarders vs. Empty House.
The Hoarders scenario (Legacy Technology Mess)
The Hoarders situation is a lot like the legacy environments. There is a lot of stuff around that you don’t need anymore: old records, 8 tracks, and CD’s that are now all online. However, all that stuff isn’t all on the shelf neatly put away, it’s everywhere. Under piles and piles of stuff in multiple rooms and may not be in the best condition for conversion, matching or otherwise. The effort, time and overall success is greatly hindered.
This isn’t an unfamiliar story with our legacy technology environments. With layer after layer of solutioning compounded with integration any change can be highly risky for an environment. Our hoarders scenario looks a little like this:
Empty House (Cloud / Greenfield)
With this scenario you enter into environment in which there is no legacy/junk layered throughout the house. The decisions are about what you what the room/house to ultimately be. This greatly accelerates the process and allows you to focus on the business priorities right away rather than managing all the change right away.
In this scenario, we start fresh with a (relatively) clean slate. The inhibitors or “sins of the past” don’t live here. It’s like what Yoda told Luke at the Dark Side Cave in Star Wars Episode 5, “You don’t need the lightsaber. The only evil in there is the evil you take with you”. That quote is very relevant to this scenario. If legacy thinking is applied to this paradigm then bad results will happen. But if you apply fresh thinking to a new way of doing things will go well.
By avoiding focusing on legacy impacts by making changes within that environment, we are able to focus on the future business needs and priorities unhindered. While in the past you could do this with parallel environments (I did this with large CRM and ERM implementations) Cloud ups this through not only providing a hardware stack but a utility delivery and services model.
So what does all this mean?
Businesses are fighting to survive in a market that is evolving, changing and moving faster than it ever has before thus IT must provide the vital technology innovations and services to keep pace with an ever growing business climate.
IT is in a real pinch. Like I talked about above in my Hoarders scenario, IT has layers of technology like sedimentary rock that make any change extremely difficult costly and risky. Business don’t understand this problem completely and often times don’t care. They see the grass on the ground not seeing the number of layers of legacy. This is because they know that to survive and win in their markets they must transform themselves from silo-based, inward-facing and disconnected to a highly agile business.
EA’s must challenge the status quo in order to advance the business! There will be many naysayers just like with any advance in technology. I heard it in the days of distributed computing and SOA on why not to do it but ultimately it was needed and it had to happen.
As EA’s we know, the business must be competitive or they will face severe consequences. It is the job of EA organizations to identify these advances, embrace them and shift the organization. That is the reason to challenge.
However, go in with your eyes open. Cloud will not solve the business agility, business service enablement, IT process and delivery problems.
However, cloud is:
- Technology enablement
- New architecture style
- Next advancement in computing
- Cross consumer and enterprise aware
- Ready for prime time
With this said, Cloud gives enterprises a unique ability to start in a greenfield environment in a much easier and rapid way rather than in the hoarders mess. By embracing this path you will be able to:
- Avoid making large “big bang” investments
- Hedge risks by migrating at your own pace
- Focus on the future of your business rather than the old
I hope this helps!