Every enterprise wants to become cloud-native. Their goal is to be able to transform and reinvent business at will as well as deliver new features to customers quickly and continuously. Cloud-native has become the proven path to this goal. It can drive scale, power innovation and improve business velocity. There are scores of examples around us. Take the case of cloud-native retailers who routinely roll out dynamic pricing changes and run targeted digital campaigns aimed at millions of customers on a daily basis; or the B2B exchanges that have developed application APIs that allow third parties to connect and transact dynamically on their cloud native platforms. It isn’t surprising that as per some studies more than 60% of enterprises are now on a cloud-native journey.
The cloud-native approach to application and service development has tremendous appeal to both traditional and new enterprises because it fosters a deep partnership between business and IT. Cloud-native is the only way IT can deliver the demands of business.
But the change is not easy for legacy businesses. There is no switch, knob or slider that an enterprise can use to change “culture”. And when the change occurs, it has a dramatic impact on the way IT departments are structured and how they function. The shift from large, monolithic development to a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) approach can take months, if not years. The merger between software development and IT operations (that’s DevOps for you) can be slow and demands that the enterprise make investment in new skills, tools, platforms and processes. Cloud-native is a prerequisite to this state.
To make the cloud-native journey easier, there are four foundational elements that give enterprises a head start. These elements comprise of framing business outcomes, reimagining the organization structure, processes and empowering developers.
Frame and execute business outcomes collaboratively
Business defines the outcomes they want to achieve. We have also seen revenue generation becoming an integral aspect of a Line of Business’ (LOB’s) agenda. The means of achieving the business outcomes have to be thought through carefully. In order to be successful, business or the LOBs have their own IT, tools, portals and self-serve models. Meanwhile, horizontal services are managed by central IT. In effect, we have the parallel existence of LOB IT and CIO IT, which can cause tensions. The goals should be to work holistically, collaborate and reduce tension. Successful organizations marry the two, defining specific value streams and metrics within each team, for clearly charted user journeys – such as the business user, developer, platform and operations. Agile teams compose these value streams to achieve successful outcomes.
Create a service-oriented organization
Organizational structures dictate how systems are developed, layered and managed. The traditional organizational construct has resulted in monolithic applications that are invariably rigid, cannot scale nor adapt to dynamic business demands (see Figure 1 for a graphic look at how organizational structure shape outcomes). This is Conway’s Law in action: “Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure”.1