The article discusses:
- The changing expectations from IT in the Digital Age
- The real benefits of Cloud transformation
- How to realize true value from Cloud
Traditional enterprises historically had their IT organizations follow business directives and many of the measures of IT organization excellence were typically around how efficiently and effectively they could realize the business ask. The measures, in turn, were usually manifested as developing new applications or changes in applications, then deploying them on existing infrastructure (Servers, storage, network, end user devices) and managing their operations, while attaining availability and quality goals regularly.
In contrast, Consumer Tech giants, such as Uber, Amazon, Airbnb and others, have a radically different approach. Digital technologies, particularly Big Data, Mobile, Social Business and Artificial Intelligence, enable the organizations to continuously sense, learn, evolve and pivot without depending on traditional business-driven directives. Instead, they rely on what the market base and ecosystem partners determine to be potential areas as well as continuously evolving mechanisms of service delivery and customer delight.
Why make the journey to Cloud?
Many IT service providers have been proposing that enterprises move to the Cloud, believing that the savings they achieve by outsourcing infrastructure to public Cloud providers is the source of value. In fact, for some years now, it has been agility, quality and ecosystem partner leverage that leading edge enterprises have been hoping to achieve through their Cloud journey and recent examples reinforce this clearly.
At big social media companies, a suddenly “trending” post or a “viral video” (all user generated content, therefore an example of ecosystem partner leverage) imposes immediate requirements of low latency to viewers of the content globally. These firms, unlike traditional enterprises, do not depend on user reported tickets, then service management processes to address the incident, and data center engineers installing new routers or configuring network elements accordingly. Instead their “Sense and Respond” paradigm is designed around “infrastructure as code” as well as virtualized network services and elements. What requires such firms to operate this way is their dependency on media spend for digital marketing, and ecosystem leverage of a near real time marketplace, which in turn is the real source of their income. Hence, the adjustments they make, of traffic shaping, content caching and network optimization, triggered by actual live workload patterns, are what traditional enterprises also want to emulate in their Cloud Journey.
The Cloud-led disruption of traditional IT
This introduces the notion of an “As a Service enabled” enterprise which is the modern day equivalent of the traditional practice of Service Integration (or SIAM). The old state was a layer of “governance” (consulting practitioners) interacting with vendors of application, infrastructure and network management services, and verifying either ticket disposition and resolution status or monitoring SLA achievements. The new state is a service catalog approach that automatically applies triggers, based on opportunities sensed or operations feedback ingested, to revitalize a service or orchestrate new combinations of services to achieve the desired business outcomes. The latter is what Consumer Tech giants are used to now, and hence traditional enterprises require guidance on how to emulate and even extend.
Similarly, the traditional business-driven lifecycle of Waterfall or Agile development is being disrupted with engineered DevOps. Just consider the emerging practice of “pop up” stores in a mall or counters in a food court. The insights determining the promise of an outlet being setup, speed of adjusting to what users prefer, and linkages with other business function providers (billing, returns, inventory) are all critical. Engineered DevOps enables this responsiveness, such as for when an enterprise wants to open “sites” (with desktop, server, storage, network virtualized services consumed at each) but requires them to ramp up or down or vary even the service catalog consumed as the new center or location requires. Site and service reliability engineering (SRE) is an emerging skill and paradigm to ensure resilience through the changes.
The traditional disciplines of ITSM (IT Service Management) and ITOM (IT Operations Management) also have been reimagined because of the Cloud. The skills of the practitioners, nature of engagement the enterprise expects of service providers, alignment measures and mechanisms between units, all need to be transformed. Modern workflow, knowledge management and corpus-based cognition are all vital enablers in achieving the transparency and flexibility that Consumer Tech firms enjoy. These support the entire workforce of the enterprise and its execution partners in realizing sustainable business operations. The Cloud operations model is therefore dramatically different from what these enterprises are historically used to.
As examples, let’s consider a few ITSM practices. One, called technology business management (TBM), has historically focused on the costs of IT infrastructure from the enterprise general ledger and accounts payable. In reality, what business decision makers really want are the associations between costs and business outcomes, ideally without artificial allocations, that enable more prudent decisions such as on project and portfolio management, or even how to bump up a consumer’s credit rating dynamically. Another, called innovation management, increasingly requires a mindset to prototype, deploy and either succeed or “Fail Fast”, and naturally pivot based on the learnings. Finally, the asset management practice itself is being disrupted, since organization assets, whether physical infrastructure, IP based assets or data center equipment, are all increasingly being virtualized or embedded with open source or community support and often invoiced according to consumption and availability.
The enterprise Cloud journey, therefore, disrupts many traditional IT practices, yet systematic and thoughtful guidance, enables the change smoothly, while also incorporating many of the critical and distinctive enterprise talent and culture elements to make the Cloud operation sustainable. This is the secret to accelerating successful outcomes on an enterprise Cloud transformation journey.
The changing paradigms
The Cloud transformation journey clearly spans operating model, workforce skills, and measures and objectives at various levels. We have observed that the emerging reality of the workforce-learning environment, again driven by “edutech” giants, has dictated that the highly skilled instructors and subject matter experts have now often to be repurposed as consultants in distinct facilitator, coach and change leader roles.
When new digital systems are introduced, millennial and older communities in the workforce, more often than not, find it preferable to “learn at their own convenience” not via classroom or ILT (instructor led training) but via the plethora of new instruction paradigms which have a mix of passive/active cognition elements – for instance
- YouTube videos - they can be viewed when convenient, and tricky or easy sections can be replayed or paused/fast forwarded as necessary
- Online communities - rather than a traditional support group, there are other community members who respond to questions and “up-voting” as well as “digital badges” are the reward for helping those who are facing difficulties
- “Digital sandbox” - an immersive environment where employees can safely try out new technology, complete standard or tailored exercises, therefore progressively come up to speed, and even get “certified” as applicable, leveraging “gamification” best practices
- “Workflow coaches” - these can be individuals, or more likely bots, who provide contextual feedback based on observing how the individual employee is using the application compared to how the redesigned application was intended to be used
Meanwhile, the best instructors (from the ILT world) are rapidly becoming the most in demand consulting professionals for enterprise digital transformation. It’s widely known that focus on systems alone will likely not result in satisfactory progress nor adequate achievement of business goals through a digital transformation program. That’s why the most savvy enterprises, and digital transformation providers, reassign these individuals as consultants in one or more of the roles below:
- Facilitator - For many communities in the workforce, the approach to task execution has changed considerably and to embrace the new ways of work requires discussion, empathy and awareness before the individual employees accept and adopt the new behaviors. Facilitation of this requires high skills and experience, leveraging tailored exercises that participants can relate to and be mentored effectively.
- Change agent - Most often, the operations workflows, and even the inputs and outputs, change considerably, with the result that legacy mindset engineers and business analysts struggle to retain their relevance. Redesign of the roles themselves, realization of the velocity and reality of ongoing change, or even alignment to evolving business goals and objectives is often needed and change agents are the best to enable or catalyze this mindset.
- Coach - This specialized role, much like in professional or amateur sports, gets individuals and teams to achieve more through practice, observation of areas for improvement as well as modern techniques of uplifting skill levels.
An enterprise needs to engage in more thoughtful planning in how it must embark on a Cloud transformation journey. Migrating applications, data and infrastructure to public Cloud is merely the first step in the transformation. More importantly, engaging with stakeholders across the ecosystem, devising newer and faster ways of decision making, enabling business operations processes for flexibility and elasticity are vital. Without these considerations, which experienced consultants can help with, the benefits of the Cloud that Consumer Tech companies are able to achieve will remain a dream.
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