In the blog post, Gracely uses his strikingly simple yet very powerful framework to drive home a rather obvious, yet seemingly hard-to-grasp concept – not everything about cloud computing success is related to technology.
Wow. Not. If you’re still reading, you’re probably thinking that this is the most obvious statement ever written and you’re wondering why I’m bothering to tell you this because everyone understands that you need a business case to make cloud successful. Right ?
In the very recent past, I’ve been lucky enough to tell our story of IT transformation (not transition as Gracely calls it) to many large organizations around the world, some who were simply interested for interest’s sake and some who were at the planning stages of their own IT revolutions but wanted to learn from a company who had already “been there” and built a fully functioning, business-serving cloud platform. Gasp.
I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to do this and I believe it is a great privilege to be able to impart the story of how we did what we did, theatrically meandering from business drivers to technology and back (without giving away the secret) in the hope that it may help others to start putting the pieces of their plan together. However, the one theme that seems to recur, no matter who the audience, is one of a lack of any real process(es) for true business alignment – the holy grail of any enterprise IT shop – and without those, I can not imagine how any cloud initiative could succeed.
Bad news, huh ? Well, it gets worse. It’s hard, it’s frustrating and there is no magic formula. Above all else, it requires your people to put a sharper focus on something they are unaware they do every day – consulting.
Many enterprise IT shops are full to the brim with consultants. They are the ones who talk to customers (the business) on a daily basis. They are the ones who help understand challenges and deliver solutions.
They probably don’t know they are consulting.
They probably don’t even like the word.
Yet, these consultants are your most valuable asset in understanding how to answer the question that is so deceptively hard for organizations to answer honestly and with a unified voice – “why do I need cloud” ?
Peter Block’s excellent book “Flawless Consulting” does a fantastic job of deconstructing the complexity of consulting and gives some excellent practical advice, however, returning to Gracely’s blog, I got to thinking about how to keep the constructs of his framework in the context of my experiences. So, armed with his approval to “have at it”, I rewired the diagram and the explanations, in the hope that this may help expand on the concepts.
I’ve cunning called it “The 5 More P’s Of Cloud Computing”.
Prospect – This is how you find opportunities. It pays to have people who understand core processes and more importantly, can speak the language of the business. Have those people spread far and wide with a deliberate approach to have them visibly “out and about” in the various areas of the organization and let them engage with key stakeholders to understand the “pain points”. These are your eyes and ears into the “shadow” IT department which is already at work, finding better ways to do things. Be ahead of the curve.
Persuade – This is how you get buy-in (and hopefully commitment, be that verbal or financial). This is a critical skill and a difficult one to master. In the same way that it can be difficult for traditional system administrators to be openly accepting of server virtualization (yes, there are still “server huggers” out there) it can be very difficult for LoB Application owners to agree to their applications or data moving from a environment they are familiar with to one that they may no longer control. Be an ace negotiator.
Prioritize – This is how you get an execution plan. Having a “game plan” and sticking to it with “execution excellence” in mind is going to make or break your success. Guaranteed. If you’re dealing with multiple business lines or stakeholders, their priorities will not always align. A holistic view of the pieces required to be successful and a clear understanding of resources required to implement them helps prioritize. Be an open communicator.
Perform – This is how you deliver. Performance can and will be measured in two key areas. One: you will be measured on the ability to provide the solution within the parameters (expectations) of the stakeholders – typically, this will mean scope, schedule and budget. Two: you will be measured on how the solution performs (usability and response) from the user perspective. This is vital to understand and deserves a large amount of consideration as you prepare to hand over the solution to the customer. Under promise and over deliver. Be a diligent supplier.
Partner – This is how you grow. Delivering high quality “fit for purpose” solutions, aligned with business needs and with quick turnarounds will help you gain a “seat at the table” and the trust of your organization. When your IT department, with the consultants acting as an extension of the core business, has true alignment, you become a partner. This removes many obstacles and barriers to more aggressive “prospecting” and allays the fears of your customers, even if you plan to move them and their applications beyond their comfort zones. Be the go to guys.
Of course, much of the above isn’t unique to cloud, but there will almost certainly be a set of technologies with cloud characteristics available to any enterprise IT shop looking to find more innovative approaches to providing the next generation of IT solutions. Whether you design solutions for private cloud deployments, hybrid cloud deployments, public cloud deployments or combinations of all three models, the realization of true cloud success can not lie in the advancement of technology alone. Use your people wisely – they are the best placed consultants money can buy.
Sometimes it’s cool to think inside the box.
In my very humble opinion, it is simply not an acceptable approach to assemble a team to create a cloud strategy because (as one large organization told me):
We see where this is going and we think we need the cloud
Don’t be the solution looking for the problem. Be the partner. It worked for us.