A cloud landing zone is not enough - you need an organizational landing zone as well
In our work with cloud journeys in the Nordics we meet three dominating challenges when adopting a cloud first strategy. Any of the three challenges can ram the entire cloud strategy and alter the perception of public cloud for the wrong reasons.
Most enterprises acknowledge the advantages of cloud computing and are adapting a cloud strategy. This is smart and obvious if you have huge piles of data to analyze, if you want competitive advantages from AI, looking to incorporate IoT, want a more resilient data center, searching for cost savings or is challenged on time to market for digital services and need efficient DevOps. On the face of it, it is a no brainer. However we often meet three challenges and I’m going to cover one of them today, and it’s the organizational maturity (the other two are security and governance, by the way..).
You may have heard of a cloud landing zone. And if you ask a tech focused consultancy, they will tell you to get one. Of course, you need a cloud landing zone to put your workloads destined to move or be created in the cloud. However, too many forget the organizational landing zone.
We see a lot of point solutions and they are often the seed to future problems once things get a bit more cross functional. Point solutions are the ‘silos’ being created to support one or a few purposes. An e-business front-end or a data warehouse for example. Too often these islands are created by the application vendor or partner and are focused on supporting the project at hand. Once done it is put in operations and now the problems begin to surface.
Who is in charge of running the cloud infrastructure? Are they technically capable and can they apply the appropriate governance?
In Iaas and Paas models, cloud infrastructure is no different from on-prem or hosted infrastructure for what concerns security, governance and management once in production. The skills needed and the tasks are quite different, but the principles leading to a secure and trustworthy data center infrastructure remain the same.
So, what does the clever companies do? We often see somewhat shaky point solutions which have scared IT leadership a bit and led to doubts on how to implement the cloud first initiatives. There are many ways to get the fingers burnt because you did not know how to work the new stove. I have witnessed horrible cost issues and chocking security breached which led to a quick - and wrong - opinion that the cloud is unpredictable, expensive and insecure. There are of course workloads which do not belong in a public cloud yet, but in 9 of 10 cases the problems appear because people do not know what they are doing. And it can cost dearly to back down from the benefits of agility, time-to-market, fixing latency, advanced services etc. etc. if the organizational landing zone is not build along with the cloud landing zone.
The clever company understands that embracing the cloud is not an incremental move. It is not just an upgrade of the data center or hosting for the web-shop. It is an entirely new way and a fantastic opportunity to finally tear down the development and operations silos and have people work in business problems together. The problem is that too many ignore the operations part of the equation, resulting in an even greater divide between dev and ops. The clever company makes sure that operations is upskilled and ready to leave hardware and virtualization tasks be and embrace Infrastructure as Code.
Currently we’re working at a large company in Denmark who is doing just that. To begin with we were called to install our Virtual Data Center and speed up Azure adaption. But something was missing. The client was not convinced they were ready for what is coming once the cloud is perceived as secure, governance proof and preferred over the on-prem data center. So, we began planning a comprehensive upskilling process for a dozen operations key professionals in the organization.
This is a smart move and important when you meet challenges down the line. It is so easy to dismiss the technology if there is a problem at some point. Often it is all about knowledge and experience and where the on-prem data center has evolved over the past decades, cloud infrastructure is new to most operation professionals and it is moving at what can seem like the speed of light. Even for our principals and Microsoft MVPs it is a time consuming job to keep up, so you need to make sure that your organizational landing zone is prepared, trained and adjusted to tackle new type of tasks, problems and decisions. For some it is a tough transition, for others it is a bliss to finally be able to produce visible contributions to the value creation in the company and not be the invisible guy oiling the on-prem data center.