Ensuring a successful cloud journey is like picking the right four-course meal

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cloud_testingIn my view, cloud is best imagined as a healthy, four-course meal (instead of a single dish or a collection of disparate dishes) with proper thought put into the science behind the menu construct.

While most businesses understand that cloud is the new business imperative, most don’t get their journey right because of the (menu) construct – you need to move through stages, which have been put in place to ensure you gain maximum enjoyment of what is on offer. So, what makes a successful and complete cloud meal (read ‘journey’)?

Faster innovation, increased agility, more cost savings and better competitive advantages are often the most cited reasons for an organisation’s transition to the cloud. Yet, there are many cases of cloud journeys not being 100 per cent successful. One common factor in such cases is cloud adoption without the oversight of the CIO, so the implementations sit outside the company’s overall strategic direction or in some cases are not fit for purpose.

So how can the CIO take back control and reassert stewardship over deployments?

In the same way that menus are devised to put a framework around a meal, this approach is also useful in business.  A solid framework for CIOs to consider as they approach their cloud meal,is one many IT leaders are already familiar with: Bruce Tuckman’s ‘forming, storming, norming and performing’team development model. While originally applied to helping groups of individuals to come together and deliver results.  Equally, it can be used to help guide progression through the cloud journey. Here’s how.

Forming & Storming

Forming happens at the start of projects as a learning and evaluation phase. At this stage, a keyrole for the CIOisto lead the review of cloudproviders and their services. Another job is to investigate any skunk-works projects in existence. It’s time to understand what value theyadd and what is required to keep them running often, not much more than compute and storage.

In the storming phase,a bit more control is needed as things become established, and projects develop. In the cloud context, it is a time to look at what you need outside of just compute and storage – which are table stakes for every project – and determine what is required from the perspective of application development frameworks, integration, manageability, security and analytics. Success in this area is critical. We are seeing time and again how an integrated approach across all of an enterprise’s cloud software, platform and infrastructure purchases brings more valued, manageable, secure and cost effective result to integrating separate best-of-breed applications.

In fact, Oracle’s recent research shows that companies moving through these levels realise significant benefits– initially finding gains in performance, availability and uptime, followed by productivity benefits. Over half of the executives questioned said that infrastructure cloud services are actively helping them to refocus resources to value adding initiatives.

This is key. Digital transformation requires an organisation do a lot of new things. Moving up the cloud food chain – beyond just compute and storage, into a host of higher-order platform services –increases productivity and powers innovation.

Deform – Taking a step back

A challenge with cloud, as in team building, is that rapid progress, poor planning and the wrong tool scan compromise the original goal staking things off track, and in this case, create a divergence between the existing and planned cloud architecture. Given that only six per cent of enterprise workloads are currently in cloud this is something we believe is clearly happening. Why?

Often early cloud decisions are made piecemeal, driven by individual areas of business. As a result, there is little integration between the resulting disparate parts or between test and development cloud services and business-as-usual environments, and activity becomesstuck at the ‘storming’ point of the curve.

In cloud, the holy grail is to have both an integrated cloud platform and anidentical experience across cloud and non-cloud, to empower users to go beyond ‘change management’ to ‘change execution’. Fortunately the ever maturing range of cloud services available now enable organisations to more easily connect services together and also pick up an existing workload, in itsentirety –taking all the environments (dev, test, production), existing licenses and on-premises opex spend and move that to the cloud to reap the agility benefits.

New arrivals

Adding to the storm is a new wave of data-driven and AI-enabled technologies coming, in quick succession, onto the scene – especially around automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI).  These have the potential to help companies enhance security, decision-making, productivity and eliminate the cost of human error.Indeed, Oracle research has found one in five IT executives put an importance on AI and machine learning within their organisation.

While offering huge business benefits, these new technologies are appearing so fast that many CIOs are finding it hard to keep up with the pace of change and understand how they might be utilised.  Additionally, they may not be accessible to those stuck on a ‘first generation’ cloud technology solely focused on compute and storage.

To work through the storm, CIOs need to take a step back, reevaluate and reassert strategic direction. This means auditing all current cloud and on-premises assets, rationalising and setting frameworks to ensure interoperability. Fortunately, ‘Generation 2’ cloud platform services with in-built automation and machine learning and flexible cloud commercial models offer a myriad of cloud services on the same platform supported by a single spend.

Norm

Here, focus turns towards operationalising activity. Best practice is to give access to the different business departments to a complete set of cloud services, with IT retaining an oversight on overall manageability and security across the applications and roles. This helps ensure that the cloud services are well orchestrated, and operate in a simple commercial ROI model across the entire ecosystem.

Perform

This typicallycomes after several successful deployments. For IT leaders, this is not a time to sit back and relax, but rather to perfectcommercial models – by activating capabilities such as license mobility to move existing on-premises spend to the cloud at deeply discounted rates – rapidly moving the estate from on-premises so as to benefit from cloud economics.

Seize the day

Cloud computing has evolved far from being just about compute and storage.  To compete in the next wave, CIOs need to go beyond ‘form and storm’ and move on to‘norm and perform” so they can innovate with the next wave of data-driven and autonomous tools and applications.

For a few, there is a final‘high perform’ stage, characterised by leaders taking on significant challenges that others may well think are impossible, but through which they are able to outpace their peers and be ready to capitalise on new technologies as they emerge.

This is reflected in cloud, with Oracle research showing a new cloud elite has emerged – a group of organisations that have reached a critical mass of cloud exposure (more than 70 percent of their applications in the cloud) – according to a global survey of 730 IT professionals.  Reporting the highest levels of confidence in the cloud and, they are more data driven, innovate and better able to respond to customer needs with more relevance, speed and agility. They’ve also seen the greatest increases in productivity and competitiveness. Together, these organisations are disrupting the industries in which they operate.

The challenge, as identified by cloud research from Intel and Oracle, is that while many companies are moving through their cloud journey, not all organisations can or will move to this transformational stage, in which they systematically unlock insights from their data, and use these to develop entirely new business models. By using a framework such as this, hopefully CIOs will be better placed to achieve their full potential.

Are you ready for your four-course cloud meal?

The views expressed in this article are by Karunanithi S, CIO, Suguna Foods and Premalakshmi R, Sr Director – Cloud Platform, Oracle India

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