In two previous blogs (All Roads Lead to the Cloud - Cloud Automation and The Time Paradox of Virtualization in the Cloud), I described an alternate route to the private cloud through automation and the subtle effect of the time parameter on the IT organizational processes. Most of these routes are based around solving the technical challenges that persist in making the infrastructure suitable for Private Cloud gymnastics.
However, in many of the discussions that we at EMC Consulting are having with clients and their senior management, there is another theme actually requiring considerable effort and tenacity to resolve, namely the buy-in of the business.
It's easy to think the benefits of the private cloud are so considerable and overwhelming it is effectively a 'no-brainer'. Everyone should be able to instantly understand the 'cloud is good'. You need that cloud
Well suprise suprise, the business tends to have a different understanding and perspective on the private cloud theme. The IT organisation clearly understands the value of the cloud as it pertains to 'their IT business'. However, their persists an understanding gap between financial investment and the core business benefits that can be extracted. Simply saying that provisioning will be quicker, or that the service now exists in the cloud are not really convincing enough for a financial department that is looking at the P&L bottom line for the business.
Think about it. In a green field site (or a lab for that matter) a private cloud approach can be generated and implemented with relatively little resistance. However, in large organisations already having a considerable investment in applications and services directly linked to business offerings, the idea of a migration to a virtual infrastructure (when everything is already working) is not a pleasant thought. Indeed it is the basis for many transformation programmes stalling and ultimately incurring long delays.
Essentially, every business element is impacted, and the level of controlled change with the resulting impact/risk analysis would make most business managers a little cagey. From their perspective we are dealing with the unknown, the ‘what-if’ scenario of a physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration that ‘might’ go wrong and impair their ability to conduct business. These are certainly valid considerations.
At EMC Consulting, one of the areas where we focus on with clients is the idea that this level of transformation, which we affectionately call the ‘journey to the private cloud’ requires a level of agility in an organizations’ communication and process ability that hitherto did not exist in an explicit form. Most organizations understandably have processes and communication lines aligned to deal with business as usual.
In the same way that we build private high speed networks to facilitate the transfer of time critical information, an organization would need to build a parallel communications vehicle that is suited for large scale transformations. The purpose of this transformation network is to be able to share and project the vision of the transformation in concrete terms to business/service managers, months in advance of actual activity. This effectively warns an organization that a substantial series of changes are coming their way with the common goal of implementing that shared vision.
The shared vision should already have been undersigned at the highest echelons ensuring board level mandate and support for the ‘Private Cloud’ transformation program. It is here initially that the concrete benefits to the overall business are expressed in outline form as pertaining to the entire firm. Further discussion on utilizing the transformation network will allow more concrete goals to be expressed in the context of specific business units.
All this leads to a more detailed elaboration of the classic ‘business case’, except that this time it is a business case and not a simple reflection of cost savings/avoidance/IT benefits supposedly good for the business.
The transformation network does not simply facilitate communication; it is also a mechanism of smoothening the journey and effectively initiates the upfront work of reducing the time-to-benefits. How so? Well the business realizes something significant is coming. They are ‘mentally prepared’. Further, the usual chain of command for allowing changes to be accepted gets a ‘short-cut’ fast-track route. All processes within that business unit become lean enough to let the myriad changes associated with cloud transformation to be accelerated. The body of a firm is preparing for some serious exertion, and in the background the 'adrenaline' starts to be generated and pumped into the organization.
IT change processes also benefit from this leanness. This allows the usual corporate ponderance to be circumvented and indeed contributes to the healthy transformation of processes that befit a cloud environment – namely large numbers of service requests and changes together with an extremely rapid turnaround.
A high-speed train needs a very structured railway network with tracks laid along straight flat ground through urban conurbations where the populace has effectively understood the need for the noisy and potentially disruptive train to pass through their back yards - in order to get to those high-speeds. Well that is an appropriate metaphor for the private cloud.
The populace is the business, and the track laying is the IT and business jointly taking an active part in ensuring positive change can flow through their organization with business benefits embarking and disembarking at each of the business unit 'stations' along the way – on time and at very effective travel rates.
Now the train – you guessed it – is the transformation program; the Journey to the Private Cloud!