In my previous post, I talked
about how Enterprise Architects can (and should) drive cloud strategy and
planning. Today, I would like us to take a look at a larger issue for EAs, CIOs, and anyone
invested in IT strategy as it relates to business planning: The cloud and it's ability to be a game-changer. But first, I want to take a step back and talk about why this
warrants challenging in the first place.
In general, it’s not a good idea
for EAs to stir up conflict over every single technology innovation, but when there are game-changing
technology innovations in play, the gloves should come off. We should be
prepared to fight those battles, winning over the hearts and minds of executives
by demonstrating why they are critical for business. Specificly, EA can sow leadership in by showing business and IT executitves why cloud is such an important technology, but EA's should do it through their soft skills (EQ driven approaches) not driven by their hard skills talking about why cloud technollogies are the greatest.
I have covered in previous posts this business and value first approach to cloud and will not repeat it here. Instead I want to take s step back and provide some context into how this very distruptive technology effects the industry and companies.
As cloud computing rapidly evolves, it has the
opportunity to become a true utility for information technology. It’s not 100 per
cent there yet, but the end goal is a visible possibility now more than ever.
The classic scenario for
enterprise architects is to use the “city planner analogy” to describe what
they do. Since we are talking about an architecture style, not a practice or EA
competency however, I’ll describe the actual city, rather than the person who
The scenario we are in…
Think about IT as a city. But it’s not like a city we would know—it’s
a city that hasn’t yet embraced utility services. It has the technology of
today, but the execution of a couple hundred years ago.
This is a city where the citizens are true do-it-yourselfers. There
is vibrant trade for goods, but with respect to basic infrastructure, ranging
from electricity, sewage, and roads to public transportation and telephone
services, the people pretty much have to do it for themselves.
The common thread between this analogy and the IT climate today is
that each homeowner is spending a lot of time and effort on the operation of
their own household. While today’s IT departments don’t have to worry about
collecting wood for fire or trudging to the outhouse during a snowstorm, they
are often still deploying technology services that could more efficiently be
delivered by a utility provider. This would effectively eliminate the need
for any IT organization to deploy technologies that are now considered
commodities, such as raw infrastructure, various application or portal
platforms, and email.
Applying this analogy to the image above, we can ask, “Does every IT organization
need to be the power plant, the power substation, the power lines, and the
wiring in the home?” My answer would be a firm NO. But unfortunately, this is
exactly what most IT organizations today are doing, from the plant, all the
way down to the wiring in the house.
It’s important to understand the impact that cloud has the potential
to make. It is the first viable option to truly take commodity technology
services off-premises. This is very different from previous models, and thus
should be treated as such.
Cloud has changed IT in several
key ways. It has provided a new backbone for the evolution of IT in the future,
completely changing the business paradigm and driving elevated expectations
with IT consumers.
There are three ways cloud is doing this:
- It's the backbone of the future
- Introduces a new business paradigm
- Provides a transformative path forward
#1 The backbone of the future
new platform has spawned an entirely new generation of businesses, designed on
the cloud, for the cloud. Some cloud-based businesses are now cloud services
providers, thus creating a new “C2C” category. And venture capital firms are
now sitting up and noticing that cloud services are changing the way startups
utilize VC funding, skipping over infrastructure and traditional overhead
costs, and moving straight into development, marketing, and partnerships.
More evidence of this shift to this
paradigm is the major enterprise software vendors. There is a radical shift in the business
models of these vendors from product selling to solution selling over the cloud.
IBM, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft are all at light speed to the cloud space. This
is occurring through major re-platforming, acquisitions and entirely new
business that put a high degree of risk on cannibalizing their own revenue
streams but if they pull it off they will win big.
Enterprises are seeing this as
further evidence that this is where the future is heading. Much like
distributed computing and SOA, the vendors set the tone for where the industry
is going and that leaves many enterprises in a course-correcting mode.
#2 A new business paradigm
has truly changed how IT does business, from the way we plan and build
software, to how it is selected and purchased. This revolutionary new
infrastructure has established cloud governance as a key component of
strategic planning, affecting everything from service selection and payment, to
standards creation and lifecycle/policy management.
With the landscape focus shifting from
infrastructure to software, a host of changes have rocked the business
paradigm. A move to the cloud forces organizations to drill down deeper into
vendor selection and security issues, and acclimate to the fact that with the
cloud, certain things will no longer be under a company’s direct control.
The advent of the cloud has turned a
lot of business processes upside down—in a good way. Traditionally, the option to “try before you
buy” was not a realistic business model, but now, cloud computing makes it easy
for customers to test drive products within in the context of their own
With a new IT deployment, users previously
had to go to IT and be trained on new technologies before they could use them,
but today, they simply click on a link and they are up and running, without
concerns about training or security. And product lifecycle management has made
great strides with the cloud as well, offering users information that can be
utilized in real-time scenarios, along with connectivity across a company's
network of suppliers, time zones, and cultures, enabling an extendable
The cloud has also uncovered a
number of new initiatives, and magnified the importance of others. By opening
up operating scale to enable operational efficiencies, the cloud enables sales
and delivery reach to be significantly extended. The cloud also drives adoption
of service oriented architecture (SOA) across the enterprise, enabling
businesses to holistically address problems, and respond faster to changes in
The importance of security and
regulatory compliance are elevated with the cloud. Whereas before they were
treated as operational line items, today they have become business-critical as
a result of growing cloud adoption.
#3 Transformative Path Forward
Like with all transformations, the
path forward is difficult given all the past investments (legacy technology) is
complex, overwhelming and often times extremely political. For many companies,
there are systems that are living in their environment that have been around
since the mainframe. These systems are not easy to turn off, they process our
payments, track our receivables and payables, manage customer relationships, provide
complex business rule processing and much more. These systems are not SOA
enabled, internet connect nor cloud ready.
Think about this analogy, Hoarders
vs. Empty House.
The Hoarders scenario (Legacy Technology Mess)
The Hoarders situation is a lot
like the legacy environments. There is a lot of stuff around that you don’t
need anymore: old records, 8 tracks, and CD’s that are now all online. However,
all that stuff isn’t all on the shelf neatly put away, it’s everywhere. Under
piles and piles of stuff in multiple rooms and may not be in the best condition
for conversion, matching or otherwise. The effort, time and overall success is
This isn’t an unfamiliar story
with our legacy technology environments. With layer after layer of solutioning
compounded with integration any change can be highly risky for an environment. Our hoarders scenario looks a little like this:
Empty House (Cloud / Greenfield)
With this scenario you enter into
environment in which there is no legacy/junk layered throughout the house. The
decisions are about what you what the room/house to ultimately be. This greatly
accelerates the process and allows you to focus on the business priorities
right away rather than managing all the change right away.
In this scenario, we start fresh
with a (relatively) clean slate. The inhibitors or “sins of the past” don’t
live here. It’s like what Yoda told Luke at the Dark Side Cave in Star Wars
Episode 5, “You don’t need the lightsaber. The only evil in there is the evil
you take with you”. That quote is very relevant to this scenario. If legacy
thinking is applied to this paradigm then bad results will happen. But if you
apply fresh thinking to a new way of doing things will go well.
By avoiding focusing on legacy
impacts by making changes within that environment, we are able to focus on the
future business needs and priorities unhindered. While in the past you could do
this with parallel environments (I did this with large CRM and ERM
implementations) Cloud ups this through not only providing a hardware stack but
a utility delivery and services model.
So what does all this mean?
Businesses are fighting to survive
in a market that is evolving, changing and moving faster than it ever has
before thus IT must provide the vital technology innovations and services to
keep pace with an ever growing business climate.
IT is in a real pinch. Like I talked about
above in my Hoarders scenario, IT has layers of technology like sedimentary
rock that make any change extremely difficult costly and risky. Business don’t
understand this problem completely and often times don’t care. They see the grass
on the ground not seeing the number of layers of legacy. This is because they
know that to survive and win in their markets they must transform themselves
from silo-based, inward-facing and disconnected to a highly agile business.
EA’s must challenge the status quo in order to advance the
business! There will be many naysayers just like with any advance in
technology. I heard it in the days of distributed computing and SOA on why not
to do it but ultimately it was needed and it had to happen.
As EA’s we know, the business must be competitive or they will face
severe consequences. It is the job of EA organizations to identify these advances,
embrace them and shift the organization. That is the reason to challenge.
However, go in with your eyes
open. Cloud will not solve the business agility, business
service enablement, IT process and delivery problems.
However, cloud is:
- Technology enablement
- New architecture style
- Next advancement in computing
- Cross consumer and enterprise aware
- Ready for prime time
With this said, Cloud gives enterprises a unique ability to
start in a greenfield environment in a much easier and rapid way rather than in
the hoarders mess. By embracing this path you will be able to:
- Avoid making large “big bang” investments
- Hedge risks by migrating at your own pace
- Focus on the future of your business rather than
I hope this helps!