“How do I start with cloud and deliver a quick win?” – Q&A from the Trenches Series #2

by  \  10 Mar, 2011 \  7:47pm EDT

How to get started with cloud computing is a common question, but it can be tough to answer on the spot for large enterprise customers. It’s a bit easier for small/mid-sized businesses, where more defined cloud offerings are available on the market and fairly standard use cases can fit their needs. Enterprises have more stringent requirements and higher complexity than SMBs, including application portfolios with 10’s of thousands of different apps, and dozens of different IT groups with their own operating models, objectives, and problems.

Cloud starter projects also typically have to clear the hurdle of providing a “quick win” with clear success criteria, ROI and benefits.  In fact, few project sponsors have the luxury of NOT requiring this, particularly if you expect to build any momentum for follow-on cloud initiatives.

At this point, if you ask different cloud software vendors these questions, they’ll likely take you down several divergent paths. You should be wary of some of them:

1) Let’s find a fit for my new product capabilities in your current operations, and then define the business need. Tactical or point solutions have a tendency to fall into this trap. Depending on the situation, this can be risky or outright dangerous as the “need” may or may not be the significant a problem area or relative high priority as you thought. Unfortunately, this may be revealed too late, such as when its ROI evaluation time after implementation. That’s when you may find out that other critical pain points (that the vendor’s tactical solution doesn’t address) really overshadow your ability to drive significant overall benefits.

2) The other end of the spectrum is taking a step back to evaluate the broader range of projects and needs across the enterprise and IT. This takes more time and courage from the client because you’ve got to be willing to look under a few rocks and the worms underneath. Spending this time upfront often results in the best initial project selection and ROI, and sets you out on a better trajectory and long term roadmap. However, the time it takes to do this can vary from weeks to months depending upon scope and the sponsor’s appetite for a transformation. Regardless of the scope, it also requires a high degree of enterprise expertise from the vendor/partner, including areas of IT strategy development and operating model optimization – areas where most ISV expertise falls decidedly flat.

3) There’s a middle road which includes pre-packaged solution templates. This isn’t the same as #1, which is inserting a new product capability in relative isolation. Instead, solution “accelerators” consist of a combination of best practices and reusable templates that touch across dependencies in operating model, processes, and organization change mgmt. Every enterprise is unique, so pre-packaged solutions leverage as much inherent repeatability as possible and customizes the rest. Again, this requires an experienced vendor/partner that’s built up skills and capabilities by doing it before. Pre-packaged solutions can either standalone or dovetail into a larger cloud strategy. They also tend to have their own well defined boundaries and metrics, so ROI measurement is more straightforward.

It’s possible to select an ideal cloud starter project from different approaches, although the most important criteria is selecting a vendor/partner with enterprise expertise in making that journey previously. You and that partner should spend time deeply exploring a vision for the “end game” you are pursuing, and make sure you’re aligned. You’ll want someone that’s worked in the enterprise space for quite awhile, as it takes time to acquire the skills and pattern matching to know what works best and what won’t in different enterprise environments. Then you need to layer expertise in cloud technologies, IT operating models and processes, and change management. It’s a tough combination to find.

At ServiceMesh, we lead with approaches #2 and #3 and have built out a series of Readiness Assessments, Business Value Assessments, and pre-packaged IT optimization strategies that are backed with implementation experience and experienced staff. We’ve found these to be an effective combination to get large enterprises successfully started down the right path.

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