Picture credit: hhttp://www.ndtv.com/
Rain is essential to the survival of our planet and for most of the organisms that inhabit it. Ideally, we would like to have rains pour down in adequate amounts predictably. However, Mother Nature is frequently unpredictable. So, desperate humans across the globe have often resorted to rain-making rituals that range from ceremonial dances to praying and offering sacrifices to gods and spirits to holding marriage ceremony of frogs (ref. picture); they have performed such rituals and then waited for miracle to happen, for rain to fall dissolving all the problems arising from drought. Even though I was not able to find good statistics on how effective these rituals are, I would posit that they do not guarantee results.
Now, did your organization embark on some cloud adoption initiative recently? How did the activities (“the dances”) associated with such a move take place? Did your organization have a “village chief” who got all the elderly together and proclaimed, “I want rain, dance for me”, or was it a joint decision of the elderly who all saw the impending draught and wanted to do something, or were there some young mavericks who just liked to dance and without knowing appealed to the rain gods? No matter how it happened, if you have recently moved some significant part of your IT landscape to cloud or some of your product development practices to cloud-based platforms, then where you are at the moment as far as the realization of expected cloud benefits are concerned? Are you now just hoping and praying (and waiting) for the cloud benefits shower down? Let me quickly remind you here that waiting for miracles to happen is not a smart strategy, and that we need to ensure good results by design.
I do not need to convince you of the really high momentum that presently prevails to adopt all sorts of cloud computing strategies to handle IT operations, enterprise computing, and software development. Analyst firms like Gartner estimate that globally “cloud shift” will affect a trillion dollars of IT spending by 2020 (www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3384720), and that this is a lot of dollars in a pretty short time. Of course, this shift is occurring because of the high benefits that cloud adoption is capable of providing, as have been demonstrated via many success stories published by cloud adoption proponents. But how sure are you that “your cloud adoption” will deliver such high benefits?
To ensure the benefits of cloud adoption with higher certainty, we must first recognize the high-level categories of benefits that cloud adoption can provide (see figure). These categories are:
1. Efficiency – Operational efficiencies increase when we are able to do the same things with fewer resources or more things with the same resources. Computing hardware, data center facilities, and operations-administration-and-management (OA&M) personnel are examples of resources that cloud adoption can favorably affect, for example, by reductions in the associated costs or management attention. The main sources of benefits under this category arise primarily from being able to squeeze out existing inefficiencies. For example, improvement of low hardware (capacity) or software (license) use by consolidation; leveraging economic pay-per-use billing models and any CapEx-to-OpEx benefits that cloud provides; outsourcing of OA&M operations that become leaner and more uniform with cloud adoptions.
2. Speed – Moving to cloud can speed up many IT related activities, for example, complex hardware and software environments can be provisioned in minutes and hours as opposed to in weeks and months; modern cloud-based development and testing platforms along with agile project methodologies can increase speed of development related activities by several fold; adoption of DevOps (continuous chain of activities ranging from concept-to-production) which is more easily done in the cloud can drastically shorten product or service release cycles.
3. Quality – Service orientation is at the heart of cloud adoption. Use of services mandate standardization and clear understanding of services which leads to enforcement of standardization and many quality measures much more easily.
4. Capability – A lot of technical capabilities that provide equivalent of traditional packaged applications (e.g., CRM, ERP, HRM, SCM, MRP, etc.) as well as newer applications (e.g., real-time analytics, complex event processing, IoT, cognitive computing, machine learning, etc.) are available today as cloud-delivered services. These provide the ability to easily stay current with improvements in packaged applications and to quickly access new technologies that are often needed for innovation experiments.
5. Risk (reduction) – Cloud adoption can also reduce certain common risks in the IT realm. For example, it is quite easy and affordable to increase system redundancies by creating by replication of application environments and “parking” them (i.e., not paying the full costs) during normal operational conditions; auto-scaling of cloud capacity can be helpful in mitigating the risk of system performance deterioration during workloads surges; with easy access to newer technologies the risk of technology obsolescence can be avoided; using “secure cloud” risk of information leak and data breaches can be reduced, etc.
It is important to understand the character and the impact of each of the above benefits since not all are equally relevant to all companies at a given time. With a good understanding of the benefits you can create a clear “cloud benefit exploitation strategy” that honors your benefit goals as well as the mandatory constraints arising out of conditions (like skills, culture, and business priorities) prevalent in your organization or from applicable rules, regulations, and industry norms. Spreading the actions related to such a benefit exploitation strategy over time would then generate a “cloud adoption roadmap” that will ensure the realization of “expected” cloud adoption benefits systematically and in a more predictable fashion (no more “waiting for rain”).