CLOUD SUCCESS IS ABOUT CHANGING YOUR MINDSET
Successfully moving to the cloud is all about changing how you and your employees think about technology.
Office 365, Xero accounting, Amazon Web Services, Google Docs, Dropbox and a host of other offerings all demonstrate just how pervasive ‘ the cloud’ has become in today’s business technology environment.
But while moving business systems to the cloud is no longer a novelty, success can sometimes prove elusive, with companies reporting widely varying experiences and benefits.
The irony is that success or failure in the cloud is rarely about technology, but instead is strongly dependent on ‘ traditional’ management skills such as communication, culture and project management.
Like any significant business change, successfully moving to the cloud requires planning, analysis, internal discussion, along with clear communication with all those involved or who may be impacted in one way or another.
However, the single most important guarantor of success in the cloud, is changing how you and your team think about technology and its role and behaviour in your business.
“Cloud lets you do things faster and with less investment up front, which means if it's not right, you can afford to erase it and start again.”
Based on our experience of working with a wide range of clients across diverse industries, being able to change your mind about technology is the single best predictor of cloud success.
In the early days of cloud adoption, many companies simply ‘lifted and shifted’ their systems, moving them from their own premises to those of a cloud provider, but not really gaining any significant benefits along the way.
Lifting and shifting business systems is not really cloud adoption; at best this approach is ‘replatforming’ and while it may provide a few short-term gains, it doesn’t provide the transformation that the cloud can deliver.
A good analogy is to think of cloud as a ‘lean’, interactive process. Lean methodology is a leaf that IT professionals borrowed from manufacturing’s book. The central, revolutionary concept was that quality should be built into the product, and not thought of as something that you check for, and remedy, later on. Originally developed by Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno in the 1930s, lean methodology incorporated the policy that any fault on the production line meant halting the entire line.
To give this context, it’s important to understand that there’s nothing more expensive for a manufacturing company than stopping production – it can cost millions of dollars per minute of downtime. As a result, the early days of manufacturing, heavily influenced by Henry Ford, saw production managers striving for zero production downtime. If a fault arose, the conveyer belt would keep running – continuous production was the core tenet and errors would be ‘fixed’ later.
Toyota’s lean approach turned this traditional thinking on its head. These days in Toyota factories, any worker has the power to stop production. It’s this approach of stopping and fixing issues as they arise before starting production again, that has resulted in the Toyota brand becoming synonymous with quality.
Toyota also saw a huge reduction in rework because of this approach. These days plenty of manufacturing companies use a lean methodology, but Toyota was the original pioneer.
CLOUD EQUALS LEAN
Does that traditional, ‘Ford-ist’ approach sound a bit like your company’s approach to information technology today? Does your company have to go back and fix the same issues repeatedly, without ever fully addressing the root cause?
The good news is that the cloud enables you to bring a lean approach to your business technology. Cloud lets you focus on fixing the root cause of issues, instead of constantly firefighting the symptoms. Do things faster and with less risk. Focus on continuous improvement and leverage the cloud’s scalability to try new ways of working and improving quality for end users.
To best achieve this, you can’t look at cloud like it’s just another service you buy. For example, if your business is talking about moving from inhouse systems to Amazon’s data centre you’re potentially already heading down the wrong track. Cloud is much more than a datacentre and it enables your business to do so much more than the traditional technology mindset allows.
A major transformation that cloud delivers is the ability to almost instantly allocate resources as needed, so you no longer need to spend time (with your own team or your technology reseller) organising the procurement and installation of new systems.
Cloud lets you do things faster and with less investment up front, which means if it’s not right, you can afford to erase it and start again.
Take, for example, a business with an e-commerce site, where the marketing team wants to run a Christmas campaign. For argument’s sake, let’s say its mid-June now. The company does some assessments and figures out that it will need ten new servers to support the campaign’s expected increase in traffic. By the time the company procures, sets up, deploys, tests and releases these servers, it’s likely that it is already close to that Christmas deadline.
And it then turns out the marketing team’s campaign is so good that it goes ‘viral’. They’re all very excited about this, but they’re potentially now in trouble if the ten new servers overload, resulting in poor performance on the website that subsequently delivers a frustrating experience to now grumpy customers.
A cloud system avoids these issues, simply because it can scale up and down to easily meet demand as and when required.
As previously noted, successfully moving to the cloud still requires traditional business disciplines such as planning, analysis and clear communication. But you can exercise all those skills and if you don’t change the thinking and behaviour around IT, all you’ve really done is move the gear somewhere else.
BECOMING A CLOUD NATIVE
Change the role and nature of IT and drive your business towards becoming a true cloud native. You’ll discover a whole new level of business agility that simply wasn’t possible before.
Imagine an environment where you can have a bright idea at morning tea and by lunchtime you could be deploying and testing a pilot project.
Doesn’t work or needs improvement? Tear it down and start on version 1.1. Test it with a select group of customers and you might just find that all of sudden you’ve got an expanded development team, where your customers are helping you develop the products and services they want.
Morning tea to lunchtime launch might be a slight exaggeration for dramatic effect, but effective use of the cloud really will allow you and your business to start thinking and behaving along those lines.