Aligning Cloud Strategy With Business Outcomes
Christopher Williamson, National Practice Lead for CIO Advisory Services at Mainline, shares insight into how Mainline helps clients use the cloud as part of their Enterprise Integration Strategy.
How does using the cloud affect integration strategy?
‘Using the cloud’ is kind of a broad statement. A lot of our clients struggle with trying to determine what it means to use the cloud. In our “Enterprise Integration Strategy and Roadmap” blog, our team did a great job of depicting all the criteria you need to assess to drive integrations and achieve a solid cloud foundation. It’s a good example of Mainline’s holistic view of looking at operating models as a set of people, processes, and technology domains.
Our clients frequently have limited time or resources to develop a cloud integration approach or articulate their cloud strategy. I look at ways clients could operationalize cloud models and how cloud integration supports a number of methods for driving business outcomes and business performance by leveraging those enterprise cloud models.
What challenges do you see clients facing when choosing a cloud model and developing a cloud strategy?
What we see in our client base of mostly mid-market and upper mid-market firms is that they are striving to find the next act as it pertains to cloud. Many of them have dipped their toes in the cloud by moving some workloads to cloud services, whether those be development environments or commodity services like email. However, they seem to get stuck there. They can’t get beyond that initial state of sampling cloud services to transform the way they deliver business. Issues such as migration complexity, data governance and compliance, and projecting future-state operating cost prevent them from moving additional workloads to the cloud.
So, you don’t really see people taking on a cloud-first approach?
Right. I see a lot of companies in the mid-market space we serve looking at the cloud problem in isolation without really looking at what they are trying to get out of that change in operating model.
One of the things that we’ve worked on with clients is to establish a connection between cloud strategy and core business drivers. Core business drivers could be things like capability enablement, where there are things the business either can’t do today or can’t do with agility where it would really impact their customer experience. Those are all things that are a limitation now and that inhibit change.
Their current operating model may just be too costly. They might want to drive cost out of the equation. They may want to spend less time internally managing technology and more time deriving value from technology. They may want less of an operational focus and more of a strategic focus from their technology leadership and staff. Our clients may also want to gain a better data architecture and improved governance that would leverage analytics for insights that they don’t currently possess.
Do you see companies struggling with Shadow IT at all?
Absolutely. Every organization is a little different, but very often you find that a current IT organization’s inability to rapidly translate business requirements or business needs into technology solutions is really a driver for Shadow IT. The business doesn’t feel like they are getting the response or scope of services that they need to drive business outcomes. That’s why we focus on connecting those business drivers to a technical strategy. Creating that connection builds trust in the IT team and their services.
What are the challenges of Cloud Integration?
Cloud integration is a topic that sees a lot of discussion and experiences a furious pace of change as companies try to make hybrid cloud models and cloud models in general serve a lot of masters. One of the challenges has been that a lot of the development to date has yielded one standard delivery approach, and that one size does not fit all.
That’s why we advocate for taking a hard look at different cloud models — the private, the public, the hybrid — and aligning them with your business outcomes so you have a sense of what your expectations are. This enables you to opt for a particular cloud model and integrate that downstream.
How do you determine if a company is ready for Cloud Integration?
Well, as it happens, we have a cloud-readiness service that we provide through the Mainline CIO Advisory Practice that looks at things like the business’s current strategies and what they are trying to achieve and then takes a hard look at the organizational capability and maturity of IT as a service provider. That service helps us define whether there is a strong likelihood of success in moving to a different operating model or determining what kind of processes may need to change to achieve those goals.
How does the way Mainline handles cloud transitions differ from the way your competitors approach the process?
I think we’re mostly interested in trying to find the right fit and not just delivering a prepackaged model. The prior blog showed that there are a lot of complexities and moving parts to Cloud Integration.
Our approach has been to differentiate ourselves through aligning with business strategy so that we’ve got a clear business case for change that the organization can get behind. We drive to the model that best fits those outcomes instead of just trying to sell them on it.
A lot of our clients that want to be cloud-first organizations have been sucked in by the perceived simplicity of that, only to find out that there’s a lot of complexity in moving all those workloads to the cloud and sometimes there’s significant risk in doing that as well. We like to develop a future-state design before we pick an end-state operating model. That’s one of our big differentiators.
Many public cloud providers oversimplify the transition, overstate the cost savings, and ignore the complexities businesses have because of data protection, compliance, or security requirements. One of the key factors that has defined our approach for cloud strategy and cloud integration is that everyone’s experience is a little different in the cloud. The major public cloud providers would prefer that you just bite the bullet and move everything to their platform and then worry about the deficiencies after. Our approach is really the other way around. We prefer to project what that future state will look like.
What we’ve found is that each client needs to clearly articulate what outcomes they need to drive business performance and then look at the cloud operating models that best support those outcomes. Naturally, this is something we help clients do through our Advisory services, as well as by implementing public, private, or hybrid cloud models.
Why might cloud integration be preferable to using a colocation or self-hosting?
The hybrid approach has the potential for being the best of both worlds in the sense that you can put your commodity and easily-migratable workloads in the cloud and get the efficiencies there. The idea of staying put in a self-hosted model or co-lo isn’t practical for businesses under increasing pressure to deliver business value and eliminate operational overhead.
However, in many cases, our clients are driving significant competitive advantage through the things that they’re doing with technology to support business differentiation and positively impact customer experience. As you’d expect, they want to continue to refine and leverage those advantages by managing those workloads directly.
How does Mainline help clients align cloud models and services with business goals?
We have a methodology for that: a cloud strategy analysis services engagement and a cloud readiness service. This is an assessment that looks at what the road ahead will be like and takes a deep dive into identifying the right operating model based on a company’s business outcomes and what’s going to drive the kinds of outcomes the company is looking for. We have a methodology that we have put together that supports that type of alignment.
How does adopting Hybrid Cloud affect integration strategy?
There are both challenges and advantages in adopting hybrid cloud. If you’ve got the right cloud operating model, that integration can drive better business performance through faster provisioning and greater agility, as well as present opportunities to better leverage your data architecture and provide technical performance in the environment. So, there are a lot of advantages to integrating hybrid cloud from a business performance and a technical service delivery standpoint.