If you’re a homeowner, you evaluate “build, buy or borrow” scenarios all the time.
Tackling a landscaping project in your backyard is a good example. You could build a lasting solution by picking up the right tools and handling the job yourself. You could buy your way out of the problem by paying a couple of hardy teenagers to do the job in the summer. Or you could borrow the expertise of a landscaping firm to do the work and also teach you the best way to sustain your lawn well in the future.
Which choice you make would depend on many factors – your energy, your financial situation, your relationship with neighboring teens and the value you place on having a neat, trim plot of land.
Enterprises moving to the cloud face a similar challenge – but the stakes are much higher. The process is a huge investment of time, focus and resources. It is crucial to have the right mix of skills on hand to guide your cloud implementation where it needs to go, in a reasonable amount of time, and at a reasonable cost.
So, which path should you follow–build, buy or borrow?
As is the case with the landscaping project, the answer is often more complicated than choosing from column A, B or C. What’s right for one CIO starting a cloud journey with one particular enterprise, might not be right for another. What’s right now, might not be right later. And more often than not, the right answer involves blending build, buy and borrow tactics to fit an enterprise’s specific scenario.
If you’re preparing a cloud implementation, you’re probably asking yourself a lot of pointed questions. Here are a few you should be considering as you evaluate whether to build, buy or borrow your way to cloud success.
What do each of the three “B’s” mean from a resource standpoint?
- Why is each valuable on its own?
- When should each be used?
- How does each decision impact finances and your organizational constructs?
The rationale behind building from within
Essentially, the “build” option gives you control over the process. However, you’ll need to lean on people that you trust inside your organization, to carry out the implementation. You will have to assign people to do specific jobs, and you will have to make sure that they have the necessary training to get their jobs done.
Building from within should also save on costs. You have the people already on staff; it’s important to make sure they’re managed correctly and put in a position to succeed. You may have to pay a little more in raises or incentives, but this expense should pale in comparison to the cost of acquiring talent.
Capital One is a great example of an organization that borrowed resources for their initial cloud strategy and migration, but has since developed a training program for their existing team to continue the cloud journey. “We have made investments in education, creating a comprehensive training program with AWS,” said Biba Helou, Managing Vice President of Capital One. “We now employ one of the largest shares of AWS-certified developers in the country. Today, a full 2 percent of all AWS-certified developers work at Capital One.”
Still, there are limiting factors in this scenario. In any organization, anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of your IT people have to focus on business as usual (BAU) projects to “keep the lights on.” That leaves just 20 to 40 percent of your staff that can actually afford to shift off of regular projects and take on something new, like cloud.
Moving workloads to the cloud and managing a process that’s new to the organization can be a challenge. If you’re trying to move to the cloud quickly, relying on internal resources has the potential to set your timetable back. It could take longer to rebuild, reskill or retrain staff. Additionally, you may not have access to enough resources, and it will likely take time to build new muscle memory to have an effective staff to execute projects.
Why should you buy?
Buying talent hastens the process. The benefit to hiring new people is that you immediately bring in new talent with the skill sets you’re looking for. You don’t have to take the time to train these people – they already know how cloud works. You can immediately add value, which will help you get to your goals of achieving agility and transforming your organization, faster than you would have by going it alone.
The biggest challenge to buying new resources is that cloud-experienced people are very hard to find and recruit, AND they are going to cost you. As cloud adoption takes off and scales across industries throughout the globe, tech markets are facing a massive shortage of experienced talent. Cloud experts are in short supply and therefore command high salaries.
Another reality is that if you bring in a new cloud team, you can’t afford to have it just be by itself. Integrating your cloud resources into the way that your organization operates and governs is important. If you create an entirely new cloud entity, you’re setting up something outside the core of your business. If you don’t integrate the team right away, you’re going to have difficulty down the line fitting it into your operations.
Is it better to just borrow?
Borrowing resources essentially involves paying somebody else to solve your problem – for a certain amount of time. It could mean going to a large consulting company, such as Accenture or Deloitte. Or it could mean signing on with a firm focused solely on the cloud, like Cloud Technology Partners. Companies in this space have their strengths, and if you’re going to go this route, it’s best to study their offerings closely, to compare their levels of expertise, their costs and the strategies they bring to the table.
Positive aspects of borrowing talent are, in some cases, the same as buying it. You get immediate access to skilled and well trained resources. That will get you to agility quickly.
You also get flexibility – and access to expertise beyond the employees who physically join your cloud operation. If your project has a limited scope, you can devote resources quickly and make decisions as you go along. You can engage with an organization and get a project done or brought to a good place, and then in six months to a year, you can make the decision to double down or scale back your engagement.
Potential drawbacks? Because you’re just borrowing, not keeping, them, once you give those resources back, you’ll have a hole to fill — either by building resources inside, or acquiring them on the open market. However, many partners offer opportunities to maintain their borrowed resources through managed services. CTP offers both compliance and cost controlled managed services to help fill these operational voids.
Another concern you will want to be careful of with borrowing resources is “scope creep” – where a cloud project grows over time and you no longer have clear visibility into how to rein it in. If you don’t have the resources on staff to manage the outside team, you can lose control of the project.
The Right Mix
Vanguard, an investment management company, advises organizations to form their cloud dream team with both internal and external resources, and then partner with someone who has done it over and over again. “In our case it was Cloud Technology Partners,” said Vanguard’s CTO, Jeff Dowds. “An outside partner who knows what they’re doing and has an approach to get to the public cloud, combined with some really strong external hiring of public cloud knowledgeable people, and then assimilating them with your own internal rock stars – that’s what ended up as the nucleus of our cloud engineering team.”
Some roles are more commoditized in nature and do not require paying premiums for outside skills. Other roles, such as a truly experienced and seasoned Cloud Architect, are worth the extra expense.
While there are benefits and tradeoffs to each approach, most enterprises will need to find the right mix that works for them. There is nothing more costly, in terms of time and expense than undoing mistakes made early. Moving to the cloud is a huge investment, so making sure you have the team to successfully pull it off should be a top priority.