Many enterprises are struggling with the same transformation challenge: how to create an organization that can quickly adopt new technology while responding to immediate market needs and new competitive threats. The transition to becoming that kind of operation is not simple. It involves all aspects of an organization developing new muscle memory based on new ways to operate that are accepting of learning and failure. It also requires empowering staff to make rapid decisions driven by common organizational direction and principles.
Cloud is the platform component that enables a more agile, responsive organization. But consuming cloud in a way that a business can also transform requires a coordinated effort across multiple domains. All aspects of the people, process and technology components of an organization are impacted as it matures from current to new operational models. Figure 1 outlines the key changes that must occur in order to maximize velocity. The primary change is the move from approval based processes to a focus on exception handling and constant organizational improvement.
Many organizations start their cloud adoption journey with the intention of saving costs on IT operations. While the cloud can bring cost savings, its larger benefit to an organization lies in enabling faster time to market for new products and capabilities. The real value of cloud transformation is the organization’s new ability to quickly consume the latest technology and rapidly adapt and respond to market needs.
Determining an organization’s cloud transformation maturity requires careful measurement of both current maturity levels and the level of effort necessary to transition to the next higher state. Figure 2 shows the 10 dimensions commonly used to measure current cloud maturity and track organizational plans to achieve the next level.
Cloud transformation was originally heralded as a path forward for organizations to become more competitive, more agile and more easily recruit the best talent. But the reality is, transformation has become a sticking point for many organizations. There are several intersecting reasons for this:
- Years to Build Can Take Quarters to Untangle – Many of today’s business systems took years, even decades, to build. Consequently, they possess a level of unknown complexity that takes time to understand, untangle and improve. Many organizations are not prepared for the sustained programming investment necessary to untangle these complex systems.
- Business Cycles – The usual business cycles associated with market changes, mergers & acquisitions and divestitures takes a toll on organizational change. These dynamics introduce time-bound projects that consume resources and attention. But cloud transformation is often not something that can be time bound; rather, it moves at a pace driven by the organization’s level of acceptance and readiness.
- Changing Regulatory Landscapes – Many industries, both in the U.S. and abroad, continue to see regulations change. This changing landscape makes risk averse leadership reluctant to invest in programs that might not meet new regulatory standards.
Key Elements to Accelerate Growth
With a successful cloud transformation, come several key elements that can accelerate growth for the organization:
- Agility – An organization’s ability to respond to new competitive threats and market conditions is a key measure of its cloud transformation maturity. The ability to quickly consume new technologies and apply them to market conditions is an important characteristic of successful players across markets.
- Innovation – A company can live and die on the ideas its staff can come up with and quickly incubate into products. A cloud mature organization with a learning culture can encourage staff to try new things, test new products and fail fast.
- Cost Optimization – Cost savings are no longer the focus, as the ability to optimize cost to market conditions emerges. Cloud mature organizations can measure their investment against key value chains and determine if that investment is optimized based on the company’s P&L.
- Fail Fast – An organization’s ability to rapidly try new ideas, learn from them and iterate is a key element of a successful cloud transformation. Most important is the ability for an organization to respond positively to failed projects, take the learnings and share them with the wider organization. Encouraging risk taking is critical to rapid innovation.
- Recruiting Top Talent – Organizations define success by the talent they can hire and mature internally. Recruiting in today’s fast-paced world is significantly different from traditional recruiting for IT positions. Organizations must focus on finding people who are adaptive, self-learning, highly engaged and dynamic. These traits ensure individuals evolve with the company, demanding improvement in everything they do and lifting the organization during their tenure.
Upon the successful transition to a modern approach to technology, organizations will be able to quickly move from idea to pilot projects to production, as the benefits of their new capabilities are realized. The value of this complex and often long cloud transformation is in creating an organization that can execute at a higher rate of speed, learn from failures and constantly improve, while developing a pool of talent that is always looking for new ways to improve and innovate.
Joey Jablonski is the former CTO of Cloud Technology Partners and is now the VP of Data Engineering & Analytics at iHeartMedia.