Over the past several years, cloud-native approaches have delivered such astounding improvements to operational agility and efficiency that they’ve allowed for the creation of new companies based on entirely new business models. Nagendra Bandaru provides five key considerations to include in that strategy for CIOs and other C-suite executives that haven’t started the infrastructure modernization process.
As cloud computing technology continues to evolve, the true value of the cloud is gradually being revealed — and it stretches far beyond what most could have imagined when Amazon introduced AWS back in 2006. The horizontal offerings initially built to augment and complement legacy enterprise systems have transformed, completely upending the default infrastructure stack in the process.
Today, vertically integrated cloud offerings provide companies with the ability to develop customized processes and underlying infrastructure components with a clear focus on highly specific business outcomes. The speed of deployment and scalability that vertical integration offers means that companies see those outcomes faster and receive benefits that are cumulative across the organization.
Take, for example, the order-to-cash process, which is essentially the sum of an organization’s activities related to payment processing, invoicing, billing, and anything else a transaction might trigger. It starts when a customer places an order and typically involves inventory and supply chain management, accounting and reporting, and perhaps countless other steps, depending on the nature of your business and the transaction. Virtually all of those steps can be improved thanks to the cloud. Moreover, a vertically integrated cloud-based IT infrastructure allows them to be improved all at once in a way that optimizes them for that specific process.
Most importantly, it sets the stage for better (and new) customer experiences and provides for flexibility and speed as customer expectations change. That’s why every company that is truly committed to service-led delivery and data-driven decision-making understands the need for vertically aligned IT. But completely aligning stakeholders, systems, and underlying technology components doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a strategic plan, deliberate action, and ongoing reassessment. For CIOs and other C-suite executives that haven’t yet started the infrastructure modernization process, here are five key considerations to include in that strategy:
- A baseline and clear desired outcomes.
An effective cloud strategy is built around clear real-world business goals. These functional outcomes will ultimately determine the nonfunctional requirements pertaining to availability, performance, capacity, and security outlined in agreements with service providers. The strategy must also accurately account for existing challenges to modernization — and these could be numerous and complex. Most IT estates have unknown zombie systems with nonexistent or incomplete data about relationships between applications, information flows, computing processes, and user workflows. However, that organization needs to capture that data in order to fully understand how to minimize costs while maximizing scalability and impact.
- A change management plan to reflect new processes.
User experience management is the core of any modernization strategy. A transition to the cloud isn’t just about technology; it inevitably requires new workflows and new ways of thinking about the business, including how to deliver value to customers. With that in mind, it’s important to design customer journey maps that account for all the new value streams created by reaching this desired state in order to understand and prioritize change. Value streams will include all the actions, including changes to business processes and user behavior, that must be undertaken to maximize impact for stakeholders or customers. Align these actions with hardware, software, skills, and capability requirements to ensure the proper design of the new cloud infrastructure.
- Accurate cost estimates.
Understanding the future cost of operations, including future build, management, modernization, and enhancement activities, requires assessing both visible and invisible costs. Visible costs will likely include expenses related to IT transformation, base computing requirements, data storage, and others that are either relatively fixed or easy to project. Invisible costs such as licensing, hidden network data transfer costs implemented by service providers, and expenses related to security and remediation might be harder to uncover but must be accounted for within the budget. The cost estimate should also include expenses that could be incurred indirectly as a result of system dependencies, management requirements, lost productivity, and other factors that could arise during (or as a result of) the migration.
- Policies around security and governance.
Security is one of the most talked-about (and perhaps least understood) elements of cloud utilization in modern boardrooms. It should also be a top consideration during strategy development, as the organization needs to understand its immediate security obligations as a cloud customer as well as threats that could arise. The cloud is providing an exponentially larger attack surface for malicious actors, and the cloud infrastructure must be continuously monitored for vulnerabilities. Perimeter security, access policies, encryption usage, and user management policies might have to be updated and strengthened, and protecting certain IT and data components may require additional tools.
- Identified landing zones.
The strategy should ultimately be aimed at implementing the right cloud environment for the workloads, technologies, and value streams that constitute the organization’s desired state. Prioritizing benefits like efficiency, scalability, cost, and security — along with outcomes like faster time to market and new product introductions — should inform infrastructure and application choices.
Over the past several years, cloud-native approaches have delivered such astounding improvements to operational agility and efficiency that they’ve allowed for the creation of new companies based on entirely new business models. Other companies have used the cloud to optimize their entire businesses around existing models, taking a giant leap ahead of competitors. Organizations beginning their own cloud journey should first focus on the business goals and outcomes behind it, then create the infrastructure that makes them possible.
Written by Nagendra Bandaru is president of Wipro’s iCORE global business line.
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