The Field of (Cloud) Dreams: if you build it, will they come?

In this guest post, Allan Brearley, cloud practice lead at IT services consultancy ECS and Tesco Bank’s former head of transformation, draws inspiration from a 1989 Kevin Costner movie to advise enterprises on how best to approach their move to the cloud…

Using cloud offers enterprises opportunities to increase business agility and optimise costs, and make it possible for them to compete more effectively with challenger businesses that benefit from being born in the cloud.

However, the cloud journey can mask a significant number of challenges that must be carefully navigated before those benefits can be realised.

Firstly, their strategy needs buy-in from all business stakeholders, and sponsorship at an executive level, ideally with board representation.

In reality, cloud initiatives often start from silos within an organisation, resulting in poor engagement, and failure to realise the potential transformational benefits.

These are not just the rogue instances of shadow IT, or stealth IT, that often spring to mind. In fact, at first sight cloud adoption can often appear to be driven from what might seem very logical areas within a business.

Agility vs. cost in cloud

When there’s a particular focus on cost optimisation, adoption is usually sponsored from within existing infrastructure delivery areas. This might typically be when heads of infrastructure or CTOs identify an opportunity to consolidate on-premise datacentre infrastructure with the expectation of cost savings.

Their thinking is correct. Closing down ageing facilities will reduce capital expenditure significantly. However, any new “off-premise datacentre” must be properly planned for it to deliver sustainable benefits to the business.

From an agility perspective, the journey to the cloud may be rooted in digital or innovation areas.

However, problems often arise when attempts are made to either broaden the reach of cloud within the organisation or when steps are made to take the capability into production.

A failure to have broad organisational engagement and support from all key stakeholders in either of these cases is likely to see best intentions stall at best, and often result in overall failure.

Stakeholder engagement

Without buy-in from application owners, data owners and relevant CIO teams, the promised cost benefits associated with migrating applications off-premise rarely materialise. The danger is you end up investing significant effort to develop a new cloud-based capability but, without an overarching strategy to exploit cloud, it may increase, rather than reduce, your costs.

As in the 1989 Field of Dreams movie, starring Kevin Costner, you need to ensure that once you build it, they will come.

Successful outcomes will only be fully achieved when the cloud strategy is embraced at an organisational level, with engagement across the enterprise. Stakeholders have to buy-in to a clearly defined strategy and understand the motivation for moving applications to the cloud. This has to be driven by a vocal, suitably empowered C-level executive.

It’s not enough to have a single, passionate senior (cheer) leader. This individual also has to sit at the right level in the organisation to have the power to influence and align disparate teams to commit to the same journey. Whilst cloud adoption requires top-down support, it also requires bottom-up evangelism for success.

Indeed, the need to evangelise and sell the benefits of cloud within an enterprise shouldn’t be underestimated.  Establishing some quick wins will not only support integration from a technical and operational perspective, but provide the success stories that can help to shift the cultural needle.A focus on taking the organisation with you on the journey will contribute greatly to a successful outcome.

From disparate to joined up

If you look around your organisation and see an enthusiastic but renegade team heading off under their own steam to build their own Field of Dreams, don’t panic.

It is still possible to bring structure into the cloud adoption programme and reshape it as an organisation-wide, joined-up initiative. Start by taking a step back and bringing all the stakeholders inside the tent.

Clearly it will be more challenging to achieve retrospective buy-in but it is certainly possible to do so, providing the programme has not passed a tipping point.

Ensure you avoid disenfranchising any key stakeholder groups, because if this happens then it will be difficult to recover the situation.

Take a cue from Kevin Costner: don’t stand alone in a field of corn but act decisively to secure the right support and you too could be nominated for awards for your starring role in cloud adoption.

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