Posted: 15 Nov. 2021 10 min. read

Maximum Cloud: New ways of working to exploit Cloud’s full potential

Authors: Kerry Appleton-Norman, Aarti Balakrishnan

Cloud is not an upgrade or a patch for your existing IT legacy systems. Cloud is an exponential and existential game changer for your entire enterprise, even more relevant now as businesses respond to the impact of COVID-19. But reaping the enormous benefits of this disruptive new technology requires you to disrupt yourself and adopt a whole new way of working. We show you how to become a Cloud transformed organisation in four practical steps.

The Cloud is everywhere. Even the most Luddite of IT managers cannot deny its value and transformative potential. The fundamental difference between those organisations that have reaped the rewards of cloud and those that haven’t comes down to how effectively and quickly they adopt new ways of working.

Disrupting yourself is essential and it can be exhilarating. New technologies have always required new ways of working. Cloud is not just an incremental change in the IT function. It’s an exponential change across the organisation. The traditional on-premises model, which saw the majority of the IT team and the bulk of the IT budget focused on keeping systems up and running, just won’t cut it in the Cloud. Cloud enables a strategic, value-added focus for IT that is light years away from the old care and maintenance role: one that prioritises innovation.

Business processes must change radically if a company is to thrive in the Cloud: Automation is critical to allow operating workloads at scale and to allow access to technologies such as AI and machine learning thanks to out-of-the-box offerings from cloud service providers: applications and services will need to be re-architected and re-engineered to operate in this new model; and people will need to pick up new tools, technologies and skills rapidly.

It sounds daunting but here are a few helpful tips to get you on your way.

ONE: Create Your Cloud Centre of Excellence to Kickstart your Cloud Journey

The key to maximising the potential of Cloud with minimum pain, and slashing technical debt, is to establish a Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE).

The CCoE is much, much more than just a help desk. Engineers are at the heart of the CCoE but the team should also have players drawn from the senior leadership team as well as from operations, infrastructure, security and applications. It is the epitome and acme of the multi-disciplinary model in action. A cross between missionary work, think tank and research lab, the CCoE is a crack team of Cloud champions, typically comprising experts and professionals from all the key business areas as well as IT.

Its mission is simple but vital: to encourage people to start thinking in the language of Cloud and to determine the tools, practices and standards that will allow DevOps teams to achieve their goals. Ideally those goals will be creating excellent, agile digital solutions that can be taken quickly to market and delivered to clients.

A successful CCoE will do this by engaging with all relevant teams across the enterprise, building a roadmap of Cloud capabilities, putting controls and transparency in place to protect the business and building the necessary guardrails to enable the builders to innovate.

The CCoE model is one which champions experimentation with the understanding that some of these experiments may not be progressed to the full product development stage.

In short, it is the mechanism that helps the organisation make the necessary shifts across technology and tools, security, talent, architecture, financials, process, culture and transformation delivery. The CCoE’s end goal is to make this interaction and engagement between various parts of the organisation seamless – essentially doing itself out of its current job before moving on to the next one.

TWO: Play With a Full Stack

Led by an effective CCoE, the enterprise should quickly start to reap the benefits of a full stack operating model with Cloud. In plain English that means moving beyond the traditional function-based silos and actively breaking down demarcations between front-end and back-end operations.

The full stack model calls time on the obsolete idea that the various teams working on user experience, development, networking, data administration and so on should all be discreet and only interface with each other at certain touchpoints. This is not the mainframe era, people!

In a full stack approach, operations and development (DevOps) teams are fully integrated which is good for agility, reducing friction and improving accountability. A good full stack team is self-sufficient and able to make its own decisions. By embracing automation, it is able to focus on what is really important and genuinely value-creating.

Full stack is moving from physical servers to containerisation of applications and serverless functions. A full stack way of working should be able to deliver the required apps, fully scalable, in any location through a combination of the Cloud and in-house data centres.

THREE: Go Cloud Native

The change in culture and mindset required for organisations to get their heads round building new applications in the Cloud can seem scary, despite the huge benefits.

That’s why Cloud is often done piecemeal, at departmental level, and ends up unambitious in scope and limited in impact. Being at the digital frontier is all very well but not if you don’t have a passport to progress.

A new Cloud way of working is not merely the lifting and shifting of existing apps into the Cloud or treating the Cloud as a new gizmo for the data centre. Simply treating the Cloud as a patch for business 1.0 ways of working will incur huge technical debt. Going native means embracing a whole new way of working rather than trying to replicate old business models in the Cloud.

Any leader who is serious about using Cloud to genuinely transform their organisation is going to prioritise Cloud native services.

Exploiting the advanced automation potential of Cloud native and Cloud hosting strategies can take the enterprise far beyond the nursery slopes of software-as-a-service or infrastructure-as-a-service into the really exciting territory of innovation in AI, machine learning and virtual reality.

By letting your Cloud Service Provider handle the basics of Cloud infrastructure, such as spinning up new servers, you free up your engineers to focus on application development and value creation.

As a Cloud native business you have the pleasure of taking existing, proven Cloud design patterns, reference architectures and ready-made Cloud provider capabilities to build your own tailored applications that are scalable, resilient and flexible.

FOUR: Write Off the Technical Debt

By allowing the creation of excellent products in very short timelines, the Cloud can slash an organisation’s technical debt to a matter of weeks rather than years. The old-school trade-off between trying to build perfect products or meet super-tight shipping deadlines more or less vanishes.

The new way of working in the Cloud squares this circle by allowing access to ready-made, quality code in blocks that can be assembled quickly and effectively to build resilient, scalable, flexible apps. No more badly-written, clunky, obsolete code; no more slow, creaky, incompatible legacy systems; no more rushed designs, shaky architecture and botched functionality.

By adopting the DevOps, full stack approach, technical debt is greatly reduced owing to the far better communication, alignment and integration between operations and developers.

Summary

It’s not much good having pockets of Cloud excellence in an organisation, if everyone else continues to work in much the same way. It’s important to scale the changes across the organisation until everyone has adopted a Cloud way of working.

That killer combination of creating a CCoE, embracing a full stack operating model and going Cloud native greatly reduces technical debt. It also means that your Cloud native organisation can now work at client speed, rather than your clients being obliged to work at your old 56k dial-up speed. Disrupting yourself should be the making of you.

Cloud Speed podcast series

Tune into our latest podcast on Cloud and sustainability! Ben Combes and Adam Gogarty explore the connection between sustainability and Cloud, any opportunities for the future, challenges faced and how businesses are putting in place strategic agendas to combat this. 

Key contact

Aarti Balakrishnan

Aarti Balakrishnan

Partner

Aarti has over 15 years of experience defining and delivering technology strategies across Financial Services, Retail, Telecoms and Government Departments. More recently she has been enabling clients across Financial Services industry define their cloud strategies and leading a number of transition to cloud programmes. As a UK Consulting Cloud Engineering Partner, she has run a number of CIO Transition Labs, authored various Tech Trends Reports and blogs as well as spoken at a number of Cloud, DevOps and vendor forums.