Pragmatic cloud: Why some clouds fail to deliver

Failure to consider the big picture causes clouds to fail to reach their potential.
Written by George D. Watt,, Contributor
Commentary - Recently in ZDNet, Keith Allen of CA Technologies gave his perspective of how cloud computing can have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, and perhaps even reduce the likelihood of rogue IT. Drawing on his personal experience as a sysadmin, Keith addresses some of the key changes required in order to improve service levels, business capabilities, and customer satisfaction. Though if that is the complete picture why do we hear stories of organizations that have done those things – that have brought in automation, virtualization, and cloud technologies – and remain unable to improve service to their customers; or at least not improve it enough. Well, as legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey might say, stay tuned for… “the rest of the story.”
“The rest of the story”
Certainly making the advances that Keith recommends such as automation and self-service (or intelligent self-disintermediation) is necessary. Though a critical point that is often missed is that systems of this nature are often dependent upon other, external processes. Those processes were likely created in a dramatically different context, with dramatically different objectives, and dramatically different service level expectations.

For example, even if you were to create a fully automated self-service provisioning system you will at some point need to purchase either hardware or software for it. A finance or procurement procedure or policy that was designed in the day of the big project, where weeks or months of lead time was acceptable – perhaps expected – will not be sufficient when working at the speed of cloud. Customers’ expectations are much different. The service providers IT teams find themselves competing with today are operating under much different parameters. Their processes and policies were designed with today’s “New Normal” customer expectations in mind.

In order to succeed as a cloud provider I had to operate under vastly different processes, policies, and procedures for things like finance, budgeting, expenses, and procurement, than those that had been in operation historically. We needed faster turnaround times, streamlined approval processes, and in some cases additional decision making authority. In order to make that happen we had to work very closely with, and to develop partnerships with, people in departments like Real Estate, Procurement, and Finance. Those partnerships became extremely valuable to all involved. Those teams made us better – much better – and we helped them with process improvements that were eventually widely deployed.

It did not end there. We improved processes that had dependencies outside our company. We built outstanding partnerships with our vendors and suppliers. We made them aware of our short and long term objectives, and of our procurement plans. In turn, they shared with us their roadmaps, made test and early release versions of their products available to us, and often anticipated our needs such that when we had an urgent request they could fulfill it with amazing speed; impressing even our customers.

Don’t be underwhelmed
Early in my career I worked with an Operator who used to say that changing your car’s oil without changing the oil filter was like taking a shower and putting your dirty clothes back on. (OK, it was a lot more colorful when Alan said it.) Just as in Alan’s analogy, adopting a highly automated cloud without changing some of the processes upon which it depends might result in a system that underwhelms.

George Watt (@GeorgeDWatt) is VP of Strategy for the Cloud Computing organization at CA Technologies. For nearly 25 years, George has been helping customers simplify and automate their complex IT infrastructures. Prior to his current role, George founded CA Technologies Engineering Services team, which is responsible for protecting the company's intellectual property, managing the consolidated source code repository, and providing automation and development tools. In this role George led the development of CA Technologies own private cloud and enjoys sharing his lessons learned with customers who are now venturing on a similar journey.

“Road Closed” photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

You can follow @GeorgeDWatt on Twitter.

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