7 Steps to Help IT Make Strategic Decisions for Their Enterprise Cloud Investments
This article originally appeared in Cloud Computing Magazine Q4 2012
In this article, I will provide seven easy steps to help IT and business leaders make strategic decisions for their enterprise cloud investments and drive business agility.
Step 1: Understand Business Agility
Businesses of all sizes perceive cloud as a path to transformation, expecting several major benefits; the most important of which is business agility. Business agility enables businesses to respond faster to the changing needs of business users, end customers and partners, create stronger business differentiations, and drive competitive advantages.
Step 2: Define Your Business Agility Architecture
A typical enterprise has a five-layer Business Value Stack (Fig. 1) that can be used as a discussion framework and template for a business agility architecture. Both IT and business executives must have a common understanding of these layers so that a joint discussion can be carried out to define business agility goals, roles, strategies, priorities and implementation plans.
Next, modify and extend this template as needed to completely and accurately reflect the business agility architecture of your enterprise.
Business Agility Hierarchy
Business agility requires an end-to-end agility across the entire business value stack including the business-centric layers (top 2 layers) and the IT-centric layers (bottom 3 layers).
Business-centric Change Management
Most business changes (top 2 layers) can be grouped into five key change categories: business transactions, activities, services and processes, and user experiences. To meet business agility goals, changes within these categories must be managed rapidly and completely.
IT Plays a Key Role in Delivering Business Agility
First, IT needs to provide appropriate tools, support and services to the business organizations so that they can easily and rapidly manage all business-centric changes (across top 2 layers). Next, IT needs to design, operate and manage all IT-centric layers (bottom 3 layers) of the business value stack so that IT-centric changes can adapt rapidly to the business-centric changes within the top two layers.
Step 3: Define Business Agility Goals
Business agility goals should be defined by IT and business executives. These goals should identify which business processes, business transactions, business services, business activities and user experiences need to be agile, and to what level. Targets for business agility levels (similar to SLAs) should be established.
Step 4: Check Your IT Readiness
Before embarking on a business agility project, check the readiness of your IT organization. IT must be mature enough to understand and effectively address business agility requirements. Your IT organization needs to be mature on the “business-centric IT” dimension. If not, creating and executing a strategy to achieve maturity is necessary.
Step 5: Check Your Cloud Readiness
Next, your cloud offering must be mature enough to effectively address business agility requirements. To meet the requirements, your cloud needs to be a “business-centric Cloud.”
Check Cloud Operations Readiness
Business agility is directly dependent on how well you can operate and manage your cloud. Your cloud solution should meet the following requirements:
- End-to-end discovery, monitoring and management of all layers and elements of the business value stack, ideally from a single console.
- Deep configuration management; and dependency and relationship mappings across all layers of the business value stack (so that a change at any level can be rapidly propagated up or down the stack to all other layers as needed. These maps also have to be accurate and automatically discovered, updated and maintained).
- Complete lifecycle management of the entire cloud stack and all cloud services.
- Integrated and business-driven management of all enterprise clouds and delivery models.
Step 6: Identify and Fill Gaps in Your Current Cloud Offerings
Using the business value stack, identify and fill gaps in your cloud and cloud management solutions. Add automation capabilities in your cloud management software to automate change management tasks and processes to the fullest extent possible, creating a Business-Driven Cloud.
Step 7: Measure, Monitor and Improve Business Agility Levels
Measure, monitor and report on the business agility levels that were defined in step 3. Improve these levels as described in step 6.
- Business agility can be achieved by following a systematic process.
- Business agility can’t be achieved unless both IT and business organizations work together.
- IT agility does not equal business agility. It is necessary but not sufficient.
- An infrastructure-centric cloud alone won’t deliver a significant amount of business agility.
- Business-centric clouds are key enablers of business agility.
- Business-centric cloud management tools play a very important role in delivering business agility.
Edited by Brooke Neuman