Migrating to the Cloud to Advance the Continuous Improvement Process

Cloud Migration

Migrating to the Cloud to Advance the Continuous Improvement Process

By Sean Applegate, Director of Technology Strategy and Advanced Solutions  |  March 14, 2016

In Part One of this two-part series on migrating to the cloud, I laid out the three key considerations you should take before migrating your users to Microsoft (News - Alert) Office 365: develop an understanding of your network’s constraints, optimize those constraints, and establish a system for real-time monitoring and control over your network (Read Part 1 HERE). In fact, they can serve as a general guideline for migrating to virtually any cloud or SaaS (News - Alert)-based application, further positioning IT as a leader in creating and maintaining a culture of Continuous Improvement (CI) throughout the entire organization.

This philosophy of “Continuous Improvement” has its origin in Japan’s effort to rebuild its manufacturing sector after World War II. The traditional approach to the manufacturing process was to build products from start to finish then inspect the finished products only after they rolled off the assembly line. That does nothing to prevent defects or help identify the specific problem. After the war, Japanese manufacturers could not afford to waste their limited amounts of raw materials and components. They implemented kaizen – a combination of the Japanese characters kai, meaning “change,” and zen, meaning “good” – to have all executives and workers focus on improving processes rather examining the results. The efficiency improvements were significant and immediate. By the 1970s, led by manufacturers like Toyota and Sony, Japan became a global economic superpower.

Cloud computing is another example of how technology can be a key enabler of the continuous improvement process. However, technology, alone, won’t create a competitive edge; we must forge the right culture to compete aggressively.  As individuals and leaders, we have the potential – even the obligation – to be that spark within our organizations to create change and make a difference. However, the larger question is often where and how do we get started?

For IT organizations, the answer is by enabling digital transformation. Often, this can start with a single cloud project – be it public, private or a hybrid of the two – which transforms how employees work or interact with clients. Raising productivity levels, improving collaboration and eliminating time-wasting manual tasks improves business processes and helps the entire organization achieve its business goals.

IT professionals can learn a lot about Continuous Improvement best practices that originated in manufacturing nearly 70 years ago. You may be familiar with the following CI-inspired processes the Western business world uses:

  • Theory of Constraints: focuses on identifying and improving the key constraint, so we bring about the largest improvement possible, and then do it over and over again.
  • Lean: focuses on eliminating waste and inefficiency with the goal of creating value creation for the customer.
  • Six Sigma: focuses on improving the quality of process outputs; identifying and eliminating the cause of defects/errors; and optimizing variability.

IT can learn from and adapt these CI practices to design streamlined IT processes that get faster and better over time, enabling the business to compete more effectively.

Here are four steps to follow when migrating existing applications to the cloud, or adopting new cloud-based applications and services. Notice the tight integration of the three key considerations I outlined in my last column on migrating to O365:

  1. Understand End-to-End Performance/Constraints: Network and application performance monitoring solutions enable rich analytics from end-users over the network to the servers and applications. This enables you to quickly identify and address any potential performance constraints, such as whether an application works well in all regions of the world, or not.
  2. Optimizing Constraints: Determine how you can overcome constraints of distance, latency, loss and disconnections. These are often the largest performance constraints in today's cloud-centric global economy. Keep in mind the fewer applications turns, the less bandwidth required, and the closer you can put the content to users, the faster your digital operations will run.
  3. Identify and Eliminate Waste/Inefficiencies: Network Performance Monitoring, Application Performance Monitoring, Network Planning and Configuration Management and Capacity Planning will help you find errors and over-provisioning so you can eliminate this waste. 
  4. Monitor and Optimize Quality: Follow the lead set by those Japanese manufacturers in the 1950s and focus on the process. Implement a real-time performance dashboard with advanced analytics enables you to detect and remedy issues more quickly and easily than having to wait for the barrage of emails and phone calls to the IT help desk.

It is critical to develop a performance-centric culture with a focus on continuous improvement. Settling for the status quo means settling for mediocrity. As we’ve seen with innovative companies like Apple (News - Alert), Netflix, Uber, Etsy, Airbnb and others, effective use of technology can be the key to disruption. In traditional businesses, there also is great opportunity for leveraging technology to solve problems, innovate or even remake an organization.

To quote Albert A. Montapert, “Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.”

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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