Three Core Tenets of a Cloud-native Culture
On-demand cloud native models continue to offer immense opportunities for enterprises. These models help organizations to stay relevant to customers, innovate business models and create platform-driven agility. Moving beyond cost optimization, these models focus on resilience to threats and responsiveness to competitive market opportunities.
In recent times, there has been an increased pace of adoption of cloud native models across even highly regulated Industries including financial services and healthcare. The drivers vary from cost pressures to C-level sponsored digital transformations, specific innovation initiatives, and a more systematic hedge to totally staying on-prem.
Given the gap between the speed of changes by cloud providers and the inertia of enterprises, there is an urgent need to simplify the process and execute cloud strategies efficiently.
Enterprise adoption vs cloud provider innovation
Cloud providers are pushing hard to bring out faster, better and less expensive services in computing, storage, analytics, machine learning and emerging managed services. They are also backing it with a range of high-quality services designed to simplify mundane tasks. What is needed now is robust strategies to transition the operating model and stabilize operations. Various unique factors distinguish enterprises that have successfully adopted cloud at their new core such as their technology platform of choice around Kubernetes, specialized data lakes on cloud, low latency systems, etc. However, there is a core set of principles and culture-related items that sets these leaders apart when it comes to successfully adopting cloud native models.
In this blog, we describe three core tenets of cloud culture for a solid operating model.
# 1. An entrepreneurial, insurgent on-demand mindset
A cloud-native mindset is all about making entrepreneurial decisions with confidence, assuming your systems are resilient and responsive to your business needs. Beyond the technology frame of driving elegant architectures, or high-quality solutioning skills, a cloud native mindset is all about embracing an across-the-board ‘on demand’ scenario, from developers to business leaders, including the CEO.
At the very core, a cloud-native mindset is about redesigning the enterprise value chain, building a fast-decisioning DNA and moving towards an agile enterprise. It allows processes and leadership to stay nimble through the vagaries of on-demand scaling of distributed systems, and embracing the failures that may come by as well. After all, the eventual consensus architecture is built not just for the systems to scale but also to bring the enterprise stakeholders and decision-makers to get things done at a faster pace.
For example, the VP Engineering of a leading financial services organization was excited to move monolithic applications to a cloud-native microservices model. The model was based on a hybrid multi-cloud platform, through domain-driven design. His engineering teams also felt empowered in being able to quickly redesign the entire mortgage application as a microservices model. When it came to take the application to production, however, the business and execution-related stakeholders were just not ready.
Business was not fully clear on how value was tied to this move. The operations, security and business teams were simply not equipped to make rapid decisions on what really mattered. And the program got caught in a web of ‘what-ifs’. It took two long years from redesign and readiness to deployment with exposure control to a very limited set.
The bottom line here is not about the 12-factor hybrid multi-cloud distributed technology at all. It is the cloud-native mindset that enterprise and leadership need to adapt, and make quick and agile decisions. The need for such an agile mindset is critical because technology alone does not result in success.
#2. Experimentation and adaptive mental models for resilience and responsiveness
As enterprises move their business operations to cloud, the entire value chain must become highly responsive and resilient. Given the ease of change, dealing with the cascading effects that amplify and debilitate operations becomes vital. This is where a data-driven DevOps mindset can enable decision makers to anticipate and leverage information for seamless operations on the cloud.
Successful organizations apply the Occam's Razor principle (“Go fishing where the fishes are.”) in their feature prioritization. They rapidly allocate enterprise development and bandwidth to where the money is.
A second model rests on how engineers use cloud to envision bringing next-generation experiences to customers, build prototypes, roll out through exposure controls and roll back quickly, if results are not satisfying. They augment this with rapid experimentation and fail fast to reimagine their product innovation process. A third adaptive mental model is based on Hanlons’ Razor principle, which is particularly important in today’s security-focused IT landscape. It makes quick judgement calls between malicious and accidental errors; designing security controls to leverage audit logs and account granularity that cloud platforms provide. SRE engineers can now effectively and consistently provide powerful and valuable insights to decision-makers on the ultimate cause through systemic monitoring. This totally changes the way enterprises discover and approach issue resolutions as they focus on innovation.
Finally, it is observed that cloud native automation eliminates a lot of broken silos and human errors, thereby drastically reducing cognitive bias from enterprise systems. Data-driven insights from cloud native operations enable clients to accurately judge situations. This enables them to make objective support decisions if required, instead of stakeholder bias influencing interpretations.
# 3. Driving metrics that matter
On-demand cloud operations provide an opportunity to drive the most relevant and important metrics that matter to business. As enterprises become more comfortable with the cloud, they start showing an increased focus on their future by leveraging insights that are well supported by data, operating models and dashboards. It gives them time to ask the right questions to help them beyond the initial focus on annual cost reduction programs to a future of continuous optimization.
An example that we recently encountered concerned the KPI on how long it takes to resolve a problem (MTTR-Mean Time to Recovery). By simply reducing MTTR by 80 percent, the enterprise realized significant benefits, resulting in elevated confidence to sense and respond from a CMO’s viewpoint. For another client, this metrics-based approach allowed them to measure time taken from ideation to production (measure pace of innovation), rather than simply measure the number of ideas launched.
A third example is about a CIO and her team looking at developer productivity across vendor teams. They are now able to examine and contrast the time spent by developers on coding, quality of code written and the ensuing technical debt. This contrasts to prior efforts where time was primarily spent on infrastructure-building environments and related concerns.
As clients mature, we find that their ability to be granular and track each business stakeholder based on their charter, puts IT in a commanding position.
In summary, this shift to measure and act based on metrics that matter becomes key in driving the ultimate success of enterprise-wide cloud adoption. It ensures high responsiveness to opportunities and resilience to disruptions with speed, in business and exogenous events such as pandemic and other security threats. It also ensures accountability backed by responsibility.
The 3-pronged approach for agile & efficient business ops on the cloud
Over the past years, several enterprises have launched initiatives through a standard approach of SaaS, lift-and-shift migrations of 6Rs to the cloud, and point-optimization initiatives. What they have failed to recognize is that the cloud needs to be adopted as a holistic change. This calls for a fundamentally different and systemic approach to transformation. Business agility must be driven by embracing cloud-native in spirit. This will allow organizations to go beyond technology and compete with the likes of Netflix or Amazon.
The three-pronged approach outlined in this article provides a bird’s eye view on running successful business operations on the cloud. Following these tenets will help organizations drive business value and ensure success through agility, efficiency and effectiveness.
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