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3 Essential Elements of Strategy & Governance to Accelerate a Multi-Cloud Journey
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By Sean Foley
Hyperscale and technology providers are debating which deployment model best serves their customers’ needs: public cloud, private cloud, datacenter, colo, or the edge, while enterprises are creating value by taking a hybrid, best fit approach, targeting their transformation efforts to support the most urgent digital imperatives of their businesses. For most organizations, there’s too much technical debt to be paid down, too many competing budget priorities, and many companies are still struggling through already-initiated transformations of various sorts for them to consider a single platform hosting solution. Those that are most successful are taking a structured, experiment-driven, emergent approach to evolving their technology ecosystem and adopting a hybrid cloud strategy.
Yet adopting a hybrid cloud strategy requires a transformation in how IT operates – a change to its operating model. Adopting new technology, with a mindset that a refresh cycle, without changing how you operate, leaves the bulk of the potential value that IT can create on the table. There are times when the path forward is unclear and risks are unknown, but digital imperatives still need to be addressed. Using a structured approach to develop your strategy and govern the transformation needed will minimize risk and increase optionality as your organization learns. HPE has an approach to plan and execute changing this complexity and has been using and evolving it with enterprises over the past decade.
Our experience shows that regardless of where our client is in the journey: starting, nearly done, or stuck somewhere in the middle, there are 3 critical components of Strategy & Governance to prioritize. If the focus is on these components, creating business value is accelerated.
Strategy & Business Case: Document your strategy and business case with vision and objectives and with executive stakeholders aligned behind it.
Communications: Develop and execute a communication strategy that engages all key stakeholders and encompasses organizational change management.
Oversight: Ensure the initiative has effective, collaborative governance to manage risk, sustain the transformation, and adapt as the cloud operating model matures.
Not heeding these 3 key elements will bleed energy, cost, and ultimately value from the hard work of transforming to a new cloud operating model.
While these may seem like obvious, fundamental elements of any strategic transformation, 2 out of the 3 have been short-changed or skipped in most of the hybrid cloud transformations we’ve engaged in over the years- so the lesson bears repeating.
Strategy & Business Case: Define the “Why” and get everyone aligned around it.
This doesn’t need to be complex, but documenting a vision, objectives, and a business case, then getting alignment across executive leadership for why a hybrid strategy will create value. Justifying the strategy by recording it, and being ready to communicate it in different ways, if necessary, to different stakeholders simplifies gathering feedback and makes the strategy easier to disseminate. The socialization process for the strategy can be very insightful, as it uncovers hidden assumptions, misalignments, and implied goals that sap focus and energy from your transformation, if not addressed.
An organization can’t accelerate if it’s unclear why it’s doing so and if everyone is moving in different directions. Many organizations, large and small, forget this simple first step. It can be done in arrears, if it’s done transparently and alignment around the strategy and business case is obtained. Developing a baseline strategy, a hypothesis on how to generate value is a reasonable starting point. This is especially critical if using an emergent approach in order to evolve strategy as teams learn.
Communications: Evangelize the mission and bring everyone along for the ups and downs.
You must communicate the vision, strategy and approach to key stakeholders and the organization as it’s critical to keep them abreast of the goals, priorities, successes, and setbacks along the way. Develop a map of all critical stakeholders who will be impacted by the hybrid strategy and how to keep them informed. This helps to identify both evangelists and detractors. In addition, ensure that the plan encompasses multiple channels to reach all parts of the organization: townhalls, newsletters, portals, community/guild forums, and manager updates – every available channel. Ensure that most of the channels are bi-directional, so feedback loops are established across and down through the organization.
When driving a change across an organization, an active communication strategy is essential to monitor the health of the transformation. This ensures that all parts of the organization can regularly align and re-synchronize as it evolves or needs to address problems that arise. Unfortunately, this is another common gap in many organizations attempting a transformation.
At a large Fortune 500 healthcare organization that has been on a transformation journey, under its own steam, for 4 years, the largest decelerator they experienced was poor communications. I was recently brought into the engagement process. I identified that one of the challenges the organization was experiencing was not having the right skills, at the proper volume, ready and deployed to operate production workloads on their cloud platform. They had the training plan and resources developed for all the different roles needed, but this was not being communicated to hiring managers or the lines of business. It delayed migration timelines, which caused project budget overruns and significant frustration with the cloud program. Once a communication strategy, which included key stakeholders, bi-directional channels, and a regular cadence was deployed, this issue was resolved.
Oversight: Define KPIs, manage risk and coordinate progress to adjust the transformation in flight.
It’s essential to have appropriate governance and oversight as the organization is trying to drive value out of its new operating model. Core to this is developing a transformation office. HPE refers to it as a Hybrid Cloud Business Office (HCBO) to help govern the transformation, as well as act as a collaborative decision-making engine and a knowledge hub. Assign leaders to it to drive the various domains of the operating model, empower them to drive change and run it using an agile or scrum-based approach. Finally, develop KPIs that meet both change and business objectives, empowering the transformation office to collaborate in order to meet those objectives. The transformation office should be aligned to the target structure, not the current functional structure.
Having this collaborative oversight body in place provides another hub for communication strategy as the HCBO becomes a clearinghouse of information about the transformation. In addition, with a multi-domain leadership team, it becomes a natural place to address risk and other issues that arise out of the transformation. Running it with a modern agile approach and empowering the HCBO with decision-making allows it to quickly identify and resolve issues and help rapidly adjust the transformation approach based on current conditions.
Get the foundations in place, no matter where they need to be introduced along the transformation journey. Collaborative oversight, combined with a documented, aligned hybrid strategy and an active communication strategy will help to identify and resolve transformation issues quickly, communicate results through the organization and allow adjustment to adjust the transformation, ensuring it moves as efficiently as possible.
Many organizations fail to recognize that changing the operating model to harness the value of a hybrid approach requires transformation. Using a structured approach at any point in the lifecycle of a strategic shift as outlined will accelerate the results. Start with a strategic business case, communications plan, and collaborative oversight to provide the greatest optionality, risk management, and insights, and the result will be to move more readily toward meeting the goals.
Sean Foley is a senior director and cloud transformation strategist for HPE’s Hybrid Cloud Practice. He is a seasoned technology and business strategist with more than 20 years of experience in solving growth and transformation challenges for enterprises globally. Currently he focuses on providing digital transformation leadership and guidance in the adoption of cloud operating models and technologies for Fortune 100 companies. Before joining HPE, Sean was an independent CTO and growth consultant serving both startups and Fortune 1000 companies. He holds an MBA from Boston University and BA from Skidmore College