Genesis of the Enterprise Cloud

In the beginning there was no cloud, only the darkness of the data center.  And it was the Sales processes that was barren and void, with darkness upon the face of the deep.  And they said, “Let there be a hosted solution for to manage our customer relationships and leads”.  And they purchased” and it was good.  The first day.

And then Marketing said, “Let there be a hosted solution for to track our efforts and proselyte to the masses.”  And they purchased Marketo and it was good.  The second day.

And then IT said, “Let there be a hosted solution for to manage our service desk and assets.”  And they purchased ServiceNow and it was good.  The third day.

And then the People of the Company proclaimed, “Let there be a hosted solution for to increase our productivity so that we may be fruitful in our efforts and multiply.”  And they purchased Office 365 and it was good.  The fourth day.

And then the high priests of Finance and HR proclaimed, “Let there be a hosted solution for to aid in the countings of money and for to arrange the great census.”  And they purchased Workday and it was good.  The fifth day.

And then the Elders of the Company proclaimed, “Let there be a hosted solution for to manage our direct Line of Business applications.”  And so it was proclaimed to construct such a solution and it was done and was good.  The sixth day.

Thus the various clouds were set in place in all their vast array.  By the seventh day, the CIO saw the work that was completed and saw that it was good and he rested from all his work.  And the CIO blessed the clouds and made them holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

As with any origin story, we’re going to have to combine a bit of history and a bit of lore to help us fully understand where we are today.  Clouds are everywhere in our businesses and the software powering them is managing processes across all enterprise functions.  There’s a cloud for Sales and Marketing, a cloud for ERP, a cloud for Productivity, a cloud for IT/Shared Services, and clouds to manage Line-of-Business applications.

We have multiple, discrete, siloed clouds and we leave it to our senior IT leadership to wrangle and manage each to align with our business goals (and existing infrastructure).  All (or most) of these clouds point back to the user (sometimes with a lightening bolt…).

As good scholars, let’s study the scrolls of our history, learn where we are today, and ask ourselves some profound questions from the above text.


Cloud Strategy or Blown in the Wind?

Any CIO worth his or her salt is actively developing a cloud strategy for the business – but are they in control or just being swayed in the wind?  When we look at major CIO initiatives in the modern era, we realize that issues such as Cloud Proliferation, Service Delivery Time-to-Value, Business Alignment, and Creating a Single System of Engagement are common issues.

Users and the business are now able to go out and buy a cloud solution for anything and everything – and they are; these purchases are often a single corporate credit card swipe away.   Developing policies around limiting Cloud Proliferation and avoiding “Shadow Cloud” are crucial as business morph and grow.  It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ a business process is available from the cloud or ‘should’ we move it, it’s now ‘how’ we migrate the process and “when”.  “Which cloud?” requires an incredibly deep analysis as cloud vendors each start spreading into each other’s traditional territories and markets.

Having a plan to deliver services in a robust, user-friendly, and mobile package are paramount to customer satisfaction and deserve priority treatment for any modern CIO.  Customers expect the same experience they receive from consumer-grade applications, while the business expects the same security and availability standards required of enterprise solutions.  Managing the design, development, testing, and deployment of these business apps has actually never been more complicated.


Have We Accidentally Built the Conditions for a Great Flood?

“Where there’s clouds, there’s rain.” As our cloud solutions become more complex, we need an effective plan to mitigate disaster.  Do we have a Service Integration and Management (SIAM) strategy?  Do we hold our cloud vendors to a standard availability Service Level Agreement?  Are we risking our data leaking in a public cloud, or do we face vendor lock-in in a private cloud environment?  Do we have real vision into our cloud architecture?  What happens when something goes wrong?

Most of the large enterprise cloud vendors provide their availability standards without negotiation, and to be fair, they certainly have their reasons.  What we need to understand is what those standards mean for our business.  If a cloud solution offers a Recovery Point Objective of 1 day, will our business suffer if we lose up to 1 day of data?  Understanding that impact on the business’s bottom line is important as we ensure our cloud solutions align with our business.

Organizations need to understand their resiliency and recovery plans if a cloud vendor stops operations or becomes acquired needs to be completed.  You might find core company data under the control of one of your competitors and while there will always be robust legal protections involved, perception and risk need to be understood.  Politically, it would be tough for any CIO to have to explain such a situation to the Board.


Are We Prepared for a Cloud Exodus?

If the decision to sever a relationship with a cloud vendor comes from our side, we also need to manage the termination process and migration.  What happens to the teams that are dedicated to support a cloud system if it’s absorbed by another cloud?  Would doing that introduce personnel redundancies?  What data reports need to be captured before pulling the plug?

As enterprises make massive investments in new cloud platforms, we learned to budget subscription costs, training, implementation services, and the people resources required to support the tool.  (To be fair, most businesses grossly underestimate the labor costs required to maintain any complex cloud solution, but we’ll save that topic for the Next Testament.)  Should the business then divest in a particular solution, we might find ourselves with a dozen experts in a tool we no longer use.  As organization leaders, we have major decisions to consider.  Are these generalists that we re-train and retain?  Are these specialists that we layoff?  Or are these specialists with skills so great in a particular tool that they can find new jobs tomorrow…at our biggest competitor?

A clear path, and a path that won’t get us stuck in the mud, needs to be mapped out, as an exit strategy for any of our cloud solutions.


Are You Living In A Tower Of Babel In The Clouds?

While every cloud vendor is going to promise a “single system of record” and make claims that, “Yes, our solution can do that”, we know the reality and the truth is that enterprises are going to have multiple cloud systems.  To what degree, however, do we need to integrate?  Should our HR cloud populate employee records in our Shared Services cloud?  Probably.  Do the IT Assets in ServiceNow need to reconcile depreciation values from SAP.  That would be nice.  Do we need to map IT Change Requests in our Productivity cloud?  Probably not.

Data Architecture is an important discipline and seems to have waned from budgets every since we stopped building our own custom-built in-house databases.  Understanding integration points though is now even-more critical because we might not know where the data physically rests and we really don’t fully-know who might have access to it.

The first question we need to ask is, “What is the authoritative source of this data?”  Where is it written in stone?  Yet, far too often is this simply ignored, leading to a soft foundation as we build out our systems.


Is It Time To Open Up The Heavens?

If we return to our example of the Book of Genesis, we know that it was only creating the firmament of the Earth which defined Heaven and in many similar ways it has been our cloud adoption that ended up firming our business cloud needs and processes.  We sit today surrounded by multiple cloud platform solutions, from various vendors and tribes, of innumerable technical denominations.  We have a cloud solution for sales and marketing, a cloud solution for IT Service Desks and Shared Services like facilities, a cloud solution for HR, a cloud solution for Productivity, and many of us are rapidly trying to re-build our core line-of-business functionality application in the cloud, in order to delivery the modern and mobile solution demanded from our congregations.

The Cloud problems we face include cloud sprawl, cloud integration, and “shadow clouds”.  The complexity of these problems slow us in our desire to align to business needs and delivery rapid time to value.  The questions left involve where to go from here.

Thankfully, there are solutions on the horizon.  Cloud vendors have realized the functional limitations they can realistically provide – many have invested and evolved into PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) solutions with aPaaS features.  The aPaaS (Application Platform-as-a-Service) is an important element as it allows new functionality to be built rapidly on top of and within a cloud platform.  The introduction of Enterprise Business App stores to spread these apps is quickly gaining traction.  And it was in the Year of our Lord 2015 when the acolytes at Gartner first released, “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Application Platform as a Service, Worldwide”.

We’re developing new procurement strategies for new products and capabilities as well.  A popular strategy employs the ABCs — Adopt, Buy, Create.  In this model, should an existing cloud solution already owned offer needed functions, we would Adopt it.  Should the capabilities not be available, we might investigate Buying a platform app to use within the cloud solution.  This will increasingly rely on enterprise app stores and marketplaces.  As a least-desirable option, at last resort, we may Create the functionality from scratch or using the aPaaS capabilities of a cloud solution.

We’re realizing the need for Cloud Strategy, Cloud Alignment, and Cloud Management and overlaying it with the strategies of the businesses we support.  IT sees itself as a trusted advisor to the business and see its destiny managing Shared Services across disciplines for all areas of the organization.  These topics and avoiding cloud sprawl are being discussed in executive board rooms and not a moment too soon.

As with the Heavens, tremendous power is stored in our Clouds today.  Millions rely on the value provided by the Cloud solutions we’ve invested in and in what our enterprises have configured those solutions to provide.  Now is the time to form robust processes, practices, and Commandments around these platforms and serve as prophets within our businesses communities.  Through avoiding the perils of cloud silos and cloud sprawl and remaining pious in our corporate mission, even through the storms, we all can find the path to cloud enlightenment.