A Conversation with an Agile Expert...
Traditional IT policies, institutional knowledge and documentation are quickly becoming obsolete for companies moving their IT infrastructure to the Cloud, an environment based on automation and real-time behavior.
The transition means SysOps (system operators) are replaced by DevOps (software development and information technology operations). Considering that SysOps provided the yearly quote for IT needs, many companies who have transitioned to a Cloud environment are at a loose end about how to integrate IT cloud costs into their yearly budget. Suddenly, what was an upfront cost, becomes unpredictable.
In a Cloud environment IT costs are no longer calculated upfront, this means the whole budget mechanism is now upside down, taking processes from a hard-wired, top-down approach to a new automated and agile landscape, which supports ongoing development, delivery and integration.
Moving IT infrastructure to the Cloud, without changing processes, simply can’t work.
For this article we sat down with agile expert Raphaël Geneteix, to get some insight into what needs to be done—and not done—to smooth this transition. Raphaël gives us some pretty interesting insight as VP of Product, in charge of User Experience and Computer Vision at Smart Data Center company, Etix Everywhere.
Raphaël, what are the kinds of processes that need to be implemented to facilitate Cloud IT adoption?
In order to succeed in this - very challenging - transition, it’s crucial to change the whole project management paradigm. From a predictive approach (waterfall) to an agile organization. The most important thing is to focus on the existing collective intelligence within your company. Some experts suggest specific new processes, but in my opinion, an optimal approach is to directly ask those involved, the ground-level “do-ers” to change the processes themselves. Like the famous Toyota, lean-manufacturing system implementation, where they let the employees improve the processes themselves, because those working directly within the process and responsible for the outcome, have the best insight into how to optimize and improve. From my point of view: avoid imposing new process, if at all possible. Give people the power to challenge and modify existing ones.
What tools can facilitate this transition?
Any kind of tool that help people to collaborate directly with each other. Having a knowledge base to draw on, using collaborative tools, doing agile workshops… All of these “tools” are useful, but the most important one is the simplest! Use loads of post-it notes during workshops. This is a uncomplicated way to visually get your ideas on paper and share them with your colleagues. This is the kind of output and sharing of collective intelligence that makes a transition like this easier. Take small actions, measurable, doable in little amount of time, and then iterate. Never try to change everything in one day. Too much, too fast is one of the main causes of failure in change management.
What are the biggest challenges for companies transitioning to Cloud IT?
The biggest challenge for the companies does not comes from processes or tools. It’s essentially about paradigms, human being and politics. One of the biggest challenges is making room for failure. Allowing failures requires a lot of courage from the company, but the trade off is always worth it.
A word for the management, who have to change dramatically: become tolerant and compassionate towards your colleagues’ failures. Use your knowledge and your experience to coach them, but let them make their own failures. And share these failures with everyone, celebrate them, because there is nothing more empowering than allowing this kind of failure to be a lesson for everyone.
What are the biggest challenges for individuals adapting to Cloud infrastructure services?
It’s the same as for companies challenges. People need to adopt the “Try, Fail, Learn” philosophy. Without it, people remain struggling within the process they didn’t chose, and will always be fearful of change. People should have confidence in their management. Managers should help the “do-er”, rather than imposing processes from the outside on them.
Cloud migration isn’t simply a question of the de-materialization of computing power. The level of change needed to successfully make the move touches nearly every aspect of business. This includes an overhaul in company players’ responsibilities and KPI’s ( check out this post about how your CFO is affected by a move to the IT Cloud here’s a hint: a lot), as well as the need for a strategy to face a general human-level of resistance, steaming from fear about how the Cloud will affect jobs—yep, we have an article about that too, check it out here.
The purchase of data centers before deploying applications once provided a clear indicator for provisional budget costs. A move to the Cloud means computing infrastructure is paid after applications are deployed so there no easy way to schedule and limit costs. The move is one from pre-allocated budgets to pay-as-you-go services, it’s a move from product-driven to service-driven approaches. But as we see in this interview, it’s people and processes who will drive or derail Cloud migration.
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