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The Fast Track to the Cloud

In a previous post “Cloud Strategy: stop or you will go blind?” I mention the need to “Start execution. Move forward” in relation to “the cloud”. The challenge for most organizations is;

 How ?

IT Services are a constantly evolving ecosystem supporting a business which needs to rapidly respond to requirements of its customers or stakeholders. Organizations are very rarely resourced to engage in transformational activities not directly related to customer value.  How we approach the problem of IT service improvement has progressed from Waterfall to V, through RUP and RAD, becoming SigmaLean, Green and Agile, and a realization we live in a world of Kanban and Chaos.

Should a organization choose to seek assistance externally from a consulting organization, they can unfortunately run into a common problem. Activity is not always progress.  The typical service portfolio from a consulting organization includes some basic components; education, assessment, design and implementation. What appears to be a progressive iterative cycle of improvement is most often a road to nowhere (left).

A team is deployed to inspect your environment with a rigorous collection of data and interviews. Not only accruing costs and time but consuming valuable internal resources. They disappear and in a few weeks come back with reports and presentations that generally tell you what is wrong (often a restatement of facts you already know) and if you are lucky, very high level recommendations. The problem gets worse, because the information is not actionable. When you come to take the next steps, a different team has to go and collect even more detail for the design.

Rarely do  hear organizations say;

“You know, our problem is we are moving too quickly. Our users are unable to keep up”

“We have too many resources, we really need to find some projects to keep them busy”

But all to aften they commit to these deadly cycles of inaction.

Committing the time and effort to collect data, gather input from all your staff and design a way forward is probably not something you can do easily. If you do manage to find the resources, it takes you 3-6 months to complete. By the time you have concluded an “assessment”, the baseline has changed, new vendors have emerged, and best practice has evolved.

What you need is a approach that assumes everything is in flux. A philosophy of “good enough” data collection, analysis and design, with the flexibility and speed to iterate to an optimal state.

The “Fast Track Analysis” is designed to fill this role. Its basic characteristics are;

  • leverage the knowledge of internal staff
  • fast execution (4 weeks elapsed time)
  • use readily available existing data
  • validate assumptions against industry data/reference cases
  • leverage knowledge base of architecture patterns and provider profiles

The method follows a few key steps;

  • Drivers – these include pain points, needs, objectives and desired benefits for change. This is used to determine the highest priority needs of the organization, or what areas would benefit most from the target architecture.
  • IT Impacts - based on those requirements, what are the IT initiatives that need to occur and how are they prioritized. Start the design process at this point.
  • Capability - what knowledge, skills, resources does the organization have to complete these initiatives
  • Execution Framework - by comparing prioritized initiatives and capabilities, we can develop an execution plan.

To jumpstart the process, the initial Drivers are gathered and initiatives identified relying on the knowledge of key personell. This clarifies the scope, focussing effort and reducing overall impact on work in progress.  The remainder of the method is executed using simple collection of readily available documented data or a 4-6 hour workshop (where data is contain in knowledge of staff). Using existing knowledgebase of architecture patterns and vendor/provider solution profiles, the solution design starts immediately. Benefit is determined through the development of target architecture scenarios which become the scope for the execution plan.

The resulting analysis and conclusions are developed into;
- Return on Investment – a quantitative assessment of the return of the target deployment architecture (if any)
- Business Value Statement – the areas of value (quantitative, or qualitative) that a business will get
- Execution Plan – candidate selection, scope of project(s), resources & timeline

After this exercise you begin the next step of “Solution Design” and in parallel, “Implementation”.

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Brad Vaughan is a twenty year veteran consultant working with companies around the globe to transform technology infrastructure to deliver enhanced business services.