This post follows on from our first post on Cloud Native Transformation Patterns: Introduction.
Cloud Native is best known for the collection of bleeding edge technologies it represents. However, many folk - especially those new to the architecture - fail to realize that there are human components that are equally crucial for Cloud Native success.
One of these, Executive Commitment, is a pattern that needs to be in place from the very start when any enterprise boldly sets forth on a cloud migration. This is because a Cloud Native transformation is exactly that: transformative. Significant changes throughout the entire organization, including technical, structural and human aspects, must take place in order to achieve success. Support from the very top of the organization is crucial.
What’s the Context?
Imagine an enterprise decides to migrate operations to Cloud Native in order to accelerate product velocity and attract -- as well as retain -- new talent drawn by the advanced technologies it represents. This is a very common motivation and perfectly sensible.
However, Cloud Native is still very much an emerging sector. As such, it requires an experimental approach to solving the inevitable problems of a new architecture as well as a flexible and responsive organisational structure. By their very nature, though, enterprises tend to be bureaucratic and slow, or even resistant to, change.
The Problem to Contend With
Successful Cloud Native transformation requires significant changes in all areas of the business including infrastructure, processes, and even the culture itself (see the Container Solutions Maturity Matrix,). The transition places large demands for dedicated time and resources upon the organisation. These demands, however, are not always visible at the start; too often, the project is approved, and budgeted as, a minor scope effort that gets assigned to middle managers.
Another second problematic scenario occurs when Cloud Native gets introduced in a hodge-podge fashion. Technical teams from unrelated parts of the organisation independently experiment with different - and sometimes conflicting - Cloud Native technologies. This means a best-case outcome of inconsistent results or even outright chaos.
Either scenario reflects the lack of a consistent vision and strategy from the top level of the organisation. As a result, the migration initiative will cover only a subset of the necessary changes and fail to create a true company-wide Cloud Native transformation.
The Forces To Contend With
Forces at play in the context of the Executive Commitment pattern include
- Clients demanding fast delivery of new technical functionality, while not prioritizing or investing in structural changes.
- The typical CN enterprise transformation takes 2-5 years and requires large budgets.
- Executive performance is measured by P&L (profit and loss statement); this encourages sticking safely with organisational status quo over investing in long term structural improvement (such as Cloud Native transformation).
- Executives have limited technical knowledge to understand the full scope of the CN transformation.
To solve the problem, a Cloud Native transformation needs to be defined as a strategic initiative, prioritized company wide, with explicit support from executive management - who themselves truly understand what they are signing up to and the value of the resulting payoff. This means a public announcement of commitment to the project in order to align the entire company around the work, which also sets the expectation of collaboration from all departments.
Implementing the Executive Commitment pattern means more than requiring leadership from the top. It also requires the pragmatic responsibilities of creating the cloud transformation strategy and then allocating adequate resources and budget to fulfill it.
A Brand New Context
When the Executive Commitment pattern is properly applied, the enterprise prioritises the transformation and aligns around common goals. All departments are working in collaboration on a single strategy toward a unified vision (while avoiding independent, disconnected silos that lead to inconsistent/incomplete implementation).
Ongoing Education, Vision First, Core Team, Transformation Strategy, Transformation champion.
- Bottom up transformation from multiple sources in the organisation:
Multiple teams starting to use public clouds, containers or schedulers independently - and with no coordination or communication with other departments - often by just using a personal or middle manager’s credit card. This leads to a variety of incompatible implementations that, if they are ever to work together, will require very significant refactoring. However, this is unlikely to ever happen because some of the systems will already be in production. Under pressure to deliver features, teams will have no time for refactoring or standardisation. This, in turn, will lead to a forest of smaller unrelated and disorganized solutions, resulting in the waste of time and resources due to the inability to utilise economy of scale of large organisations.
- Demand for full transformation on unrealistic deadline without sufficient resources:
The enterprise may be genuinely committed to the Cloud Native transformation, but leadership fails to fully appreciate the scope of transformation. The initiative is assigned as a small technical project to be done by one or two engineers in any spare time when they are not busy with other tasks. Not enough budget is allocated for education, external help or appropriate tooling. This leads to the introduction of incomplete, even unusable, systems.
In a real world Cloud Native transformation, Executive Commitment is essential to provide a realistic and overarching vision, and prioritize the strategic goal for the teams to bring all independent solutions to a consistent and reusable state - while allocating all the resources necessary.
The patterns appearing in this blog are condensed from the forthcoming book, Cloud Native Patterns: Architecture, Design and Culture. Complete and in-depth information regarding each pattern, including case studies from real-world Cloud Native enterprise migrations, will be found in the book -- please check back for updates regarding the publication date in 2019!
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