Home > Blogs > VMware CloudOps


Transforming IT Services is More Effective with Org Changes

By: Kevin Lees

Last time, I wrote about the challenge of transforming a traditional IT Ops culture and the value of knowing what you’re up against.

Now I want to suggest some specific organizational changes that – given those cultural barriers – will help you successfully undertake your transformation.

At the heart of the model I’m suggesting is the notion of a Cloud Infrastructure Operation Center of Excellence. What’s key is that it can be adopted even when your org is still grouped into traditional functional silos. 

Aspiration Drives Excellence

A Cloud Infrastructure Operation Center of Excellence is a virtual team comprised of the people occupying your IT org’s core cloud-focused roles: the cloud architect, cloud analyst, cloud developers and cloud administrators. They understand what it means to configure a cloud environment, and how to operate and proactively monitor one. They’re able to identify potential issues and fix them before they impact the service.

Starting out, each of these people can still be based in the existing silos that have grown up within the organization. Initially, you are just identifying specific champions to become virtual members of the Center of Excellence. But they are a team, interacting and meeting on a regular basis, so that from the very beginning they know what’s coming down the pipe in terms of increased capacity or capability of the cloud infrastructure itself, as opposed to demands for individual projects.

Just putting them together isn’t enough, though. We’ve found that it’s essential to make membership of the cloud team an aspirational goal for people within the IT organization. It needs to be a group that people want to be good enough to join and for which they are willing improve their skills. Working with the cloud team needs to be the newest, greatest thing.

Then, as cloud becomes more prominent and the defacto way things are done, the Cloud Center of Excellence can expand and start absorbing pieces of the other functional teams. Eventually, you’ll have broken down the silos, the Cloud Center of Excellence will be the norm for IT, and everybody will be working together as an integrated unit.

Four Steps to Success

Here are four steps that can help ensure that your Cloud Infrastructure Operation Center of Excellence rollout is a success:

Step 1 – Get executive sponsorship

You need an enthusiastic, proactive executive sponsor for this kind of change.  Indeed, that’s your number one get – there has to be an executive involved who completely embraces this idea and the change it requires, and who’s committed to proactively supporting you.

Step 2 – Identify your team  

Next you need to identify the right individuals within the organization to join your Center of Excellence. IT organizations that go to cloud invariably already run a virtualized environment, which means they already employ people who are focused on virtualization. That’s a great starting point for identifying individuals who are best qualified to form the nucleus of this Center. So ask: Who from your existing virtualization team are the best candidates to start picking up responsibility for the cloud software that gets layered on top of the virtualized base?

Step 3 – Identify the key functional teams that your cloud team should interact with.

This is typically pretty easy because your cloud team has been interacting with these functional teams in the context of virtualization. But you need to formalize the conneciton and identify a champion within each of these functional teams to become a virtual member of the Center of Excellence. Very importantly, to make that work, the membership has to be part of that person’s job description. That’s a key piece that’s often missed: it can’t just be on top of their day job, or it will never happen. They have to be directly incentivized to make this successful.

Step 4 – Sell the idea

Your next step is basically marketing. The Center of Excellence and those functional team champions must now turn externally within IT and start educating everybody else – being very transparent about what they’re doing, how it has impacted them, how it will impact others within IT and how it can be a positive change for all. You can do brown bag lunches, or webinars that can be recorded and then downloaded and watched, but you need some kind of communication and marketing effort to start educating the others within IT on the new way of doing things, how it’s been successful, and why it’s good for IT in general to start shifting their mindset to this service orientation.

Don’t Forget Tenant Operations 

There’s one last action you need to put in place to really complete your service orientation: create a team that is exclusively focused outwards toward your IT end customers. It’s what we call Cloud Tenant Operations.

Tennant Ops is one of three Ops tiers that enable effective operations in the cloud era. It is also called “Service Ops,” which is one of three Ops tiers outlined here and here.

One of the most important roles in this team is the customer relationship (or sometimes ‘collaboration’) manager who is directly responsible for working with the lines of business, understanding their goals and needs, and staying in regular contact with them, almost like a salesperson, and supporting that line of business in their on-boarding to, and use of, the cloud environment.

They can also provide demand information back to the Center of Excellence to help with forward capacity planning, helping the cloud team stay ahead of the demand curve by making sure they have the infrastructure in place when the lines of business need it.

Tenant Operations is really the counterpart to the Cloud Infrastructure Operation Center of Excellence from a service perspective – it needs to comprise of someone who owns the services offered out to the end customers over their life cycle, a service architect and service developers who actually can understand the technical implications of the requirements. These requirements are coming from multiple sources, so the team needs to identify the common virtual applications that can be offered out and consumed by multiple organizations (and teams within organizations) as opposed to doing custom one-off virtual application development.

In a sense, Tenant Operations function as the dev ops team from a cloud service perspective and really instantiate the concept of a service mindset, becoming the face to the external end users of the cloud environment.

These Changes are Doable

The bottom line here: transforming IT Ops is doable. I have worked with many IT organizations that are successfully making these changes. You can do it too.

Additional Resources

For a comprehensive look at how to best make the transition to a service-oriented cloud infrastructure, check out Kevin’s white paper, Organizing for the Cloud. 

Also look for VMware Cloud Ops Journey study findings later this month, which highlights common operations capability changes, and the drivers for those changes. For future updates, follow us on Twitter at @VMwareCloudOps, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags.

One thought on “Transforming IT Services is More Effective with Org Changes

  1. Mike

    Phil,

    Nice article that explains what is needed in a Cloud model for IT. Lets see how many get this right!

Comments are closed.