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Taming the Hydra: IT in a Multi-Cloud World

Kevin Lees

Photo Credit: iStock/ZU_09

Photo Credit: iStock/ZU_09

By: Kevin Lees

I know it’s hard to believe, but VMworld is upon us again. Where did the last year go? I know many of you were busy implementing, updating, extending, and managing your private cloud environment. Perhaps you’re busy implementing and getting comfortable working with NSX; busy realizing the great benefits software defined networking and security brings you as an IT service provider to you line of business customers. Regardless, I’m sure you’re busy making your customers happy with the standardized and customer-driven IT services you’re providing.

So, you’re getting comfortable in your private cloud world – but not too comfortable I hope, as a recent VMware study (VMware Customer Advocacy study”, Q1 2016) shows that 48% of enterprise applications will be cloud based within 3 years. Ok, that doesn’t sound too bad. That is until you see another statistic that says 65% of enterprises will use more than one public and/or private cloud platform and for 67%, and that:

For 67% of enterprises the ideal end state includes relying on multiple cloud platforms.

Relying on multiple clouds, really?

So how are you going to deal with that? How are you going to bring order to potentially multi-cloud chaos? It’s hard enough to get a handle on the workloads your enterprise developers are placing in one public cloud, how bad is it going to get? Well, if you start planning for multi-cloud now, it may not have to be bad at all. In fact, with proper planning, you can drive a good degree of control – without all of those pesky developers even knowing the difference.

If I’ve piqued your interest – or perhaps triggered the onset of a slight panic attack, please stop by my session, SDDC8994: Taming the Hydra: IT in a Multi-Cloud World, next Monday at 3:30 at VMworld 2016, and I’ll fill you VMworldin on some concrete steps you can start taking now to avoid the chaos as well as how the looming multi-cloud world might impact your IT role. I hope to see you there.

Download a full agenda of VMworld breakout sessions that will help IT leaders build a strategy for the digital era.

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Kevin Lees is Principal Architect for VMware’s global Operations Transformation practice and is based in Colorado.

Mind the Gap: Breaking Down Silos

Part 1:  Getting Started.

Kevin LeessilosBy Kevin Lees

For IT to truly transform into an effective, business-focused service provider it has to do more than implement an enabling technology like software defined data center, though that’s certainly a great start. In fact, according to the recently published State of IT Transformation analysis done by EMC and VMware, 95% of participants believe having an IT organization that has no silos and works together to deliver business-focused services at the lowest cost is critical.  Yet, not astonishingly based on experience, less than 4% reported they currently operate like this. That’s quite a gap!

According to the same analysis, operating without silos was one of the top 10 goals in all but one of the industries represented in the study (17 of 18 industries) and was in the top 11 for all industries. Thankfully, while there is a significant gap between desire and current state, IT operating without silos is top of mind and viewed as critical to success regardless of industry. So how do you navigate this gap? Where do you start? How do you proceed without causing an anxiety attack or worse, intransigence, within IT? In this two part blog, we’ll walk through some critical steps we use for closing this gap.

Step 1:  Secure an Executive Sponsor

First and foremost you have to realize and acknowledge that the biggest challenges you will face in breaking down silos are cultural and in all likelihood political challenges. That has been my experience and that of my colleagues when working with companies to break down their IT silos. And of the two, the political challenge can be the harder to overcome.  Which brings us to the first step in closing the gap: getting executive sponsorship and not just any executive sponsorship, you need proactive executive sponsorship.

You need an enthusiastic, proactive executive sponsor for this kind of change.  Indeed, that’s your number one goal – to have an executive involved who completely embraces this idea and the change it requires, and who’s committed to proactively supporting you.  He or she is critical to success in many ways, not the least of which in overcoming the cultural and political challenges. To overcome these challenges the executive sponsor has to have the enthusiastic support of those in the management chain of the organization in which the silos exist.

But how to you generate the enthusiasm when we know how resistant some people are to change, especially change that might affect their span of control?

Step 2:  Sell the Change

Work with the executive sponsor to craft a communication plan aimed at both the management chain and the organization as a whole. When building the communication plan, you would ideally derive the intent for the change from a strategy and roadmap focused on transforming IT into a service provider to the business that has both executive and business support. If not, developing that IT transformation strategy and roadmap becomes step one!

The communication plan should focus on why you’re making the change, why it is critical for the business, and what value embracing it has for the affected IT managers and employees– what they stand to gain as individuals.  And individuals do stand to gain, for example through recognition, increased visibility, opportunity to participate in something truly innovative, obtaining new skills that are highly valued in both the company and the industry, and new career opportunities. The goal is to make participating in the change aspirational. But enthusiasm only goes so far. You also have to provide them a safe way to modify their behaviour – as well as provide a little extra nudge to those in management who are still a bit reluctant to change.

Step 3:  Modify Behavior

Modifying behaviour is a key step but one that is overlooked more often than not. This involves modifying annual performance review criteria, and bonus critera if applicable, to reflect the desired outcome.  If this is not done individuals will default to their incentivized behaviour when prioritization decisions need to be made – or, for a few, as an excuse for not fully embracing the change.  Modifying this criteria is absolutely critical for the management chain in order to help address the political challenge. It’s also important for members of the silos whose walls are to be torn down, as we’ll see in the final step.

Step 4:  Break the Silos

I say the “final step” but that’s a bit of a misnomer, as the final step can take some time and consists of many activities as it is the actual breaking down of the silos. In part two of this blog I will focus on the approach we have found to be successful when undertaking this type of organizational change.

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Kevin Lees is Principal Architect for VMware’s global Operations Transformation Practice and is based in Colorado.

 

Best Practice Approaches to Transformation with the Software-Defined Data Center

Kevin_cropBy: Kevin Lees

VMworld is almost upon us. Technology continues, of course, to be a key enabler in helping IT on its transformation journey, whether that journey is to offering IT as a Service, moving more fully to Cloud, supporting cloud native applications and continuous delivery, DevOps, or any number of other initiatives focused on providing increasing value to the business. It’s also the primary reason you attend VMworld. But, as we work with our customers across the world, we continue to see how integral people and process changes are to really making this journey successful and to truly providing the value business is increasingly demanding of IT.

To help you make the most of the great technology and solutions VMware provides and will be showcasing at VMworld, we’re hosting an Operations Transformation track again this year. As the Principal Architect for our Global Operations Transformation Practice, this track is near and dear to my heart. We have a great lineup of sessions focused on the practical aspects of applying organizational, people, and process change to get the most out of VMware’s technology.

I have several sessions this year, but one that might be of particular interest is focused on the key best practices we’ve learned while helping some of our biggest IT customers transform their value proposition to their business customers by deploying a Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC). I’ll discuss what not to do and what to watch out for, as well as what you should do to be successful. I’ll present lessons learned through real customer examples (though the names will be changed to protect the innocent) and provide guidance on how you can avoid learning the same lessons – the hard way. Of course I’ll address the organizational, people, and process aspects but will also dive into some of the technical challenges we overcame or avoided along the way. This particular session is OPT 5361 on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

I know you’re looking forward to VMworld as much as I am. I hope to see you in one or more of my sessions but more importantly, check out the Operations Transformation track in the on-line Schedule Builder. You won’t be disappointed and you could be the hero “back at the office’ because IT’s success isn’t just about the technology.

Quick guide to my sessions:

Tuesday Sept. 1

  • 12:30 OPT 4743 Organizational Change Group Discussion
  • 2:30 OPT 4992 vRealize CodeStream:  Is DevOps about Tools or Transformation?

Wednesday Sept. 2

  • 8 :00 OPT 5232 Cloud Native Apps, MicroServices and Twelve-Factor Apps:  What Do They Mean for your SDDC/Cloud Ops?
  • 11:00 OPT 5361 Best Practice Approaches to Transformation with the SDDC
  • 2:30 OPT 5972 80K VM’s and Growing:  VMware’s Internal Cloud Journey Told by the People on the Frontlines

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Kevin Lees is principal architect for VMware’s global Operations Transformation Practice and is based in Colorado.

Is Your IT Organization Ready to Deliver?

By Kevin Lees

Kevin_cropI recently updated the white paper I wrote a couple of years ago — Organizing for the Cloud — which has been quite popular with our customers. The good news:

  • It’s shorter – condensed to really focus in on the areas that our customers have told us are the greatest help
  • The core concepts and models remain intact and have survived the test of time, and our customers continue to benefit from our best practice recommendations

From my perspective, there is no bad news; at least any I could come up with. IT leaders continue to validate with me that a new organizational approach as well as their people—and their roles and responsibilities—are more important than ever.

While I wrote that the core concepts and models have survived the test of time, that’s not to say this is just a condensed version. I’ve updated a few sections based on new technical capabilities enabled by the SDDC and my experience working directly with customers  including:

  • The organizational impacts of the software-defined data center (SDDC) as the cloud infrastructure – including a couple of new roles
  • How to get started
  • An expanded section on key cross-team collaboration

Cover v2Just to name a few.

Organizational change continues to be top of mind as IT executives implement SDDC as the infrastructure of choice for cloud as well as double down on their use of cloud as the future of IT. No matter what the intended topic of conversation when discussing the operational implications of SDDC and cloud, 9 out of 10 conversations I have with customers quickly turn to organizational implications.

Organizational change is a critical step to success in the new era of cloud. I hope you find this revision as useful as our customers found the original.

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Kevin Lees is principal architect for VMware’s global Operations Transformation Practice and is based in Colorado.

How to Drive Tighter Alignment Between Business and IT

Many IT stakeholders have limited trust in the IT organization as a result of the way it has operated in the past. In this short video, Kevin Lees shares tips on how IT can deal with this real-world problem that is almost always overlooked.

Kevin Lees is principal architect of the VMware Global Operations Transformation Practice. Coming to VMworld? Don’t miss his session OPT1547 – Organizing for the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC): Practical Advice for Practitioners

Driving Biz Alignment front coverRelated: Read Kevin’s recent post 5 Ways Cloud Automation Drives Greater Cost and Operational Transparency and download eBook Driving Business Alignment Through IT Transformation for more information.

How IT Can Transform “Trust Debt” into True Business Alignment

By Kevin Lees

Kevin_cropIn my previous post, 5 Ways Cloud Automation Drives Greater Cost and Operational Transparency, I wrote about how automation can help alleviate tension between IT and and the lines of business. Let’s continue to explore that theme as we look into ways to bring in tighter alignment between business objectives and IT capabilities.

“Instead of cost centers that provide capabilities, IT organizations must become internal service providers supplying business-enabling solutions that drive innovation and deliver value…true business partners rather than increasingly irrelevant, cost-centric technology suppliers.” This quote comes from the white paper How IT Organizations Can Achieve Relevance in the Age of Cloud[1], which provides insight into the ways IT needs to change to become a true partner with the entire business to help meet overall objectives.

So to get to that place of true partnership and business agility, all IT has to do is become an internal service provider and deliver business-enabling solutions, and then the business will regard IT as a true partner, right? If only it were that simple.

While there’s nothing wrong with the goal of adding business value and increasing responsiveness to business requirements, there is another problem that has been largely overlooked: The “trust debt” that has built up between IT and its business customers.

As a result of the way it has operated in the past, IT must overcome trust debt to gain true business alignment. Business alignment must be achieved before the optimal “business-enabling solutions” can be designed, developed, and deployed to meet business users’ needs.

As is the case with financial debts, IT must make payments on this accumulated trust debt, with interest. The interest comes in where IT must go above and beyond end user expectations to prove its willingness and ability to ensure that technology helps, rather than hinders, the business. The payments themselves can take many forms, including: implementing new technology that delivers new capabilities, demonstrating a service-oriented mindset, or even taking the extra step of becoming truly transparent.

Overcoming Trust Debt: Starting Point and First Steps
Making any change starts with a bit of exploration and personal reflection. Ultimately technology and IT’s role as a whole is about meeting the needs of the business at the speed business requires. This, of course, demands greater agility — enabled by the ability to offer cloud computing capabilities on top of a software-defined data center.

To overcome trust debt, IT must first get out of its comfort zone, which is firmly rooted in enabling technology. IT leaders may first need to ask: What is IT “enabling” with technology?

Start with the Stack
Let’s face it: Agility demands a dynamic technology stack. To be dynamic at the level that business requires today can only be achieved in software; hardware is too static and difficult to change. A software-defined data center uses a fully virtualized stack that can quickly and dynamically change to meet the needs of the business.

Automation, coupled with the key cloud capability of self-service, on-demand provisioning provides agility. More than anything else, automated self-service, on-demand provisioning alone can be the compelling reason businesses are drawn to cloud. Imagine what would happen if business constituents could select the service offering to deploy, along with the level of service they desire, and some very short time later the virtual server would be available with that service (a marketing demo, for example). That’s a huge win and a step closer to eradicating trust debt.

This level of service alone could become IT’s calling card. The marketing demo example mentioned above is not hypothetical—I saw this recently at a large financial institution. A marketing team needed to stand up a demo that customers could access externally so they could beat the competition to market. Traditional IT said that demo could be available in about six weeks. But the marketing person driving the initiative had heard about this thing called a cloud that had been set up in a separate IT initiative. She contacted the responsible IT team who gave her access. Within 24 hours she had her demo up with customers actively using it.

This one occurrence launched the company’s cloud initiative. Word spread like wildfire throughout the organization and demand ramped so quickly that IT had to gate it to bring on more infrastructure. (If only they’d had a hybrid cloud!)

Simply put, agility sold the cloud. And what better way to regain trust and create new opportunities to drive business alignment?

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Kevin Lees is Global Principal Architect, Operations Transformation Practice. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags on Twitter.


 [1] CIO white paper: “How IT Organizations Can Achieve Relevance in the Age of Cloud,” 2013

5 Ways Cloud Automation Drives Greater Cost and Operational Transparency

By Kevin Lees

Kevin_cropThere has always been tension between IT teams and their end customers — not the good kind of tension, but rather the contentious kind that rarely ends well.

It breaks down like this: IT never believes it has enough time, resources, or money; and the line of business (LOB) really doesn’t understand what they want. On the other side, the LOB is rarely happy with IT because response times aren’t fast enough or IT is missing the mark with its capabilities.

This tension leads to inefficient use of resources, both equipment and people. Shadow IT happens when those outside of IT take matters into their own hands and shirk IT policies and procedures. This can mean inefficiencies in the allocation of capital because finance is challenged to track exactly what it costs for IT to deliver. This becomes especially difficult in a shared resource environment, and it will only get more challenging as we move to a fully virtualized stack as defined by the software-defined data center (SDDC).

This can lead to all sorts of problems, fostering mistrust, lost profits, and lost opportunities. You get the idea.

In this post, we’ll explore key ways that cloud automation is critical to fulfilling the promise of cloud and how automation provides opportunities to practice cost and operational transparency as a way to help drive business alignment.

The Promise of Cloud Management
Cloud holds great promise and great responsibility. It provides many advantages to both IT and its stakeholders, but without effective cloud management and automation, the true value will never be realized.

This is true regardless of the type of cloud, whether private enterprise cloud, an external cloud provider, or a hybrid cloud.

As the figure below shows, there are five areas to focus on that not only provide opportunities to drive business alignment, but also provide opportunities to practice the cost and/or operational transparency needed to gain the business stakeholder’s trust:

5 Ways Automation-Lees

  1. Service quality: The business has to know it can count on the service it’s consuming.
  2. Predictability: Of course, the service has to be predictable. Outages are unacceptable.
  3. Agility: The business needs to quickly react to changing business conditions or proactively get to market before the competition, so IT needs to keep up.
  4. Smart economics: It also has to be cost effective. If it’s not, shadow IT rears its ugly head, and any degree of governance as well as economy of scale efficiencies dissipate into the cloud, outside of IT’s control.
  5. Clear communication: Business stakeholders have to truly understand what they’re getting and how much flexibility of choice is available to them.

That said, IT cannot deploy and run an effective and successful cloud in a vacuum. A truly successful cloud, one that adds real business value, requires alignment among IT, LOB, and finance. It requires a lot of interaction, listening, discussing, and agreeing. Yes, there will be trial and error.

Fortunately, one of the big benefits of cloud when done right (namely agility) is the ability to fail fast, fail often, and try something else.

With alignment and the clear communication required to achieve it:

  • IT can provide solutions and services that add value to the business by meeting its needs, because business is involved in the service definition.
  • LOB stakeholders will have a much better idea of what they’re getting and know it will meet their needs.
  • Finance will understand service costs within a business context to make more informed decisions about how to maximize the budgets and ensure a degree of cost predictability.

If all goes well, the end result is trust and business alignment between the parties.

One final note for IT: you desperately need to take a course in Marketing 101. IT needs to get better at advertising its services and demonstrating its value add so everyone knows what an asset the group is. At VMware, this is something we address explicitly when we help IT customers set up their processes for defining, costing, and offering cloud-based services to their LOB market. Taking a technical service to LOB market is no different than the business taking a service to market. Would they do that without proactive marketing? I don’t think so.

If you found this post helpful, stay tuned for future posts on this topic. Next time, I’ll offer my thoughts on ways to turn IT’s “trust debt” into true business alignment through greater transparency, agility, and technical alignment.

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Kevin Lees is Global Principal Architect, Operations Transformation Practice. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags on Twitter.