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Tag Archives: organizing for the cloud

A Day in the Life of a Cloud Service Owner

Pierre Moncassin-cropCloud Service OwnerBy Pierre Moncassin

Customers often tell me, “I totally get the principles behind the role of Cloud Service Owner – but can you describe what do they actually do throughout their work day?”

Let me start with a caveat: we are all aware that in a knowledge economy few roles have the luxury (or burden, depending on the point of view) of a completely predictable, set routine.  We are in an era where many traditional, factory assembly line jobs have been re-designed to become more agile and less repetitive, at least in some leading-edge companies.  The rationale being that job rotation and innovation if not creativity, leads to higher productivity. Less routine, more output.

What is a Cloud Service Owner?

When I say Cloud Service Owner (CSO), I am referring specifically to the Service Owner role described in the VMware white paper: Organizing for the Cloud.

A CSO is a relatively senior role that includes responsibility for the end-to-end life-cycle of cloud services, with numerous levels of interaction with the business and cloud team members. So I will endeavor to highlight some typical aspects of a ‘day in the life’ of that role – bearing in mind all the caveat above.

Cloud Service Owner

The Cloud Service Owner ensures a consistent, end-to-end Service Lifecycle

Cloud Service Owner Stakeholders and Interactions

The CSO interacts with a number of key stakeholders, first of all within the business lines. When a new service is requested, the CSO reviews the requirements with the Business stakeholders; which may include not only the definition and costing of the service but also a discussion of how quickly it can be placed into production.

In a DevOps environment, that interaction with the business lines will still take place, with the difference that business and application development may be a single team (the business stakeholder may be an application product owner). When the (DevOps) business proposes to launch a new product (i.e. cloud based application or application features), they may need to discuss with the Service Owner how to develop the continuous delivery automation to support that new product.

The CSO will also interact with the members of the cloud operations team, for example with the Cloud Service Architect who will assist in all aspects of the design of the automation workflows and blueprints underlying the services.

Interactions will also include working with other support groups such as the Service Desk – for example, to review incidents relating to the services and work out patterns or root causes; possibly involve the Service Analyst to improve the monitoring and risk management underpinning these services.

Of course the list does not end there. The CSO may also interact with third party providers (especially in a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud model), as well as contractors. If the cloud platform is part of an outsourcing arrangement, the CSO will likely have a counterpart within the outsourcer.

Key Processes for a Cloud Service Owner

From a process perspective, our CSO will be involved in all aspects of the service life-cycle – this is by definition of the broad remit of the role. But I can highlight some key ‘moments’ in that life-cycle.

  • Initial definition of the service in cooperation with the business stakeholders.
    This is a critical stage whether both the scope of the service is defined, but also the expected costs and service levels.
  • Monitoring the performance of the service.
    In traditional IT, the review of SLA performance with business takes a key role once a service is up and running. In a cloud environment, much of SLA monitoring may be automated, however SLA review is still an important role for the CSO.
  • Continuous Improvement and ultimately, de-commissioning of the service.
    It is expected that the service will evolve and that ultimately it will be de-commissioned (possibly freeing some capability). This is also an activity that needs close cooperation with business lines.

Toolsets for a Cloud Service Owner

I mentioned at the outset that the CSO is not necessarily expected to a toolset expert.  However, in order to fully leverage the capabilities of a cloud platform, the CSO will be able to leverage the key cloud management tools, specifically:

  • vRealize Automation – the CSO will have a solid understanding of how blueprints are designed and where/when existing blueprints can be re-used to create new (or amend existing) services.
  • vRealize Business – understand the costing models and how they can be built into the tool to automate charging/billing.
  • vRealize Operations – leverage the tool to track service performance, and generally managing service ‘health’ and capacity.
  • NSX – the CSO is less likely to interact with this tool on a daily basis, but will benefit from a solid understanding the capability of this tool to help design the automation workflows and to plan the security controls that may be required when deploying the services (e.g. leveraging micro-segmentation).

The list is not exhaustive. Many organizations are considering, or already working towards DevOps adoption, and in those cases the CSO will benefit from a broad grasp of industry tools whether related to continuous delivery (think Jenkins, Codestream, Puppet, Ansible), or specifically to Cloud-Native Applications (think Docker,  VMware’s Photon OS).

Take Aways:

  • For roles such as Cloud Service Owner, design activities should take precedence over fire-fighting. These roles will prefer an engineering approach to problems (fix a problem once).
  • Do not expect a rigid work-day pattern – the Cloud Service Owner is a senior role and will need to liaise with a range of stakeholders, and interact directly and indirectly with several tools and processes.
  • The Cloud Service Owner will maintain a healthy understanding of toolsets; and leverage that knowledge daily to design, manage and occasionally de-commission services. This is an aspect of the role that may be significantly different from more traditional Service Manager roles.
  • However, the Cloud Service Owner is not meant to be a toolset specialist. If they spend their entire day immersed in toolsets, it is a sign that the role is not fully developed!
  • The Cloud Service Owner will work in increasingly close cooperation with the business lines– not from silo to silo but through an increasingly permeable boundary.

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Pierre Moncassin is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in the UK.

3 Common Mistakes when Breaking Organizational Silos for Cloud and DevOps

Pierre Moncassin-cropOrganizational SilosBy Pierre Moncassin

Every customer’s journey to Cloud, DevOps or other transformative initiatives is unique to an extent.  Yet all those journeys will come across a similar set of challenges.  With the exception of truly green-field projects, each transformation to Cloud/DevOps involves dealing with the weight of legacy – organizational and technical silos that hamper their momentum towards change.

This is why I often hear from customer teams: “We know that we need to break down those silos – but exactly how do you break them?”

Whilst I do not advocate a one-size-fit-all answer, I want to share some recommendations I promote on how to go about breaking those silos – and some mistakes to avoid along the way.

From where do silos come?

As discussed in earlier blogs, silos usually come into existence for valid reasons – at the origin. For example, when infrastructure administration relies on manual and highly specialized skills, it appears to make sense to group the skills together into clusters of deep expertise. Unix gurus, for example, might cluster together, as might Microsoft Windows experts, SQL database specialists and so on.  These are examples of silos teams build around infrastructure skills – experts of all those areas need to align their mode of operation to support cloud infrastructure services.

Other examples of commonly found silos include:

  • Application Development to Operations: DevOps emerged precisely as a way to break down one of the ‘last great silos’ of IT – the persistent gap between the Development teams and Operations teams.
  • Business to IT: When IT becomes so reliant on a specialist set of skills (think mainframe programming) significant inefficiencies arise in cross-training IT staff to business or vice-versa. In transitioning to Cloud/DevOps, this is another of the ‘great silo risks’ that the transformation will mitigate and ultimately break down completely as Business, Application Development and Operations function as an integrated team.

Common mistakes when attempting to break down silos.

a) Toolset-only approach.

A frequent temptation for project teams is to install software-based tools and assume (or rather, hope) that the silos will just vanish by themselves. In Cloud transitions, teams might install automated provisioning, but forget to work across the business/IT silos. Result – adoption by the business generally ends up minimal. In DevOps transition attempts, the technology approach might consist of deploying, for example, Jenkins, Code Stream etc. – tools meant for continuous delivery efforts, but failing to bridge the gap fully with day two operations management, for example without governance around incident-handling or idempotent configuration management. Without a clear path to resolution that cuts across the silos, it is easy to see when issues are not resolved satisfactorily. The impact on customer satisfaction is predictably less than optimal.

b) Overlook the value of ‘traditional’ skills

During the transition to Cloud/DevOps, especially when considering a toolset-only approach, it can appear at first sight that many of the legacy skills have become irrelevant.   But this is often a mistaken perception. Legacy skills are likely still relevant, they simply need to be applied differently.

For example, traditional operating systems skills are almost always relevant for Cloud, however they will be applied differently. Instead of manually configuring servers, the administrators will develop blueprints to provision servers automatically. They will use their knowledge to define standardized operating system builds.

Traditional skills become all the more critical when we look into soft skills. The ability to manage stakeholder relationships, communicate across teams, organizational and business specific knowledge – are all essential to running an effective Cloud/DevOps organization.

c) Focus on problem not solution

This is a well-known principle of change management – focusing on the problem will not solve it. Rather than present the teams with a problem, for example existence of a silo, it is often far more effective to work on the solution – cross-silo organization and processes.

Does it work? I can certainly relate the experience of ‘seeing light bulb’ moments with highly specialized teams.  Once they see the value of a cross-silo solution, the response is far more often “we can do this” as opposed to defending the status quo of individual silos.

In sum, focus on the vision, the end-state and the value of the end-to-end solutions.

Five recommendations to help break down silos.

  1. Shift from silo mindset to Systems Thinking. Conceptually, all the ‘common mistakes’ that I mentioned above can be traced back to the persistence of a silo mindset – whether focusing on traditional (versus leading-edge skills), new toolsets (versus legacy ones), or isolated ‘problem’ areas. The better approach is Systems Thinking. Systems thinking implies an understanding that the overall organization is more than the sum of the parts. It means looking for ways not just to improve the efficiency of individual elements (skillsets, tools, process steps) but optimize the way these elements interact.
  2. Create vision. As mentioned earlier, creating the vision is a vital step to get the team’s buy-in and to overcome silos. This can entail an initial catalog of services and outline workflows to fulfill these services. Potentially, it may be worth setting up a pilot platform to showcase some examples.
  3. Build momentum. Building the vision is important but not enough. One the initial acceptance is reached, the transformation team will need to build the momentum. For example by recruiting ‘champions’ in each of the former silos.
  4. Proceed in incremental steps, building up a track record of ‘small wins’ and gradually increasing the pace of change.
  5. Establish the permanent structure. One the change in motion, it will be necessary to define the long-term roles that operate the Cloud/ DevOps operations. These roles are detailed in ‘Organizing for the Cloud’: https://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/services/VMware-Organizing-for-the-Cloud-Whitepaper.pdf.

Take-aways

  • Breaking silos is a result rather than the end. Start by building the vision to engage teams and motivate them to break the silos themselves.
  • Do not rely on technology alone. Toolsets augment processes, but do by themselves overcome silos (e.g. vRealize Code Stream, vRealize Cloud Automation and other VMware Cloud automation tooling) as long at they are leveraged to sustain the vision and constantly build momentum.
  • Leverage existing skills. Many of the legacy, previously silo’ed skills can be adapted to the future cloud/DevOps organization.

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Pierre Moncassin is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in the UK.

5 Steps to Building Your High-Performance Cloud Organization

Make sure learning happens by design; not just trial and error.

Pierre Moncassin-cropBy Pierre Moncassin

One of the often-overlooked aspects of building an effective cloud organization lies in the training and development of team members. My customers often ask, “How do I accelerate my IT organization’s transition to cloud?” Well, there is much more to my answer than relates to deploying toolsets.

What the IT organization needs is accelerated learning—learning at organizational level as well as individual. All too often, that learning happens in part by accident.  An enthusiastic project team installs the technology first, sometimes as a pilot. The technology works wonders and produces great initial results, e.g., IT services can be provisioned and managed with levels of speed and efficiency that were simply not possible before. Then sometimes, the overall project just stalls. Not because of a technical shortfall. The reason is that the organization has not completely figured out how to fully leverage that technology, and more importantly, how to fit it in with the rest of the IT organization. This is a shortfall of learning.

Faced with the challenge of learning to leverage the technology, many organizations fall back on the tried and tested approach known as “learning on the job.”  After all, this is an approach that has worked for centuries! But in the fast-paced cloud era, you want to accelerate the learning process. Really, you want learning by design not just by trial and error. So, where do you start?

Here are some practical lessons that I have collected by supporting successful projects with customers and within VMware:

1. Design a plan for the organization.
Org for Cloud wp
It stands to reason that the future organization will be different from the current, “pre-cloud” organization. However, the optimal structure will not be reached without planning. In practice we want to gradually flesh out your tenant operations and infrastructure operations teams, as describe in more details in the white paper: Organizing for the Cloud.

In turn, this means orchestrating the transition from the current roles into the target organization. Each transitioned role will require a skills development plan adapted to the individual.

2.    Plan for formal skills development.
The fist step to plan skills development is to carry out a gap analysis of each selected team member, against their future roles (e.g. , service owner, service architect, and so forth). Each role carries specific requirements in terms of technical skills—without delving in all the details, a blueprint manager will need deeper knowledge of VMware vRealize Automation than a customer relationship manager; however the customer relationship manager will need some awareness of the blueprints and how they can be leveraged to meet customer requirements effectively.

3. Reinforce learning with mentoring and coaching.
Mentoring and coaching are effective ways to reinforce the individual’s own learning. Typically mentoring will focus on knowledge transfer based on personal experience. For example, encourage sharing of experience by pairing up the new service architect with an experienced service architect (either in another part of the organization—if existing—or from another organization).

Coaching will focus on individual skill development—either by learning directly from the coach, or from the coach supporting an individual’s own learning journey.

Although coaching/mentoring is by definition highly personalized  (learner centric), it is a good idea to establish a formal structure around it. For example, assign coaches/mentors to all future cloud team members, with a mechanism to track activity and results.

4.    Develop leaders with both business and technical skills.
As when building any team, it is important to identify and nurture a cadre of leaders for the cloud organization.  These leaders will be both the formal leadership roles (tenant operations leader, infrastructure operations leader), but also critical roles such as service owner and service architect.

Such leaders will hold a key role in representing the cloud organization within the broader business.  Part of their development will include broadening their understanding of the business. For example, by assigning them mentors within the lines of business—this is another example where mentoring comes in handy.

However business acumen, whilst important, is not enough. These roles also need to develop broad technical skills to be able to articulate solutions across technical silos and understand the new capabilities introduced by cloud automation.

5.    Reach out to the broader organization with a champions community.
Champions, a.k.a change agents, are advocates within the rest of the organization (especially within the lines of business) who will spread the awareness and support for the cloud. These champions help bridge the silos with business users and win “hearts and minds.” Refer to my earlier blog where I explained how we leverage a change agent program within VMware and the lessons that can be inferred. Your change agents will make sure that the broader organization/business learns about the cloud project and ultimately adopts it.

Takeaways:

  • Plan the transition and learning curve both for your organization and the individuals.
  • Combine formal learning with individual-centric learning (coaching and mentoring).
  • Invest effort in developing at an early stage, the future leaders and champions  for cloud adoption. Make sure that their planned learning spans across both technical and business knowledge.

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Pierre Moncassin is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is currently on long-term assignment in Asia-Pacific. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates.