May 09, 2016
Every business is in the cloud business
By: Matthew Johnson

Every Business is in the Cloud Business

Today, every business is in the cloud business. Whether you’re a media company, a manufacturing giant, a financial firm or anything in between, there’s one common thread that bridges all businesses today: Cloud technology.

You Don’t Have to Be in the Technology Business...

Before we go any further, I’d like to get one thing straight: Being in the cloud business doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the technology business. In fact, most companies are actively moving away from the technology business.

Traditionally, most organizations built out their technology capabilities internally, spinning up homegrown systems and internal data centers. This practice led to large IT footprints and the need for a strong IT competency based on a team that could develop new software. In those days, most businesses were in the technology business.

Fast-forward to the introduction of cloud computing and organizations have started to shed this model by reducing their IT footprints and changing the nature of their IT teams. In the cloud model, you no longer need to excel at software development to innovate and stay competitive. It’s increasingly becoming the opposite of that.

...But You Are in the Cloud Business

So if you’re not in the technology business, that means you’re in the cloud business. What I mean by this is that while you don’t need an IT competency in developing new software, you do need one in brokering technology. That’s because as you outsource that software development to cloud providers, you need an IT team whose competency centers around procuring the right technology and the right partners for your business. And in that sense, every business is in the cloud brokerage business.

In the modern enterprise environment, technology is critical, which makes your ability to make decisions as to which technology and partners are right for your needs equally as important.

How exactly do you develop this new competency and embrace the cloud brokerage model? It all starts with understanding your technology environment and identifying what improvements that environment needs based on your business objectives. To gain that perspective, I recommend taking the stacks approach.

How to Visualize Your Enterprise Technology Environment

With so many technologies now in play, properly visualizing your enterprise environment isn’t as easy as it once was. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. I’ve found that the best way to visualize the platforms and applications you have in play and to understand the relationships between those technologies is to take a multi-stack approach. This approach looks something like this:

Data, Integration & Analytics

The model above is based on three core layers:

  1. Enterprise competency domains

  2. Platforms

  3. Integrated applications (which form the stacks)

Underlying all of this is a base layer of data and analytics, which might fall into any one stack or serve as a bridge between multiple stacks.

The first layer, enterprise competency domains, encompasses five key areas of focus that are integral to most every business:

  1. Customer engagement (how you market to, sell to and service customers)

  2. Administrative management (how you manage resources)

  3. Performance management (how employees get work done)

  4. Request servicing (how you manage internal customers)

  5. Core competencies (activities that are unique to your business or industry)

Next, you can add technology platforms to automate each of these domains. These platforms typically include:

  1. CRM to automate customer engagement

  2. ERP to automate administrative management

  3. Workplace productivity to automate performance management

  4. Service management to automate request servicing

  5. Industry-specific/homegrown systems to automate core competencies

Finally, you can further develop these platforms and build up your stacks by adding layers of integrated applications. For instance, you might add collaboration tools, knowledge management, file sync and share and calendar applications to the workplace productivity stack or IT, facilities, HR and legal applications to the service management stack.

The key here is to understand that not all stacks are symmetrical and that each stack is not set in stone. Some stacks might be higher than others based on ecosystem maturity and unique business needs, and the height of these stacks (aka the number of integrated applications for each platform) might change over time as ecosystem maturity and business needs change.

How to Manage Your Enterprise Technology Environment

Once you have this visual in place, you can then begin managing your enterprise environment by brokering new technologies and partners. But how do you know which technologies you need to modernize, which new solutions to adopt as part of that modernization and where those new solutions should live? That’s where an activity I like to call stacks rationalization comes into play.

Engaging in stacks rationalization helps you define the criteria for moving technology to the cloud. Simply moving an application to the cloud because it seems like the right thing to do is not a good enough reason to make the move. Rather, this decision should be based on the answers to two questions:

  1. What do we want to improve? For example, do you hope to increase business growth, efficiency or agility? Drive customer experience improvements? Reduce costs? 

  2. How do we intend for these improvements to transform our business? For example, do you hope to transform how your business collaborates or empowers employees? How it uses intelligence to drive better results?

Answering these questions will help you make informed decisions about which technology (be it single applications or an entire platform stack) to move to the cloud and where that new cloud technology will live in your stacks model.

One area where we can expect to see a lot of this type of movement going forward is in the core competency stack, since more and more cloud providers are developing industry-specific cloud solutions. The rationale for making this move would typically be something along the lines of: 

“We have home-grown, on premise applications that run our core competency processes, but they’re not working well and the pace of change is slow. Moving to an industry cloud solution can increase our agility, which in turn can transform our business by improving our ability to adapt to changing business, market and customer requirements.”

Identifying the “Why” is Key to Success in the Cloud Business

To keep pace in today’s digital market, you need to be in the cloud business. In other words, you need to develop the proper skills around managing and brokering technology systems and partners. Visualizing your technology using the stacks approach outlined above can help.

To keep pace in today’s digital market, you need to be in the cloud business. In other words, you need to develop the proper skills around managing and brokering technology systems and partners. Visualizing your technology using the stacks approach outlined above can help.

Get the full details on the six possible business and technology drivers for going cloud. This opens a new window.

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