Cloud applications can be more challenging to manage, ironically, due to their ease of management relative to more conventional software platforms. Let me explain this apparent contradiction. It boils down to the fact that you don’t need to be a software engineer or an IT function to acquire, deploy and administer many cloud applications today. They are that easy, but that is also the rub. If you are a business leader and you can’t get what you need from IT, you can just go out and get it yourself. However, we have seen this lead to challenges that can get in the way of success. Larger, mission critical platforms such as CRM cannot afford to operate this way, which is why many companies find success through the concept of a Center of Excellence (CoE).
The CoE is a great way to smooth out some of the bumps in the journey. Here are eight tips to help manage the politics of cloud program management.
Is your #JourneyToCloud hitting political turbulence? 8 steps can
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Start with balance: The concept of the CoE is to provide clarity around roles, processes and accountabilities for delivering cloud services. See this previous post for more detail on the CoE concept. The first step in reducing friction is to ensure all the required parties have a seat at the table. Balancing between the business and IT is key, but balancing between different entities of the business and IT function is important as well.
Trust the process: One of the greatest points of stress is uncertainty if something will be done correctly. The business knows their business, and IT knows technology. Laying out the details of processes the CoE will follow in the delivery of cloud services is a major step in alleviating concerns. Standard processes will take this one step further in assuring that a distributed CoE across units or geographies will produce a consistent product.
It’s all about control: Per the previous point, conflict comes from the desire to maintain control over tasks that need to deliver necessary outcomes. IT may want to maintain standards while the business may want quick results. Defining processes is a needed first step; agreeing who will perform the processes is the second. Having the right role with the right skill set is the critical part of getting this right. Usually there is plenty of work to go around, so settling who will perform which tasks helps to remove angst.
The buck stops here: Process and role definition is essential, but sealing the deal with accountability is the key to getting to the "us" in trust. Accountability drives action and urgency, so getting this defined without ambiguity goes the farthest in reducing conflict.
Expect to grow: Most of the time, the cloud journey starts with a single function, business unit or regional team. But, because of the agility and effectiveness of cloud applications, they tend to spread quickly. Typically, the CoE becomes most important as multiple “tenants” start to move in and utilize the tool. The CoE in this case serves like a well-run condo association, ensuring that everybody is represented correctly, not just the first ones to move into the building. Governance processes and policies are the key to success here, helping to keep neighbors friendly.
This is not a democracy: While the governance element mentioned above is important in making different groups feel represented, it is not always a majority vote that determines if we change the color of the paint. For example, a larger group does not get to change functionality at the expense of a smaller group, just because they have more voting power. Decisions must also include an enterprise component. Setting up decision criteria from sources such as the enterprise architecture function, and laying out clear rules of engagement, are also required to keep the all parties at peace.
Divide and conquer: Managing a large enterprise cloud platform for multiple tenants and satisfying multiple disciplines, such as that in the modern CRM stack, can require a lot of effort and skills. As you and your program grow, there is a chance you don’t want to take it all on. A mature CoE has a lot of moving parts. Many organizations choose to outsource some element of the CoE. This can be any combination of division of labor—having a third party run project delivery or application support, utilizing a central IT function to run program management, running project delivery globally while providing enhancements locally. Enlisting multiple sources of capability, skill and resources can drive agility and speed to solution, which is one of the best ways to reduce political tension.
Resistance is futile: The introduction of a CoE requires an organizational change management approach just like any other program that introduces a different way from the status quo. There can be many sources of resistance due to role and process changes, so plan accordingly. This focus on change management needs to apply to both the members of the CoE and the customers of the CoE. Ultimately the services provided by the CoE will deliver faster and better outcomes, but it is only human to have trouble letting go of the old.
By following this set of recommendations, you should be able to keep the turbulence at a minimum on your journey to the cloud. Look for more insights in our future posts regarding Center of Excellence recommendations and tips on change management.