Lessons from the Field: 4 Ways to Keep Your Cloud Evolution on Track (Part 2)

What to do if business stakeholders derail your plans

The biggest challenge of making sure your cloud transition fits into your overall IT architecture? Sticking to the plan. You map out a transition journey that includes new systems, training and orientation, retirement of old systems, maybe some new hires, probably some new vendor relationships. But then someone in the business comes to you with an immediate need that would contradict, delay or derail your careful planning. Now what?

The journey to a cloud-first or hybrid IT infrastructure is a progression of hard choices. I can remember vividly conversations with business people that boiled down to, “How far can we go in building suboptimal solutions or infrastructure to meet immediate needs, without totally scrapping the IT roadmap?” Yet I’ve never seen my customers look back at that short-term fix and say, “Great call—glad we did that.” More often it’s, “Why couldn’t we have held off for six months, even three, for a better, longer-term solution?”

But IT has spent a decade struggling to “align with the business,” so it’s hard to say “no” to a business need. But there is a way to make those tough calls, and stand your ground when necessary—intelligently, effectively and diplomatically. Here are four tactics to use with your business stakeholders.

  1. Be creative

The requests that disrupt a cloud journey most often involve a new investment in a legacy system. If you really understand the business need in question, you may be able to find more options than a straight yes or no. Today’s IT world offers far more ways to quickly spin up an environment for just one subset of users, or to give them an alternative set of data, or something outside the application that they’re using.

In addition to understanding the tech options, you need to understand your end-user. To satisfy a business need—not merely the technology request—IT needs to understand the problem. Get the actual user and the actual solution developer talking. After all, the only way to be creative is if you really understand what you’re solving for.

  1. Head them off at the pass

You can’t always pull a creative solution out of your hat, though. And sometimes you’ll need to stand firm for the longer-term IT vision. It’s important to establish strong executive agreement with an IT strategy that is, of course, closely tied to the company’s vision. When a conflict over a business request escalates from midlevel business managers to their bosses, the answer they hear should be, “Don’t you know that we have a strategy here?”

  1. Show them the money

The ultimate arbiter when short-term gain conflicts with long-term plans is money. Defend your IT roadmap in the language of business. It should include some baked-in numbers quantifying how your IT evolution will contribute to the enterprise’s bottom line. Explain the price tag of any proposed deviation, in terms of higher costs, lost/delayed revenue, etc.

This discussion puts everyone on the same page. It’s not about a CIO’s attachment to a carefully crafted vision of the perfect IT environment. It’s not about a line-of-business manager’s desire to hit his or her quarterly numbers. It’s about the overall good of the company. And that means sometimes IT needs to look at the numbers and say, “Yeah, this request does slow us down by six months, but it’s so important, it’s worthwhile.” Then look for ways to minimize the downside.

  1. Know when to let go

Letting financial considerations rule can be difficult for tech-focused people who take pride in their work. No one wants to implement a suboptimal solution or sacrifice a singularly elegant IT vision. But IT leaders have to learn to be comfortable with a quantitative discussion rather than a qualitative one. It can take some time and effort to adopt that business perspective, but it’s a must.

The cloud journey is not quick or easy. Keeping it on track is one of the biggest difficulties. Sometimes you have to dig in your heels, and sometimes you have to find the smartest compromise. Understanding the bottom line, fostering high-level buy-in, and approaching challenges creatively are the best ways to keep your transition moving forward.

My next post will tackle a specific way to get cloud rollouts right, by looking at the key role of data governance in a cloud or hybrid enterprise. In the meantime, if you have other tactics you use with business stakeholders so your initiatives don’t get derailed, please share in the comments below.

Complimentary workshop with Informatica Implementation Architects

To help kickstart your cloud journey, or to get it back on track, we’re offering a complimentary 90-minute workshop with an Informatica Implementation Architect. During the session, we’ll assess your current state, where you want to be on your cloud journey, and the steps you need to take to get there. After the session, you’ll get a cloud reference architecture and customized recommendations for technologies and services, as well as immediate next steps. Here are a couple of slides about the workshop. To find out more and to register, please contact your Informatica Account Rep, or email us.

Part I: Cloud Data Management: Lessons from the Field