Cloud Transformation: Avoiding Mistakes of the Past

Cloud TransformationAs I’ve been writing this series of blog posts, the overarching theme has been the journey to a better IT infrastructure—a cloud-based architecture that is specifically geared to provide greater agility, scalability and reliability. In essence, to provide greater business value.

But that was the plan with the old architecture, too—and it didn’t always work out. So now that we’ve got great new technology opportunities, we’re still liable to make the same mistakes, if we or our business stakeholders don’t keep our eyes on the big picture.

The difficulties we face from our older technologies are not merely because our needs have evolved. It’s also that we didn’t give enough weight to a comprehensive, value-delivering vision instead of short-term expediency. So the question becomes, how do you evaluate new solutions—and how do you consider the necessity of point solutions? Because if there’s one lesson we should want to learn from our IT legacies, it’s that we don’t want to recreate that jumble of disconnected technology and hopelessly siloed data.

Two questions at every crossroads

There should be two perspectives that you weigh every time you decide whether to bring in a new technology solution: business value and architectural fit. Yes, in the ideal world, the infrastructure roadmap would always be served by a new implementation—that plan was devised as the best way to move the business forward. But sometimes new issues, sudden opportunities, or simple expediency mean the business perceives a need that’s greater than the value of being true to the architectural vision.

As we discussed in a recent post, being able to put a business value to data will let you quantify the value of your data transformation plan. Which you can then balance against the projected value of any competing point solution. You can thus have a meaningful conversation with your business stakeholders.

For instance, maybe there’s a solution that brings you 80 percent of the capabilities the business is asking for, but is a much better fit with your architecture. Measure the impact of a new data silo. Consider that better integration of data or other backend benefits might make a persuasive argument to forego that last 20 percent of business need in favor of an overall better architecture. But if you can’t compare numbers to numbers, you’ll never move beyond the classic business leader who falls in love with, and can only be satisfied by, that one shiny new tool.

Data is your weightiest asset

You should weight data accessibility very heavily in these discussions. Business leaders increasingly understand the value of data as an asset, but seldom do they invest enough in supporting it. Anything that has a negative impact on that asset deserves a closer scrutiny.

Knowing you’ll have to continue to deal, in many cases, with point solutions in the cloud, you have to make sure your technical architecture can support this situation, allowing you to access and integrate all data. To achieve this, you need a platform approach, a single connection point for all these individual solutions. This is not the promise of the ERP vendors, that you’d be able to bring everything into their walled garden of technology. We’re talking about an open platform, a data-centric approach to planning rather than an application or biz-process oriented approach.

In the past, an enterprise architect planned around business processes and automation, But today, EAs should be be data-focused in their planning. The question your architecture should answer is “How do we manage customer and product data,” not “How do I automate our CRM processes.” That should be an ancillary question compared to the customer data issue. CRM is not what’s driving your business.

Value-driven decisions

Of the many important considerations as you invest in IT, particularly in the move to cloud-based solutions, is not repeating the mistakes of the past. The bottom line is the contest between assets, in the form of revenue and data, both of which have hard financial value.

Next, we’ll talk a little more specifically about making these decisions. The Informatica Professional Services teams have been doing a lot of cloud architecture workshops with customers, and I’ll discuss the common challenges we’re seeing customers face, and how we’re solving them together.

If you’re interested in learning more about cloud architectures and how to make the most of your enterprise data in the cloud, we’re here to help.