May 15, 2018

Cloud Native Enterprises - On-demand self-service

Which don't have a lot to do with Cloud Native Apps but everything with truely embracing the paradigm shifts the Cloud has brought IT within the realm of businesses.

Read the Introduction first.

After reading the introduction to these posts you know what a cloud infrastructure is and what cloud native applications are, what about cloud native enterprises. Well these are enterprises that adhere to these same 5 characteristics. These enterprises, or organisations in general, cannot be modelled according to traditional enterprise models because of their specific market, competition, growth-stage, etc. These enterprises need to be, for all accounts, be cloud native in order to grow, succeed and be sustainable. Interestingly, but not surprisingly they require The Cloud and Cloud Native Applications.
In coming posts I will address every essential characteristic of The Cloud as defined by NIST from a perspective of the Enterprise. Unlike most cases, I will post these within the next 7 days and I certainly do hope before coming weekend.

  • Broad network access. When customers, partners and users are distinct groups treated equal.
  • Resource pooling. When synergy across value chains makes the difference.
  • Rapid elasticity. When business is extremely unpredictable.
  • Measured services. When business resources are limited.

On-demand self-service. When online services and core systems really seamlessly integrate.

This is the post where I'll address the aspect of the On-demand Self-service. An aspect which for many organisations is rather challenging. Just like the aspect of Measured services, this aspect is addressing internal governance structures. Although the governance implications will touch on the financial governance of an enterprise, the challenge is more of an organisational nature and in fact  the financial parts are not always relevant.

In any case. When we talk about on-demand self-service within the context of Cloud Native Enterprises we talk about an enterprise where tools and technologies needed to explore or exploit business models can be obtained when needed, by the person that needs it. Often we talk about IT resources, software and or hardware. But think in terms of services, which are often IT services.

In a traditional environment, IT services are obtained by the IT department. This is where the IT experts are and this is where the required frameworks for 'proper IT' are defined and used. Business departments will request, based on functional specifications, certain IT solutions, experts within the IT department will make sure that the best solution for the lowest price will be procured, installed and configured. Hassle free operation for the business people as a result.

Traditionally the reason for an IT department is centralisation of these resources in order to make as efficient use of these experts as possible. Actually, what I most often see is that within IT departments there are separate teams for specific expertise, so called Competence Centres or Centres of Excellence. Efficiency has been a key objective for many years within organisations, often because IT resources (computers as well as personnel) were relative expensive compared to other resources.

As efficiency has been a key objective in these traditional environments, the scheme above played out nicely. Scarce personnel is being utilised optimally in terms of keeping them busy and in the meantime, their experience and knowledge ensured the best value for money possible. Time was not a factor until recently. Of course, it always took too long to provide the solutions to the business, but offset against costs, this has always been a small price to pay. Relatively speaking, and yes, pun intended.
But things have changed and the old timelines are no longer acceptable. Timing becomes more and more an issue. Business ideas can no longer wait to find their way into the hands of users. Not only because lean, agile and nimble Start-Ups will chip away the market shares of enterprises, but because enterprises between themselves are leveraging technology to get the competitive edge.
We see that the introduction of The Cloud in the IT departments of enterprises has resulted in extremely short timelines when it comes to delivering solutions to the business by their IT departments. Enterprises with an IT department that can't leverage the characteristics of The Cloud as defined by NIST will perish. You can't move fast enough? You're shark food. It's a dog-eat-dog-world nowadays.

The CIO v.s. the CDO

We see that CIO's are being complemented by CDO's, Chief Digital Officers, in those enterprises where the CIO has not been able to transform the IT department from a traditional silo'd business enabler into a heterogeneous multi-disciplinary flat business partner. CDO's are introduced to drive the digital transformation, a transformation that has been going on since the advent of computers in enterprises. But where it focused on efficiency and controlling cost in the past, now the transformation is focusing on effectiveness and creating value. Often the CIO hasn't been informed about this new direction as often the CIO is not in the boardroom. Understand that in many of the organisations I've been, the CIO reports to the Chief Financial Officer, instead of the CEO, COO or the Chief Marketing Officer. IT is associated with cost in these enterprises and not with revenue.

Product/Platform Paradigm

But in the Cloud Native Enterprise, it isn't the IT department that delivers IT solutions, not even when they can do this with the speed of The Cloud. In these enterprises, the business services it self.
When IT solutions are needed, the business will obtain them by themselves. Here the IT department is no longer delivering the solutions, but the platform onto which the solutions will run and integrate with the core IT systems. Systems like Identity and Access Management, Monitoring and Metering, Resilience and Disaster Recovery. Integration of solutions in the platform is what IT is about. Products and business solutions is what the business is about.
The IT departments in these enterprises are basically nothing more than in-house system integrators. But extremely sophisticated at that since integrations are subjected to profound automation.

It is with Cloud Native Enterprises where we see the true value of the Product/Platform paradigm. IT delivers the platform, the platform is its business product. Business delivers business products. This is where the concept shines as those that understand how to valuate the product from a business perspective are accountable for the product that creates the value to the business.


And so the Cloud Native Enterprise is the enterprise where IT is part of the business when it comes to delivering business products. Allowing business solution to be created using IT on-demand, through self-service. This also means that the traditional IT department has become a business department as well, run as a revenue catalyst and not as a cost centre.

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The text very explicitly communicates my own personal views, experiences and practices. Any similarities with the views, experiences and practices of any of my previous or current clients, customers or employers are strictly coincidental. This post is therefore my own, and I am the sole author of it and am the sole copyright holder of it.

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