The Cloud: Embracing the New World Processes

By Matt Lovell

12 March 2018

The enlightenment of Cloud Migration on our own platform

There are many questions we are asked by Customers in migrating non-production and production systems, platforms and applications to the Cloud. Migrating our own business to the Cloud has been enlightening and has at times, really challenged our own methodologies and business. Just to set some scope here, we have successfully migrated our core finance, CRM, payroll, service desk, project management and engineering systems to best of breed cloud based services over the last 24 months. We have been extensively using other Cloud platforms for many years as well as Agile philosophies and believed this to be a good basis for accelerating adoption.

The key challenges of migrating to Cloud

Like many customers we work with, the key challenges can be categorised into five key areas:

  • Data integration and management between disparate Cloud applications
  • Updating our data and security designs, automation strategy and systems
  • Ensuring skills and processes were updated and reviewed
  • A clear strategy for taking advantage of the additional options and capability we know we can exploit
  • Becoming a more Agile Organisation

Early and final stage issues established

Data integration and management presented early and final stage issues for our projects. Initially, we reviewed all the interface and application data exchanges based on new and envisaged processes. What we needed to confirm during testing, was what this represented in terms of optimal frequency of data loads and the expected data volumes to confirm egress costs. The main issues in data management were updating and automating a complex business continuity plan.

There was a great success here after considerable efforts. There were some final stage challenges in removing all the legacy platforms due to ingesting archived data to simplify any future recovery process to ensure compliance.

Key lessons for the business here:

  • Centred on earlier consideration of how legacy dependencies for compliance would be addressed
  • Understanding how new processes and interfaces would influence our data integration strategy
  • The most important aspect was updating the ability to optimally search data centrally across the disparate cloud platforms.

Integrating the security aspect

As we have grown and expanded our services over the years, our security strategy has been influenced more by our security and quality management teams. The security architecture and indeed huge volumes of both internal and customer related accounts coupled with a variety of secure systems access parameters required a complete review to make the security model both extensible and scalable.

Whilst we were able to review and refine our internal security processes with the adoption of the Cloud services, our challenge was augmenting the security architecture to retain compliance as a Service Provider for the spectrum of customer security models we must align to.

We have a significant focus on:
Automation (specifically around system platform creation)
Integration
Data backup
Replication
Embedded within these processes is the integration to customer specific security standards and procedures which require a necessitated a review, particularly for provisioning, monitoring and data protection. In all honesty, we significantly underestimated the effort and time required to augment these crucial elements of the Intelligent Enterprise we have created over the last few years.

Cloud’s ability to enable an increase in interfaces and possibilities

Whilst the individual teams had a clear view and ownership of existing processes, Cloud immediately enabled a significant increase in interfaces and possibilities, which generated a significant debate as to the ownership and management of these as well as how this affects existing processes.

With automation, many of the processes transitioned into a central ownership structure in the business, with monitoring updated accordingly. A new dependency map between the processes was also centrally created with a new approvals process for both changes to automated processes as well as new analytics and reporting requirements.

The good news was the digital dashboards were now real time and continually updated which removed a huge amount of latency and ambiguity that had begun to originate from multiple departmental reports which highlighted differing metrics and value calculations.

We started measuring different improvements – but this created new issues in employee engagement and sponsorship. It also released as a significant amount of business effort associated with data management in creating reports and reconciliation.

Automated billing to customers, with Customer invoices being increasingly complex was another major business benefit. We finally managed to deliver a lifecycle view of our customers, integrating their experiences throughout the different services we offer in many hybrid configurations.

Simplicity was the objective – moving to Cloud rather than Cloud itself had challenged us to move substantially closer to the objective.

Challenging our business to think differently

But perhaps the most underestimated business area was thinking about how moving to Cloud services would challenge our business to think differently and adapt our strategy both for our Employees and our Customers.

The challenges came quickly and from all teams as mindsets quickly adapted, or some did not, to thinking differently as to how we could solve other issues and take more pain away. Technology is amazing, but it’s why, how and what we use in that order.

The problem is many businesses like our own have traditionally thought in reverse ie Selecting a technology or being more focused with the re-platforming than the outcome.

Where have we ended up?

So 6 months on where do we find ourselves. Our daily standups involve the entire company or at least representatives. The centralised approach to Engineering considers the Company as a virtual team of resources, to review, refine, adapt and develop new processes which start with considering Why.

The how and the what logically follow but awareness and communication are significantly improved. Is it all Cloud per se or the huge transformation the business has undertaken? The obvious answer is both but the bias will always be on the process transformation.

Could we have achieved all these results through the previous model and configuration? The simple answer is no. And I say this for several reasons. Would it have challenged the people and the level of process review we ultimately undertook whilst opening up mindsets and capabilities from the cloud?

So it is more like a shifting of organisational pain, but supporting our staff through these changes and allowing mindsets to adjust, adapt and feedback.

If you would like more information on developing your Cloud skills and strategy or adopting Cloud services, just reach out to us at Centiq and we will be happy to help.

READ MORE ABOUT THE CLOUD

By Matt Lovell

12 March 2018