10 Things Traditional Enterprises Can Learn From Cloud-Native Companies

Do you ever find yourself wondering why cloud-native companies are reaping greater business success in the cloud more rapidly than your organization?

Hint: it’s not because those companies were built in and for the cloud.

The real answer comes in the form of a better question: What can traditional enterprises learn from cloud-native companies that will help carry them forward in their own cloud journey?

Culture Shift Before Cloud Shift

There are many insights that traditional enterprises can learn from built-in-the-cloud companies.

Before making a shift to the cloud, it’s important that the move is classified as a transformational initiative. Go in with the understanding that to achieve cloud-native benefits, your organization must be ready and willing to accommodate changes in people, processes and culture for the long-term.

Attempting a shift to cloud without first understanding your organization’s culture will inevitably limit the success of your transformation. This is why there are so many businesses that are now on multiple iterations of trying to establish cloud.

10 Guidelines from Cloud-Native Companies

Here are 10 cloud-native guidelines any organization should keep in mind when moving to the cloud. They can help measure the chance of success or failure for a cloud strategy, and they can help identify opportunities for improvement.

Do you have to follow all 10? Certainly not. There will be compromises along the way as you discover what’s best for your organization’s journey to the cloud.

1. Favor agility and speed over process.

The main objective of a cloud-native approach is to improve speed and scalability.  Enterprises of all types and sizes are seeing the strategic advantage of getting new ideas to market quickly.

In a traditional organization, the division of labor between IT operations and other teams means multiple decision makers; when the decision-making cycle is out of balance and too long, success is limited.

Built-in-the-cloud companies value agility and speed over process in order to decrease time to market. The division of labor and the decision-making cycle are balanced, increasing agility and innovation. Ruthless prioritization and minimum viable product must be valued over analysis.

2. Embed security.

Cloud-native companies embed security layers within the cloud environment. This method is one of the biggest challenges for traditional organizations.

Instead of viewing security as something to be layered within cloud, it is often looked at as something to be layered around and on top of cloud. Not having ingrained security resources as a default is a common cause for slowdowns and failure. To achieve a secure environment and maintain agility, embedding dedicated security subject matter experts into the DevOps teams is essential.

3. Agility defaults to the slowest process component.

In bimodal IT there are two modes—or teams—working concurrently. Mode 1 (traditional) is dedicated to legacy IT functions and mode 2 (agile) is dedicated to anything new.

A successful bimodal environment is a true balancing act requiring strong IT and business leaders that can foster collaboration between both teams while also ensuring divisional separation of mode 1 and mode 2 processes.

Communication that empowers, supports, and encourages knowledge transfer for both teams will ensure acceptance and understanding between them. It also reinforces the need to work together.

The separation of mode processes is crucial to avoid slowdowns. By design, the default goes to the slowest component in the process. In order to avoid a deceleration in progress, prevent mode 2 processes from connecting with mode 1 processes.

4. Spend two weeks. Try, fail, and learn.

It is better to try than to analyze endlessly. In an attempt to control costs rather than drive business agility, many enterprises get caught in the analysis paralysis trap. This loop of overthinking and continuously adding more data and additional levels of review leads to inaction and therefore halts progress.

If a six-week sprint is not appropriate, attempt a two week try and fail period. This trial allows time for small steps that can either be adjusted for success or scrapped and used as an example of what not to do next time.

5. Cloud is a labor conversation.

Cloud requires people to get up and running. It is critical to consider how your team will be viewed in a cloud world. Are they dedicated? Can they invest time in training? Imposter syndrome is common in the cloud, and it needs to be acknowledged; are employees willing to ask for help?

Hero cultures aren’t beneficial to speed or agility. Instead, invest in and take the time to empower your people to excel in the cloud environment

6. Treat failure as part of the initiative.

How is failure treated in your organization? Do your employees fear repercussions after failure? Or has it been embraced as a learning opportunity?

Reassure your team that failure is a crucial part of the cloud adoption process. Nobody wants to feel like they’re risking their careers. Encouraging progress via iteration—which sometimes means failure—will prevent employees from holding back for fear of losing their job.

7. Smash your traditional silos in the cloud.

Traditional IT is siloed by function which can result in slow delivery, internal conflict, and even poor morale. Silos rooted in the debate over whether IT is infrastructure or application just slow down the business. A close collaboration between both is required for a smooth, speedy cloud transition.

8. Apply governance at the application and the platform levels.

Security controls in the cloud world are pretty much the same as they are in the world of traditional IT. The main differentiator is how the controls are applied.

Governance must be applied at the application level and at the platform level to avoid putting the entire environment at risk. Baking security controls directly into the code during development, along with the continuous and repeated enforcing of said controls during the development cycle is crucial and necessary.

Gone are the days of the traditional security perimeter. The conversation of security and governance must apply to the entire application and not just the perimeter.

9. Adopt cloud deployment patterns and focus on automation of components.

One of the benefits of a cloud-native environment is the capability to depend substantially on reliable, proven processes consistently deployed via automation and orchestration tools instead of manual deployment. Platforms that are automated bring speed and security. And, building a common set of deployment patterns aligned to your needs will drive agility.

Assuming that you can get the business result of the cloud without adopting some cloud deployment patterns and a focus on automation is short-sighted.

For example, enterprises that don’t have integrated CICD and SSDLCs with platform and application considered will often fail to meet the speed of releases desired by the business.

10. Treat your business like a customer.

Do you treat your business and development units like they are customers? It is essential to realize that one of the huge drivers of cloud is that it puts agility back into the hands of your business consumer. This is achieved by developing self-service capabilities and increasing user experience.

Consider this: Would you buy a service from yourself, or would you switch to a different service provider if it was possible? Do you know who your consumer is and what they really want? Are you focused on, “build it so they will come,” rather than, “build it with them?”

Successful cloud deployments are built in conjunction with an application, not in advance of one. It is the synergy between the cloud and the application that provides the business benefit.

Applying a Cloud-Native Approach

The essential question for any shift to the cloud is, “How can we do this?” The answer cannot be, “We can’t do that.”

As an enterprise, you will be required to choose the applications with the greatest business value that will require a cloud-native approach. A fundamental understanding of how cloud-native companies operate allows you to better comprehend where your organization is headed with a shift to cloud, and where it may fail along the way.

As business and technical leaders, self-actualization forces us to examine the question: Are we building a methodology where we can’t realize the cloud-native approach because of how our company perceives the journey to the cloud?

Without addressing that point, cloud agility and cloud capabilities will be beyond our grasp. Cloud must be a transformation in business, processes, people, and culture. The technology is the easiest part.

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