Measuring cloud maturity: How do you stack up?

IT departments must proactively work with business managers to drive growth if they want the full benefits of enterprise cloud deployments, according to a new cloud maturity framework.

The Cloud Best Practices Network (CBPN), a collection of industry practitioners who share advice on cloud computing has developed an enterprise cloud maturity model. The document is designed to help organizations that want to adopt cloud computing as part of an ongoing business computing strategy.

The maturity model reviews three broad categories: digital organization, enterprise DevOps, and cloud-aware applications.

Drawing largely on other maturity models and associated documents from vendors, analyst firms, and industry associations, it promotes an approach to cloud computing as a platform to better align the IT department with the rest of the business.

The model distills these documents into a single framework for senior business and technology executives, explained the document’s author, CBPN CEO and founder Neil McEvoy. “It’s the tip of the iceberg in that it summarizes a large body of knowledge that can be explored further.”

The framework describes maturity levels for each category on a scale of one to four.  For example, companies with a business transformation level of one use IT purely operationally, with no strategic involvement at all. A level four IT department would be a revenue enabler, with technology becoming a core component of strategic planning.

Companies can measure themselves against this maturity model to baseline their current level of maturity in each of these areas and conduct a gap analysis.

“Typically, this would be a CIO-led exercise conducted by their business architecture team, with inputs from the relevant section leads, like security,” McEvoy said. “Those who don’t have this kind of resource in-house can call upon cloud consulting firms to manage the process for them.”

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From cost savings to transformation

Companies adopting an immature approach to cloud computing tend to treat it primarily as a cost-savings mechanism, he warned. Instead, they should look at it as a tool to change their business models, and they should bring business users on board as early as possible when planning cloud projects to make that happen.

“The over-arching mistake is being overly concerned only with the technology aspects and not structuring adoption within a strategic business case,” said McEvoy. He pointed to IDC research on this issue, which suggested that only a quarter of organizations have a repeatable cloud strategy. Almost a third have no strategy at all, he warned.

This leads companies to freeze in the face of security concerns, halting their adoption of cloud computing, he said. “On a broader basis it means utilizing the capability only for technical functions, seeing it only as a cheap infrastructure alternative and using it only for scenarios like backup and recovery.”

Dealing with legacy

Legacy integration is one of the biggest challenges for companies moving to a cloud environment. They must work out how to support hardware and software architectures that aren’t capable of virtualization, much less management in a cloud computing context. In many cases, these assets will be too mission critical to alter.

“The much larger complexity of old COBOL mainframes and DEC VAX minicomputers, of millions of lines of ADA code and so on, are what lies beneath the surface and run the majority of banking, government, defence, and healthcare systems that our business world is still based on today,” he said.

There are two main approaches in this scenario, he argued: build interface integrations to the legacy systems, or simply rip and replace. “Having these two separate environments in operation simultaneously has given rise to the concept of ‘bi-modal IT’,” he said.

This sounds good on paper, but “in practice business processes span across multiple systems and you can’t improve only one part at high speed while the other lags behind,” he said. He advised organizations to ultimately modernize everything, swallowing the code complexity issue and using migration automation tools to help along the way.

The maturity model demonstrates simple and holistic steps for organizations to move up the scale to maximize their transformation with cloud.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Steve Proctor
Steve Proctor
Steve is Vice-President Marketing and Communication with ITWC. He spent 25 years in progressively senior positions as a journalist and editor with the Halifax Herald, with his final ten years as Business Editor. He has published two books and his freelance articles have appeared in national and regional magazines. He has led social media and communication efforts for two crowdfunding ventures and written and directed numerous dinner theatres for charitable endeavours.

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