Mind the Gap: What Most Enterprises Miss in Cloud Planning

 Author(s): , Posted on October 17th, 2014

As organizations drive “speed to market” and make the move towards leveraging cloud in their day to day business activities they are struggling with operational and business management processes. This is especially true as organizations start to look at the use of more than one type of cloud solution and multiple providers. As I’ve talked with customers there are few areas that regularly come up as pain points that I’m sure you may have encountered as well. These include:

  • Rogue use of cloud, circumventing business processes
  • Gaps in implementing management and security guidelines when leveraging cloud resources
  • Successfully tracking resource usage to the appropriate cost centers for reporting and recovery

Some of the challenges in addressing these issues are compounded by the differences between cloud providers and the unique ways of integrating them with your organization’s business management systems.

So, how do you enable your organization to reap the benefits of leveraging cloud and incorporate this new model into your day-to-day operations and business management processes? To be successful, consider these four primary areas: People, Process, Tools and Services.

People – there can be different perspectives and use cases within an organization which define how you want to consume cloud resources. One example may focus on satisfying IT and cloud resource requests through a service request management interface or portal. An alternative scenario could provide direct access to cloud provider tools or services. In some cases a combination of both may be required. Developing clear requirements and aligning with the key stakeholders up front will save a lot of time downstream.

Process – this includes operational and business management. Understanding these processes can help drive and capture the primary requirements needed to satisfy the objectives of the business and users (how to get what I want when I want it). Some examples of these requirements could be:

  • Provide a robust set of resources that can be pre-configured with minimum required operational and security controls
  • Governance controls to manage access based on roles and responsibilities
  • Ability to self-provision resources from one or multiple cloud providers
  • Operational monitoring and availability reporting – integration options
  • Allocate and track provisioned resources to enterprise financial control systems such as cost centers, project codes, etc.
  • Regulate spend of public cloud resource consumption by users, projects, etc.
  • Lifecycle management of the financial spend, ability to automate, aggregate and / or cross reference cloud provider billing information to enterprise financial control systems such as cost centers, project codes, etc.

If you are in enterprise solution development, there’s not much I’ve communicated so far that is necessarily new to you. In the following areas addressing cost recovery is where I’ve found the most significant gap and one that should be addressed to complete the last mile in the business management processes.  

Tools – the cloud industry has matured into a significant number of cloud providers delivering resources and services that can fit almost any layer of the technology stack. As noted earlier, each provider provides a unique way of interacting with them. How can you best manage these providers with an emphasis on IT simplification?  There are two approaches.

  • You could simply standardize on a single cloud provider using their instrumentation and modifying your processes to integrate with them. Obviously this creates “vendor lock-in” and becomes much more difficult to change as time goes by.
  • Alternatively consider an intermediary solution such as multi-cloud management tool.  These can help address a number of the challenges in the front end processing while leveraging cloud resources but many are still lacking in capabilities for the back end cost recovery process. As an example in traditional cost recovery models , projects are defined and supported with capital acquisition processes that tie procured resources directly to projects and have a very structured process to “close the loop” when it’s time to pay for those resources.

Services – the issue of “how to seamlessly ensure expenses are tracked and allocated to appropriate projects or cost centers” is perhaps more important than accessing the resources to begin with. In many cases when a “bill” is presented by a cloud provider there is no way to understand which resources were used for which project as they are typically tracked by user and a single user can easily work on many projects. Accounts receivable departments will resort to either lumping these expenses into a general cost center “overhead” bucket or attempt to manually dissect and aggregate the charges which is subject to inaccuracies.

This is where leveraging services or a service provider that includes “Cloud Management Broker” functionality that includes addressing deficiencies with invoice aggregation and project cost center tagging techniques is beneficial.  Using these services can play a big part in closing the gaps, address audit exposures that can surface by the use of cloud and allow your organization to focus on your business.

The key to success is to ensure you look at these four areas to clearly understand what’s required to ensure the lifecycle management of your business processes can be supported while leveraging the ecosystem and capabilities provided by cloud.

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