New report examines key attributes of advanced cloud applications and provides strategic advice for firms liking to develop cloud delivery portfolios
The Toronto Cloud Business Coalition – a group of more than 75 Canadian experts drawn from the IT management, cloud services provider, channel, academic, VC/corporate finance and consulting communities – has published a new document examining best practices in adoption and enablement of advanced cloud applications.
Advanced Cloud Application Adoption and Enablement: A TCBC Best Practices Document was co-created by a three-person working group including Paul Gragtmans, principal with ET Group, an integrator of collaboration and related systems, Arturo Perez, president and CEO at Solsteace, a mobile application specialist, and Norman Sung, a cloud solutions architect at Red Hat, and formerly a key member of the team that brought the Telus cloud to market.
Collectively, this group worked through a multi-part framework covering four key areas:
- Definition: what is an advanced cloud application?
- Business objectives: what are businesses hoping to get from adoption and enablement of advanced cloud applications>
- Best practices: what are the lessons learned from leading cloud technologies?
- Metrics and milestones: what should you plan for, and when should you consider re-planning your approach?
Defining advanced cloud applications
The first step in the process was to develop a definition of advanced cloud applications that would be flexible enough to cover the many different types of solutions that are delivered via cloud, yet specific enough to support additional analysis. The working group ultimately defined advanced cloud applications as being at the intersection of four factors. From a design point of view, at the back end, the advanced cloud application is hosted in the cloud, with delivery and management remote from the user, and on the front end, an advanced cloud application needs to support delivery to mobile clients. The working group then specified two functional attributes necessary to advanced cloud applications: regardless of the actual solution type, each advanced cloud application incorporates native collaboration capabilities and analytics (or at least, dashboarding) tools that can be used to drill down into application outputs and/or performance.
Business objectives and best practices
Building a meaningful description of the business objectives pursued via advanced cloud applications was similarly challenging. The group opted to use a series of four objectives to define the drivers for adoption and enablement of advanced cloud applications:
- Thread of obsolescence: the ability to create ‘order from chaos’ in cloud technology, and to prevent the organization itself from becoming a performance laggard
- Incremental/point benefit: can cloud-based applications be used to enhance monolithic legacy applications?
- Process enhancements: use of collaboration and analytics capabilities to compress timeframes and/or optimize processes
- New opportunities: use of advanced cloud applications to build new capabilities within IT and/or across the business
The working group recognized that pursuit of these objectives, in the fashion defined in the report, represents a substantial challenge for enterprise IT teams: conditioned to centre strategies “on monolithic applications that are slow (and hard) to evolve,” it can be difficult to create portfolios based on a rapidly-expanding set of tools and applications. However, the working group adds, “IT departments that fail to react to compressed business timeframes and related user expectations risk being ignored by users who view IT as an impediment and opt for unauthorized alternative apps. It is very important that IT not allow this tension to escalate into a struggle for control: the key objective is to create a productive work environment, and IT actions that users see as arbitrary and focused only on power maintenance will erode the trust needed for collaboration in pursuit of the broader business goal.
The best practices guidance following on this analysis focuses on two key attributes, speed and agility. Observing that “it is increasingly clear that corporate IT needs to find ways of attaching the core attributes of security, integration and auditability/compliance to a methodology that is more closely aligned with the breadth and pace of an app store than a traditional enterprise software environment,” the report examines differences in three types of applications/capabilities – core systems of record, task automation and advanced cloud (and mobility) enabled functionality – linked in a process that moves from business objectives through technical objectives to business outcomes. The document then uses three very different application examples – Salesforce, location-based intelligence and digital signage – to draw out practices that are important to successful adoption and enablement of cloud-based solutions.
Metrics and milestones
In the final section of the report, the working group spelled out benchmark timeframes associated with three uses of advanced cloud applications – cost reduction, revenue generation and productivity improvement – and added an overview of the considerations (people, process and technology) that should be examined if a lack of expected progress requires ‘course corrections’ to the adoption and enablement approach. At the conclusion of this section, and throughout the report, the working group adds a rich set of third party references enabling readers to drill down into specific issues that impact their own operations. In an important way, these references echo the intent of Advanced Cloud Application Adoption and Enablement: A TCBC Best Practices Document itself: it is a signpost on a road that is still in its early stages, but which businesses of all sizes will need to traverse, to capture the agility, productivity and financial benefits associated with cloud.
About the report
Advanced Cloud Application Adoption and Enablement: A TCBC Best Practices Document is available immediately to TCBC members through the site’s library. Non-members can purchase individual copies for $995, or can instead consider joining the coalition as individuals or as corporate members.