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Integrating Strategic Planning for Cloud and SOA

How to get beyond the experimentation phase with Cloud Computing

In October 2010 Gartner Group assessed that Cloud Computing is at the top of the Hype Curve, the peak point of inflated expectations. But no one really needs this authoritative assessment to confirm an opinion that the industry in general is still in the early stages of Cloud Computing. An even more recent survey reveals that just 7% of organizations have approved cloud strategies and most organizations are now planning to establish strategic plans. So notwithstanding the cautionary reports, most government and commercial enterprises are planning to move rapidly to embrace the profound change inherent in this computing model.

Clarify Scope and Objectives
As many organizations embark on strategic planning for Cloud Computing, they should be strongly advised to think hard about the scope of their planning activity.

First, what's becoming very obvious is that we are in the midst of a significant paradigm shift. Cloud Computing is a major change in its own right, but in fact it is essentially only one phase in a much longer running cycle that commenced back around the year 2000 and continues to transition the entire industry from monolithic IT at all levels to service oriented everything.

Second, the scope of the strategic plan should reflect core business service strategies. This is unlikely to be an all-encompassing enterprise level plan, rather a cross cutting plan driven by a business domain or value chain that ensures business innovation and restructuring opportunities are not limited by existing application boundaries or As-Is model perspectives. The objective should be not to establish a one-size-fits-all Cloud for the enterprise, rather a coherent framework in which alternatives can coexist with strong governance over key policies. At all costs avoid bottom up planning based on technology.

While Cloud is the "trend de jour," a study of the leading platform is synonymous with SOA. These leading IaaS and PaaS platforms are all completely service oriented and demonstrate sophisticated, next-generation SOA implementations. All the platform capabilities are delivered and consumed as services and while the end user may choose to deploy conventionally architected applications, they would be highly suboptimal in terms of cost, portability and business agility.

At this juncture we also need to revisit the question of what is the Cloud. Not surprisingly, like most important trends, the concept is morphing as it matures. In the early stages of Cloud, the emphasis was heavily focused on cost restructuring particularly in the areas of automation and standardization of technology infrastructure and rationalization and optimization of those resources. The PaaS layer has been mostly used for niche and non-core business applications, and the SaaS layer has been used primarily for conventional Web applications including CRM and HR, and commodity applications such as office productivity and email.

The next stage of Cloud will be focused on business services and the operation of an ideal service architecture that rationalizes the morass that is the typical enterprise application portfolio. In this process the Cloud-based services will align with customer-facing business services to form the service-oriented enterprise.

One might even wonder if the term Cloud will be relevant in just a few years. The term is already coming under pressure because Cloud covers such a multitude of architecture concepts. Even the early standards work undertaken by NIST is becoming rapidly dated as, for example, multi-tenant is no longer a unique identifying characteristic, and as the base models of private, hybrid and public are changing with the emergence of the Virtual Private Cloud.

It seems probable therefore that the industry will go full circle and Cloud will be a primary enabler of the service-oriented enterprise, or, heaven forbid SOA 2.0.

Integrate Strategic Planning
This discourse is not wild speculation, it's high probability. As a consequence we recommend that strategic planning for Cloud should be fully integrated with SOA planning. This is particularly the case when strategic ambitions are broader than purely technology infrastructure rationalization.

Cloud, like SOA, will continue to evolve over a number of years. In this rapidly changing environment a form of planning is required that anticipates and prepares for constant evolution and change. Organizations need to plan on continual and rapid maturing of both external capabilities including suppliers, technologies, standards, products and services, as well as internal skills, competencies and capabilities.

Everware-CBDI has been advising larger commercial and government enterprises on maturity modeling and roadmap planning techniques for many years in Component Based Development, SOA and more recently Cloud Computing. Our research and experience has shown that widely available, two dimensional maturity models are very superficial and in practice several perspectives are needed to create an effective change adoption and management plan:

  1. A high level maturity model (L1) that links business objectives and goals to maturity levels, scenarios and outcomes.
  2. A roadmap that transforms maturity levels to timeframes, identifies programs, projects, products and technologies that deliver the scenarios.
  3. A next level of detail maturity model (L2) that identifies new and modified capabilities, the maturity stages they will need to transition through and key external dependencies such as technologies, standards or supplier capabilities that will be essential prerequisites for each level of maturity.

Integrating Maturity Models and Roadmap
The figure above illustrates the L1 model establishes the all-important starting position that provides the business perspective that drives the more detailed views. There is naturally interaction between the L2 model and the roadmap as scenarios, projects and programs are matched to specific capability maturity assessments.

This approach is necessary because the roadmap is a mechanism that maps project and technology decisions onto time and is essentially about "how". So the maturity model addresses what capabilities are required to support business outcomes. The high level maturity model is therefore an essential precursor to a roadmap. Build a roadmap before you have a maturity model and you will be in danger of confusing concerns. The detailing of the roadmap and the maturity model should be undertaken interactively allowing priority and capability readiness issues to be resolved concurrently.

Summary and Recommendations
Strategic plans for Cloud and SOA must be tightly integrated. The plans must anticipate continuous change in external and internal capabilities and competencies.

Plans should not be technology driven or enterprise wide. They should facilitate business and technology innovation.

The high-level Maturity Model is a transformation of:

  • Business objectives and goals to scenarios by relative maturity
  • Business model to service requirements by relative maturity

The detailed Maturity Model is an analysis of

  • Capability to maturity
  • Capability dependency (internal and external)

The Roadmap is a transformation of:

  • Maturity levels to time
  • Capabilities to products, services, suppliers
  • Identification of transformation (change management) projects and programs
  • Mapping to business projects and programs
  • Major input into the portfolio and program planning process.

Without a comprehensive plan in place that incorporates Cloud and SOA concerns, organizations will flounder, driven by technology concerns and tactical business priorities. In contrast the integrated plan will allow an enterprise to drive extraordinary competitive advantage.

References

More Stories By David Sprott

David Sprott is a consultant, researcher and educator specializing in service oriented architecture, application modernization and cloud computing. Since 1997 David founded and led the well known think tank CBDI Forum providing unique research and guidance around loose coupled architecture, technologies and practices to F5000 companies and governments worldwide. As CEO of Everware-CBDI International a UK based corporation, he directs the global research and international consulting operations of the leading independent advisors on Service Oriented Application Modernization.

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