The other day I was discussing matters of cloud strategy and adoption with a major client.  Quite proudly the chief architect tabled a recently produced cloud policy document. Authored by a reputable global consultancy it well exceeded the thud test and gave all the impression of a bespoke policy. Thumbing the pages it was apparent that much of it was boilerplate that went to some length defining cloud and its variants, offered lots of common sense in relation to potential impacts and considerations for adoption – and the bespoke parts – a couple of brief lists of applications that could be put in the cloud and some that couldn’t.  It was a fail on many levels – but mainly because it offered nothing to rationalise the guidance in a way that the impacted stakeholders, i.e. the business, in a way that could ever influence the tough decisions.

Anyway, this took me back a year or so when discussing the cloud challenge with the CTO of a certain tier one corporate. CTO said to me: ‘Mac – I’m dying here mate. I’ve got every business stakeholder wanting to know why I don’t just stand up their solution in the cloud with vendors in their ear telling them they can have it tomorrow, for half the price, yadda yadda – and then I have every vendor banging on my door telling me that they can transition everything into the cloud and it will be way better, cheaper, faster, etc’.  He had people on every side of the discussion screaming ‘CLOUD’ – and all he could offer in response is ‘Ah – that doesn’t feel quite right – let me think about it and I’ll get back to you’.  It didn’t matter what answer he offered – any answer other than ‘you win’ sounded lame and obstructionist to a business sweating on getting something up fast. Sound familiar?  He was begging for a solution and my response was ‘just let the business decide’.

It sounds counter intuitivebut CTOs need to stop being the bad guy in the story and shift the decisions and the implications to the business!  However the business just doesn’t have a framework to make sound decisions in terms of cloud adoption. Your business stakeholders don’t understand or care about architecture, security, integration or data migration, etc.,  but they can be made to appreciate business and operational risk, compliance, legislative obligation, business impact, privacy, productivity, etc.  What you need is a way to express these business concerns and considerations and demonstrate their association to your business capabilities and their supporting information types. Interview the business about its appetite for risk, have the business ratify a consensual view on these dimensions and you have the critical ingredients for a predetermined strategy for cloud adoption across business capability and information subject areas, thus declaring exactly what should be placed in the cloud and depending upon the appetite for risk, establish which cloud variant should be applied in each case. Armed with such a framework, not only have you predetermined the strategy for migration to the cloud according the business declared rules, but you have a framework to support instant decision making for those times when the business or vendor rocks into your office and argues ‘let’s just stick it in the cloud’. The best part of course is it’s the business that decides what the rules are, not you.

Originally posted as 'Cloud? - Just Let The Business Decide' on the Enterprise Architects website.

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