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By Justin Blanchard, Server Mania
Organizations are shaped by the people, equipment, and ideas available to them as much as they are shaped by their intentions and goals. We would all like to think we build organizations that are maximally efficient at achieving our business goals, but in reality we compromise on the perfect organizational structure because we need to take account of who is doing the work and the equipment they have available to them.
Usually, our organizational structures are “good enough,” and even though we recognize their shortcomings, we’re reluctant to push against institutional momentum.
Nowhere is that more true than in corporate IT departments. Traditionally, the job of corporate IT was to ensure that expensive and long-lived infrastructure was able to provide the services the company needed to achieve its core goals. Often, that meant protecting equipment and services from people within the company — limiting access, carefully controlling who could use infrastructure and when, and rationing equipment to ensure new projects don’t negatively impact core functionality.
We’re well into the cloud era, and as has been discussed many times, the assumptions that underlie the organizational precepts of traditional IT departments no longer hold. Infrastructure need not be a substantial capital expense, it need not be long lived, and it need not be carefully rationed. The cloud’s flexibility, elasticity and ephemerality are best suited to a different organizational infrastructure, one that privileges agility and experimentation — the DevOps movement is the most obvious example.
That’s no problem for startups, but it can cause difficulties for established companies. Organizational inertia and instructional knowledge can’t be changed on a whim, but declining to make the necessary change leaves established businesses at the mercy of faster-moving competitors and market disruption.
How do established businesses move to a more suitable organizational structure without causing excessive expense and disruption to existing operations?
1. Put the Cart Before the Horse
Cloud infrastructure can be treated just like physical infrastructure. With appropriate changes, the same basic management processes are applicable — although not optimal. What’s important is that when the opportunity presents itself, cloud infrastructure is chosen in preference to physical infrastructure. As institutional expertise grows with appropriate hiring practices and exposure to new systems and technologies, employees will become familiar with how best to exploit cloud platforms to fulfill their goals.
Regardless of how a company approaches the cloud, they benefit by reducing capital expenditure and accessing managed cloud products that reduce infrastructure lead times.
2. Launch New Projects on Cloud Platforms
Once companies have a basic familiarity with cloud platforms, new projects can make use of cloud infrastructure. The teams working on those projects can be organized to maximize agility, reducing the barriers between development teams and operational teams and facilitating greater experimentation.
3. Migrate Legacy Infrastructure
Once cloud expertise becomes part of a company’s institutional knowledge and the right organizational structures are in place, it’s time to consider migrating existing business-critical operations onto cloud infrastructure. Because the business already has experience with cloud-based projects, the chances of a smooth and cost-effective transition are substantially increased.
In 2017, there’s almost no reason a business should manage physical IT infrastructure unless managing that infrastructure is its business. There’s a tried-and-true route to the cloud. Successful companies with large colocated or in-house infrastructure should consider exploring that route, because startups in their market have no hesitation in taking advantage of the agility and flexibility cloud infrastructure brings.
Justin Blanchard has been responsible for leading initiatives that increase brand visibility, sales growth and B2B community engagement. He has been at the core of developing systems, tools and processes that specifically align with Server Mania's clients' needs.