Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cloud computing's culture of discipline

Enterprise architects have led the way to successful business transformations. That was one of the key points delivered by MIT's Jeanne Ross in an interview she did with my one-time analyst colleague, Dana Gardner. Ross is the Director and Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Information Systems Research where she "studies how firms develop competitive advantage through the implementation and reuse of digitized platforms." The interview is excerpted in Gardner's ZDNet blog, which also links to the full podcast and transcript.
What particularly struck me about the interview is that, although the "cloud" word was essentially nowhere to be found, a great deal of Ross' points echoed best practices that I'm seeing coming out of the first wave of private cloud deployments.
...the thing we’re learning about enterprise architecture is that there’s a cultural shift that takes place in an organization, when it commits to doing business in a new way, and that cultural shift starts with abandoning a culture of heroes and accepting a culture of discipline.
Nobody wants to get rid of the heroes in their company. Heroes are people who see a problem and solve it. But we do want to get past heroes sub-optimizing. What companies traditionally did before they started thinking about what architecture would mean, is they relied on individuals to do what seemed best and that clearly can sub-optimize in an environment that increasingly is global and requires things like a single face to the customer.
What we’re trying to do is adopt a culture of discipline, where there are certain things that people throughout an enterprise understand are the way things need to be done, so that we actually can operate as an enterprise, not as individuals all trying to do the best thing based on our own experience.
This philosophy is very much in line with the idea that a cloud moves beyond virtualization by shifting to a services-centric approach. This means offering a standardized catalog of services to users and controlling access to and deployment of those services through policy. In other words, it's about granting access to IT services within a framework of established, consistent policies. A "culture of discipline," if you would, rather than an ad hoc "culture of heroes." (I discuss more details of this shift in this CNET Blog Network post.)
What's worth noting about this culture of cloud computing in the context of cloud computing though is that it can really streamline the access to IT resources rather than the other way around. Yes, there are consistent controls and policies in place, but self-service access within that framework makes for more agility not less.
A discipline of culture doesn't need to mean a culture of "No." In fact, it can make saying "Yes" easier and faster.
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