How to assess the maturity and growth potential of an enterprise cloud

Most enterprise clouds are still relatively young. Even so, these clouds represent critical initiatives that support strategic business goals. I have recently begun to field requests to assess the state of cloud initiatives. Therefore, I created a short assessment, a health check, to determine if a cloud is on track to meet expectations.

The mindset for a cloud health check is different from one used to assess a more mature “legacy” information technology (IT) environment. An assessment of mature IT environment is more of a point-in-time analysis, looking for gaps between the current actual state and current desired state. An assessment of a younger cloud environment is more of a dynamic analysis, looking for gaps between the current actual state and a desired future state. 

This is somewhat like our mindset with our own health checks. As children, we get checkups and our parents will want to make sure that we will, in the future, grow up to have positive attributes like height, strength and intelligence. As adults, we want to check that our health, e.g. measures like cholesterol, is within optimal ranges for our current age.

Some are anxious about getting a cloud health check and want to know what happens beforehand. The assessment begins with questions about history, trends and business drivers. Those are followed by more questions about IT process and workloads, aspects vital to the success of a cloud. Then there are evaluations of various capabilities. The goal is to determine recommendations on infrastructure, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capabilities. An agenda might look like this

Cloud_Health_Check_Agenda_Sample

Sample Agenda for a Cloud Health Check

The objective is to identify gaps between current and desired capabilities. Relevant capabilities for most enterprise clouds fall into three categories: infrastructure, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS). The end result is a set of recommendations on capabilities that may warrant in-depth exploration. Capability maps can be used to highlight opportunity areas. The following diagram shows examples of capability maps. 

Capabilities_Map_1

Sample Capability Maps, Before and After an Assessment

The left side represents a generalized set of capabilities. The right side represents a specific set of capabilities that the assessment process has determined be relevant for a business. Explicit capabilities are represented by the small boxes. The green boxes highlight the capabilities that are recommended for further exploration. To assess maturity, one can employ Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) process improvement techniques to identify, e.g. via color coding the capability maps, the maturity of each capability. For those who crave more specifics, here is an example of an infrastructure capabilities assessment template that I had created.

Infrastructure Capabilities Map

Sample Detailed Infrastructure Capability Map

Beyond just highlighting opportunity areas, a next step is to prioritize based on what is important now versus later. For example, there are some capabilities, like cloud bursting and auto-scaling, which are nice to have but are not urgent. Such priorities would be flushed out in a roadmap analysis.

A cloud health check ultimately has more impact if it identifies capabilities relevant to a specific enterprise. The set of key capabilities that should be assessed depends on business drivers, past IT choices and IT transformation plans. This variation in assessment is similar to variation in our own check ups, where the exams and screenings one needs depends on factors like age, health, family history and lifestyle choices. Strive to get answers the following questions.

  1. Are the current and desired capabilities aligned with business drivers?
  2. Are the as-is and to-be IT environments optimized to support the desired capabilities?
  3. Are IT processes like user on-boarding aligned and optimized for the desired capabilities?
  4. Do the capabilities support organization, governance and service delivery?
  5. Do the desired capabilities support the desired workloads and any standardized platform stacks?
  6. Do the desired capabilities support application release management?
  7. What capabilities are considered important and strategic?

Just as each person is responsible for his or her own health, a business is responsible for its health. Many of us procrastinate from going to the doctor to get check ups even though we know it is good idea. How many businesses have assessed the state of their clouds? Maybe it’s time for a cloud health check.

Disclaimer
The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of my employer.

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