In my previous post in this blog on the journey to cloud, I looked at how to select a cloud provider. In this latest post, I move to a further critical determinant of effective performance: having the right cloud operating model.

Your cloud operating model should provide to your cloud organisation the appropriate structure, capabilities, processes and governance. And it should interact efficiently with the rest of the enterprise – both with IT and the business.

As with many elements of cloud strategy and transformation, there’s no one-size-fits-all.  Your approach should very much depend on the cloud strategy, guiding principles and provider strategy that you’ve laid out.

The cloud operating model is a large and complex topic, so I won’t try to cover everything in this post. Instead we’ll zero in on some overarching considerations our clients often struggle with and provide some more specific thoughts on organisation and governance requirements.

First, some design considerations for your operating model

  • Degree of centralisation: You need to think through your positioning on the continuum from centralised to decentralised and the level of autonomy afforded to application teams versus central structures. You should also consider how the level of centralisation is expected to change as your use of cloud matures. There’s no right answer here – it really depends on your organisation’s size, complexity, culture and capability.
  • Multi-speed conundrum: Would your cloud organisation interface with other areas of the business that run with slower processes and less agile technology? Perhaps you’ll be building greenfield technology capabilities in a separate part of the organisation – but this is rare. Nearly all our clients face the challenge of implementing the new, shiny and fast cloud organisation with older parts of the enterprise. Don’t underestimate the importance of having well-defined dual/multi-speed operations with clear plans for transitioning between the old and new.
  • Strata¹ pivot: You should effectively need a different operating model for each cloud “stratum” into which you deploy workloads. This consideration depends heavily on your platform strategy and guiding principles, and it’s important to define the capability, processes and tooling considerations across your SaaS, PaaS and IaaS estates.
  • Platform strategy: The choice of a single versus multiple cloud providers has a significant impact on capability requirements and processes. Of course, there might be a lot of overlap across platforms, but there will be platform-specific capabilities, processes and tooling that must be considered within your operating model. All of which needs to be considered in the context of your multi-speed, multi-strata operating model. Who said it would be easy?!

Next, your organisational design, function structure and process considerations

The primary objectives of your cloud organisation should be to build and make cloud services available, provide operational oversight of all cloud services and drive adoption of cloud across the enterprise – all in a fast and secure manner that complies with internal controls and external regulations. Cloud organisations vary, but we typically see three broad functions:

  • Cloud platform service delivery – end-to-end service delivery teams that use Agile and DevOps to build and provide platform services for application teams.
  • Cloud management and operations – responsible for operational oversight including issue and incident management, financial management and estate optimisation.
  • Cloud adoption services – dedicated adoption resources that drive the initial uptake of cloud across your organisation by helping with application dispositioning, solution architecture and the definition of service requirements.

However, just building these new functions and capabilities isn’t enough. You should also evolve the capabilities of your existing organisation. Here are two examples:

  • Enterprise architecture (EA): The role of EA should extend to defining patterns and standards for cloud, supporting with enterprise-level migration planning and providing overall strategic architectural direction.
  • Security: This includes defining standards for cloud security and making sure that adequate security tools are in place for applications, data and infrastructure with the appropriate access control measures.

Last but not least, some thoughts on governance

As your cloud adoption increases and your operating models shifts, so too should the governance model and the approach to managing your cloud estate. The key here is speed.

In order to maximise the value of cloud, and leverage real-time decision making and flexibility for the business, you can’t afford to rely on monthly governance forums to manage your estate (e.g. review cloud costs, effect change, approve new patterns, or update the product roadmap). Instead, you would want to leverage the real-time data you can get on cost, performance, and availability to empower your teams to effectively take decisions within set parameters and interact together on a more frequent basis. New processes and tooling would be needed to do this quickly, and all efforts should be tightly coupled with your software development life cycle and DevOps strategies.

Aim for “good”, not “perfect” – and then evolve

Getting your operating model right is key to an effective cloud transformation – but don’t let “perfect” get in the way of “good”. It’s inevitable your operating model evolves as your organisation matures and becomes more comfortable with cloud. So have the courage and conviction to accelerate cloud, learn by doing, accept the occasional failure and profit from your mistakes. Getting cloud right is key to driving enduring business growth and value at speed and scale across your enterprise.

In the next post, we’ll talk about another important foundational consideration: your cloud platform! Should you have any comments on this blog or want to discuss your journey to cloud with me, please feel free to reach out to me directly. Looking forward to hearing from you.

I also would like to thank my colleagues Orla Baker and Samuel Gunn who have contributed to this blog.


1 “Strata” is our term for Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and everything between

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