Oliver Harasaki

Hybrid IT fuels digital transformation

Over the past several years, cloud services have become an integral part of enterprise IT. As a result, organizations now expect more flexibility and speed when implementing their business models for digital transformation. Cloud services offer the scalability and cost-efficiency needed to keep down the costs of initial investments as organizations move to digital models.

Yet many leaders ask if the benefits of cloud can be achieved by the technical migration from existing IT models alone?

Based on my experience, the answer is no. The efficient use of cloud services—especially as part of a hybrid IT strategy using a mix of traditional IT and cloud environments—requires a reorganization of the IT organization. In particular, the IT organization must be more integrated with the business units it serves to deliver new business requirements faster and with more flexibly.

This means the IT organization must transform into an entity that is fully aligned with the business requirements of the digital world. Such a transformation requires revamping established processes, roles, tools, competencies, concepts and culture in the existing organization. The transition projects required to achieve this transformation can represent too great a risk for many decision-makers.

As a result, many organizations choose the model of a "bimodal" IT organization. However, having two separate IT organizations at two speeds is costly and diminishes the returns achieved by cloud services. This is because there is little resource or capacity sharing between the two distinct and self-sufficient IT organizations. In addition, the separation between "slow and fast" leads to different structures, processes, technologies, methods and cultures, for which employees must be trained differently. Therefore, a rapid exchange of resources and know-how among the organizational units is nearly impossible.

Another approach is to establish a multimodal IT organization based on a DevOps philosophy spanning the entire enterprise. The result is a dynamic environment that supports different business unit requirements for flexibility and speed based on their underlying application landscape.

Does the current trend toward a hybrid IT strategy with a bimodal IT organization make sense in the short term?

Yes, this can make sense if the target architecture and implementation plan are defined in the IT strategy and tightly coordinated with business units at an early stage. The roadmap to cloud services depends very much on the organization’s situation, including conditions such as data protection, maturity of the IT organization, and the cloud portability of existing applications.

As a matter of principle, a transition from horizontal and vertical IT services into a cloud environment should not be started at the same time. The simpler approach is to start with a transition from horizontal infrastructure services (IaaS) to a cloud provider. For the most part, this only affects the IT organization and can be implemented by adapting existing IT operations and supporting the technical migration of applications into the cloud infrastructure.

Creating a high-cost bimodal IT organization is not necessary at the beginning of the cloud strategy roadmap. However, if a disruptive business model requires rapid innovation of applications, a transformation project is needed to establish an "agile" organizational unit with new processes, roles, methods and a working culture. In this case, developing a bimodal IT organization can be achieved by establishing "innovation labs" at the beginning of the transformation process and by introducing the DevOps approach. In these labs, and using the DevOps philosophy, employees from the various IT organizations and business units work together to create new agile methods in smaller teams, while being self-sufficient in developing applications to accelerate digital transformation. The teams do not replace the existing IT organization, but supplement it in a first phase.

What changes are needed for managing a hybrid IT strategy?

Cloud or hybrid cloud architectures should no longer be a stand-alone solution, but rather an integral part of an agile IT organization. The typical organizational separation of "plan, build and run" with different processes must be addressed. As a result, transformation of IT will be a crucial management task in the coming years.

It is important that this be planned as a transformation of the IT organization rather than a migration from a stand-alone technology to cloud technology. Without a sustainable transformation of the IT organization, a digital transformation of the enterprise will not be possible.

Read more about agile infrastructure as a prerequisite to digital transformation in my colleague Rahul Ghodke’s blog.

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