As more an observer of the technology industry these days, something struck a chord with me as I listened to a recent podcast recording. Paul Stringfellow hosts a weekly podcast called Tech Interviews. In Episode 77, he spoke to Matt Watts from NetApp on “cloud first” as a strategy. The TL;DR of the discussion is effectively that businesses shouldn’t focus on cloud as a strategy, but rather part of an overall technology direction. Choosing cloud first, Matt points out, is a mandate, not a strategic decision. I couldn’t agree more.
People (me included, I am a people) love shiny. Shiny objects attract attention and most people love to play with new tech. Let’s face it, there are entire series of unboxing videos on YouTube. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – after all, inquisitiveness is human nature. It’s definitely a good thing to want to understand and learn new technology. However, just because something new comes along, doesn’t mean it has to be shoehorned into everything we do. Instead, it should be about requirements.
How else can we sum up requirements? Perhaps in IT it’s a focus on what I need, rather than what I want. It’s fair to say I want the latest iPhone or MacBook. But do I actually need it? Will having those high-end laser-carved artefacts from the cult of Apple really change my day job? Almost certainly not.
The same applies when looking at technologies like public cloud. If my business strategy is to reduce costs and be more agile, public cloud may be well suited to that, assuming I know how to use it correctly. But without having a clear set of requirements, it’s impossible to both judge what is the right technology to use and to measure how it improves my business agility or costs.
Another mistake I see being made time and time again is the assumption that moving IT elsewhere (e.g. outsourcing or to public cloud) will somehow resolve operational inefficiencies and poor process. I’ve been involved in and indirectly “outsourced” myself and all experiences of the process have been negative. On those occasions, I was an independent consultant and that allowed me to be relatively impartial. Outsourcing was assumed to sort out cultural issues, operational inefficiency and bad practice, but it rarely does.
The Architect’s View™
It’s incumbent on technologists to know what current technology trends are and to be able to balance up the benefits of new solutions like public cloud. But if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Focus on requirements first and you can’t go far wrong.
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