Stretching the Olympic theme of my previous blog, where I used the analogy of a 100m sprinter and his backup team to introduce the new Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud Deployment Services, I’d like to now discuss how to roll out new cloud projects in the data center. Thinking again about a team of Olympic champions – and the Team GB (Great Britain) cycling team, illustrate this principle so well – with their fabulous winning streak, not least the incredibly exciting keirin event win by my countryman Sir Chris Hoy (yes, fellow Scot, however that’s where the association ends ). Such teams don’t often win with a “big bang” all-at-once, approach. Their training and successes usually builds incrementally, over several years and phases.
In the case of Team GB Cycling, they have developed from practically “also rans” in 1998 to consistent world beaters in Beijing 2008 and now London 2012. They have improved incrementally, event by event, year by year, demonstrating incremental successes as they went along, to be world beaters. In essence, they have used an approach we in Cisco sometimes call “Crawl, Walk, Run”, illustrating the progress to success. From my experience over the past 25 years in IT, there are big lessons here for IT project delivery. Let’s use a Cloud Automation project as an example.
Prior to joining Cisco Services, I worked in software product development. I’ve worked in a number of organizations over the years and I’ve seen my fair share of “grand visions” – projects that map out the path to huge success in all-too-often a big bang approach, with huge goals – and long, often multi-year, time-frames. On occassion, they were successful. More often, they never achieved their potential. Sometimes they ended up as killed projects. I’ve even – being honest – helped map a few of these out myself. Many of you may share this kind of experience. On reflection, we could have been more successful, more quickly, by adopting an incremental approach to project delivery (and in fact the software community has widely recognized this via Agile Software Development methodologies). Here I will assert that this approach can also apply to data center projects, and cloud automation solution delivery in particular.
A cloud architecture has multiple facets and requirements, a key part of which is the need for cloud orchestration and provisioning, coupled with a self-service end user portal. Let’s call this “Cloud Automation” for now. If you are designing and/or building a cloud, then, part of your work will be to deliver a cloud automation solution to deliver on that promise. How do you plan to go about that? One approach is to define your extensive list of requirements, based upon your business needs and current capabilities, and go about building out that solution.
Another approach is what I’ll call “Crawl Walk Run”. The incremental approach.
In the Crawl Walk Run approach, you plan up-front to deliver your project in stages:
Stage 1: Crawl: Get something up and running in your data center environment. Show something working. “Prove to your advocates and naysayers that this isn’t a science project”, as the eWeek article featuring my Cisco colleague Wayne Green, advocates. Set a clear expectation: this is a pilot (effectively a quick “experiment”), a learning exercise, so that you don’t over-set. Sure, you may be able to deploy the outcome of the pilot right into production, however my advice would be to use your speed of delivery to convince your stakeholders to delay a decision until you have declared pilot success. Then use the concrete experience to figure out, not so much a laundry list of requirements, but as the means to identify the business problems you need to solve first. Use this first stage tpo define a reasonable phase 2 set of requirements that you know you can deliver on and will be appreciated by your stakeholders. More importantly, declare an early success. Show your management chain that you can deliver, sooner rather than later. In weeks (and I’ll show you how below). How many data center software projects have you been on where you can declare your first success with a working system in weeks?
Stage 2: Walk: Identify priority requirements that you need to meet your minimum business requirements. Deploy. Declare more success. Again sooner rather than later.
Stage 3: Run: Now you have a track record. Now focus on the vision, and map our a longer term roadmap to your ideal solution. Don’t forget you have early successes, you have learned from these and identified key priorities from your business stakeholders, based upon a working solution rather than a paper-based requirements capture exercise (which let’s be honest, often turns out to be quite a wish list, with no clear phasing and prioritization). So now you have more credibility, perhaps more time, and definitely more experience, to get to that final vision. And your probability of success has increased immensely.
How then can you achieve the first results, a working system, in weeks? This is where our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud Deployment Services come in, illustrated below. We’ve designed these services to map you into “Crawl, Walk, Run”.
Stage 1: STANDARD: Using a proven methodology and experienced cloud autoamtion consultants, we’ll get you up and running ASAP with Starter Edition. This gives you out of the box cloud IaaS capabilities, that our solutions consultants will align to your environment. Outcome? A working deployment. In weeks. Sure, it doesn’t have all the whistles and bells, but you clearly set out a roadmap of expectations at the very start, so your management team knows to expect a phase 2. And now that you’ve delivered phase 1 in weeks, buy-in to start phase 2 should be a lot easier. And you never know, while others have been talking, you may have delivered sufficient cloud automation functionality to meet your immediate business needs. With a working pilot, you can prove this. And you may make the call to head straight into production, based upon this proven, demonstrated success.
Stage 2: ENHANCED: We can then further develop this solution with some of the most commonly requested enhancements. Further alignment to your vision is delivered. A working solution. You can declare more success!
Stage 3: CUSTOM: Finally, as another project phase, we can help you customize and extend this solution, specific to your individual business needs. This is the most time consuming phase, however by delivering on stages 1 and 2 via “quick wins”, you will have built up executive support to keep investing. And you will have multiple successes under your belt.
Of course, I’m not advocating “Crawl Walk Run” for all projects. Sometimes, especially where you are faced with very unique advanced and extensive requirements, you may have to start with what we’d call a “Custom” design and deployment exercise. However, referring again to my Olympic cycling analogy above, in many data center and cloud projects, engaging Cisco Services to help you on the “Crawl Walk Run” journey will deliver success far more quickly. Most organizations can’t wait for multi-year visions – they need progress and results sooner. What about yours? Can you wait? Or should you reach out to Cisco Services? – for us to work together to help accelerate your cloud automation project delivery – let’s “Crawl, Walk and Run” together towards success!