Face your cloud fears and get innovating

For every digital transformation success story, there are many that have fallen by the wayside or failed to live up to expectations. While ambitions often start high, passion for projects can dwindle thanks to roadblocks, regulation and mistakes.

Thus, as new cloud initiatives progress, teams can get cold feet. But the wealth of insight, scalability and speed available from this leap of faith is more valuable than organisations could ever imagine. The fear of past failures must be overcome.

Below, you’ll find a selection of digital transformation failures. Fear of replicating them has held business back from positive change. But there are solutions.

Failure #1: When the attempt to innovate is not tied to a business outcome or compelling event, that can instigate action at all levels across the business.

Find your “Why?”. Build a solid business case and a cross functional team of business stakeholders and technologists. Make your business case transparent and inform people of progress frequently, all measured on and driven by achieving the same outcome.

Failure #2: The mandate for change does not exist or nobody is prepared to put themselves on the line.

Don’t bother starting if you don’t have C-Level support, or someone from the business is happy to support you and the team.

Failure #3: Organisations lift and shift all their procedures and controls from the last 50 years into their innovation project. “It’s the way we’ve always done it” is not the right response when innovating.

Don’t fight the processes and controls. Accept that they exist for a good reason and automate your check points and compliance validation, and illustrate this with dashboards and visualisation.

Failure #4: Processes, control boards, review checkpoints and a fear of the unknown suffocates progress.

Apply the third treatment and move your service management experts and compliance experts into your cross-functional teams. Have them consult with your engineering divisions and explore how you can increase the transparency and knowledge of change across your landscape.

Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA, Contino

Failure #5: The aspirational targets and goals are stratospheric and don’t deliver business value quick enough. Nobody will wait two years for their ROI.

Don’t boil the ocean. Make sure your innovation efforts can demonstrate business value within three months. Apply design sprint thinking, cross-functional teams and minimum viable products to test your hypotheses with real customers.

Failure #6: People forget about their customers and focus on technology first. Your customer is not going to care how you configure service mesh. They want beautiful products that are stable, reliable and remove friction from their lives.

Aim to deliver working increments of software to customers in every sprint. Make sure your “show and tells” have real customers in them and use their feedback to inform your next sprint goals.

Yes, technical scalability is also a key requirement but if the initial scale of your customer base doesn’t dictate a multi-cloud strategy, don’t waste time designing or building a complex architecture. Any good architecture must be modular in nature, so that if you do need to move the sink or add on an extension, you can do so with ease.

Failure #7: Organisations fail to acquire the skills and talent to build sustainable solutions in a digital fashion.

Invest in your people’s skills and development. Yes, they might leave. But they also won’t get the job done if they don’t have the right tools to succeed in the first place. Talk openly at industry events about what you’re trying to achieve and the engineering culture you are breeding.

Failure #8: Organisations spin up the innovation project, taking the “organ out of the body” and then try to put it back in at a later date. The body’s tissue rejects the organ because they’ve not been involved in the innovation effort.

If you don’t have to put the organ back into the body, then don’t. Either accept you’re going to have to breakaway different propositions, or work with the mothership and bring them with you on the journey. Just don’t get caught trying to do both. You’ll achieve nothing.

Failure #9: People are not empowered to make decisions as part of the innovation. Experimentation is seen as a sure-fire route to failure and the learnings from the innovation effort are not harvested and reused across the business.

Experimentation and entrepreneurship need to be encouraged and rewarded across the business. Establish environments in the cloud that allow your teams to be creative without breaking compliance. Use cloud-native security patterns and DevSecOps approaches to embed proactive measures at each stage of your software development lifecycle.

If an initiative fails, make sure you harvest all of the IP, make it easily accessible to those across the business and look to identify how components of your approach could be applied to address different business needs. However, experimentation needs to be tied to a business outcome and not just a science project.

Failure #10: The innovation effort is not time boxed and drifts aimlessly, being led by technologists who have no real affinity or alignment with the business.

Break your effort into three-month planning increments, with outcomes and key results (OKRs) clearly defined, captured and agreed with your engineering teams. Don’t dictate these OKRs to them or else you’re destined to fail.

Learn to fail and you won’t fail to learn. Failure is integral to good business. Teams that are able to pick themselves up after a failed cloud transformation, dust themselves off and find out what went wrong will have the confidence to try again until they see results. When aligned with company goals, a culture of experimentation and collaboration is the route to success. When you do fail, make sure you fail fast.

Ultimately, it comes down to belief – in your team, your tools and your ability to learn. The reward? As well as gaining functional, innovative technologies, a successful digital transformation will forge strength within the team that will set it on the road to further success.


Michael Chalmers

MD EMEA, Contino


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