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Necessary Conversations: Five Steps to a Perfect Cloud

A perfect cloud begins with an open dialogue among the stakeholders

Cloud has arrived. Everyone in the business, from the CEO to the customer relations manager, wants in on a computing model that promises to lower costs while delivering better service and greater efficiency. The business finally sees the potential of IT to add value, yet such high expectations don't come without risks for failure.

How can you increase the odds of success? By building a firm foundation based on clear communication with the business about their requirements. These conversations should be specific, detailed and, most important, collaborative. The following five steps outline a requirements-gathering process that brings the business and IT together.

Step 1: Identify Your Users.
To create exceptional cloud services, you need to understand who's going to be using them. How technical are your users? How comfortable are they with self-service? How many users are there? How do they ask questions, provide feedback, or request support?

Ask not only who will use the cloud now, but also who might be using it in two years. Identify the groups - and types of users - up front, so you can architect a cloud that can ultimately be rolled out to meet the broad needs of your organization.

Step 2: Identify the Services Your Users Want and Need.
Ask your users for specific use cases that clearly demonstrate what they're hoping to get from cloud services. This can be both a wish list (the wants) and a requirements doc (the needs). Once defined, these wants and needs become your value proposition: what you're selling to the business.

For example, the early users - the developers - may need development environments geared to their specific coding languages and testing environments for scalability or user-acceptance. Business users will have similar permutations: different sizes of content repositories with varying degrees of security or compliance, monitoring for key applications to ensure performance, or extra middleware or applications installed for demo environments. All of these options can be built into your service catalog to ensure that each user can be given the cloud service that meets his or her specific needs.

Step 3: Determine How Your Users Want the Cloud to Work.
Ask your users what features they would like to see, what service levels they expect, and how the service(s) should look, feel, and act. Ask for examples, definitions, and numbers. How fast is fast? What do you mean by sleek, or simple, or sexy? What other applications are "easy to use," and why?

Step 4: Define Your Parameters?
To provide the best possible service, you need to know your constraints. Number one, of course, is budget. What can you spend up front and on an ongoing basis? Where is the money coming from, and is it going to dry up? Other constraints include the following:

  • Timeline. When do you need these services to go live? Is a phased approach an option, or do you need to go all out initially?
  • Geography. Does your global company have cloud requirements in multiple countries, or can all cloud services be centralized?
  • Legal requirements. Do data location laws govern the placement of your services, driving different geographical locations or compliance and security requirements?

Step 5: Define Success and How It Will Be Measured
Determine what a win means to the business so that you are targeting the same goals. What are their success metrics? They may be hard metrics, such as cost reduction and service level achievement, or soft metrics, such as user satisfaction and productivity. Either way, you need to know their thresholds and objectives in order to meet - and exceed - them.

A perfect cloud begins with an open dialogue among the stakeholders, one that builds trust, and understanding, and shared knowledge. Working closely with the business to uncover, outline, and shape their requirements will put you well on your way to cloud success.

More Stories By Lilac Schoenbeck

Lilac Schoenbeck is Director of Cloud Computing Marketing at BMC Software. She has more than 12 years of experience with product marketing, strategy, business development, and software engineering in the grid, virtualization, and cloud domains. Schoenbeck has worked for IBM, Fortisphere, Innosight, and the Globus Alliance, and she holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management and a computer science degree from Pacific Lutheran University.

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Lori MacVittie is a subject matter expert on emerging technology responsible for outbound evangelism across F5's entire product suite. MacVittie has extensive development and technical architecture experience in both high-tech and enterprise organizations, in addition to network and systems administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning technology editor at Network Computing Magazine where she evaluated and tested application-focused technologies including app security and encryption-related solutions. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University, and is an O'Reilly author.
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