October 27, 2021


Are you trying to introduce new ways of working and deliver new value to your business via cloud while having to cope with legacy technologies (which will potentially be around for years to come)? Are you trying to fit your old ways of working onto your new technologies? These are situations that we typically see, but something must change if organizations are truly going to maximize their investments in IT.

If we take cloud platforms as an example, we see many organizations using public cloud that find difficulty coming to terms with what must change inside their IT department. This can be due to a variety of things such as:

  1. Not having the experience to know how to deliver their vision for the future and what must change for cloud to even be viable
  2. Strong vested interests within the organization that want to keep the status quo
  3. Suffering from over-influence by product vendors — i.e. driving an approach to support a certain vendor rather than the organization itself
  4. People fighting to remain relevant in the cloud world, but in the end creating roles for themselves that may not actually be required

Zooming in further on the last point, we regularly see the classic infrastructure teams, who in many cases are worried about their own survival, creating a ‘gatekeeper’ or ‘control’ layer across cloud service provision. This serves to justify their own existence, but in doing so effectively creates an obstacle and an additional layer of cost which consequently eats away at the agility and innovation benefits that the cloud can bring.

Change is essential!

IT organizations need to cut through these situations and obsessively focus on delivering value from IT to the business.

It is critical to understand how the new ‘cloudy’ world will interact with the existing estate. In most organizations they will be side by side and interconnected for some time to come and the dream of a pure ‘cloud only’ environment will simply be an unachievable Nirvana state.

In our experience Nirvana rarely occurs. If you look at many of the Top FTSE 100 companies, they still have mainframe technologies as part of their IT Service provision. These mainframes have been subject to replacement programs for years and yet they still survive and have yet to be replaced because they continue to serve a useful purpose — proof that this old technology remains a critical element of the overall IT delivery. (That said, the cost of mainframes and the fact that the skilled workforce is depleting are actually now starting to accelerate the move off this technology.) We also need to recognize that today’s latest technology is tomorrow’s legacy — so will Nirvana ever be reached?

But my vendor tells me not to worry about the old, as “cloud Nirvana” is the answer. So why do they say this?

It is very easy to sell a vision which seems clean and simple, but which ignores the inconvenient complexity of the actual as-is situation.

Also, many of the cloud providers do not want to sell you “the journey,” but instead focus only on the destination. Why? The journey may be full of pitfalls and potential issues and they may not have the skills to take you on that journey. If the journey is difficult and uncomfortable (and often costly) it tarnishes the beauty of the end state.

Do we have alternatives to cloud Nirvana?

The alternative is hybrid IT — the pragmatic acceptance that both old and new worlds will need to coexist. They may not be managed in the same way, but they do need to be part of a well-orchestrated and maintained whole.

In many cases, IT organizations are running hybrid IT today, admittedly often by default rather than by design. But despite the lack of design, they survive and keep the lights on.

However, this is often inefficient with significant cost implications. We also see that in situations like this the opportunity for things to go spectacularly wrong exists, and this is why risk mitigation is often driving change in these organizations.

Start again?

So, is it worth starting from scratch with a new design, tearing everything apart and reassembling it? Probably not — it is unlikely the business case will stack up and the risks associated would be far too great.

Just live with it?

Well, that is an option but not one we would recommend and almost certainly something your organization will not support.

In many cases there are opportunities to take new operating practices and approaches from the latest cloud/agile world and apply them to the legacy world. Also, the opportunities to automate things that could not be automated in the past now exist. So, we can strive for a much more integrated hybrid world.

Take an agile approach to your value realization

Instead of focusing on wholesale changes, we recommend you focus on delivering incremental value changes to your organization. If that results in technology, operating model or process amendments, so be it (and don’t shy away from it). In fact, anchoring the change into your ways of working is really a great idea. But be obsessed about delivering value rather than achieving a Nirvana state.

About the author

About the author

Tony Price has built a reputation over 3 decades in Information Technology as a true thought leader in the areas of IT Transformation, IT Operating Models, IT Service Management, IT Architectural transformation and IT Organizational Change Management (OCM). He has attained this recognition through delivery, results and value from the multiple IT transformations he has delivered with clients all over the globe.