In our last post we discussed the merits of Business process simplification (Link: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6690393706186465280). We left the technology and product fit out of that discussion which we cover in this post. Remember that the pre-requisite for a higher probability and higher degree of success is with Business Process Simplification. That is the first step. Finding the right technology and product fit is always treated as a complex puzzle and undergoes a long evaluation process. When it is all said and done, the outcome is mixed, more likely an acceptable to moderately successful. Psychology plays a big part in this evaluation. Leaders preach “Out of the Box Thinking” and yet do not necessarily practice it when finding the right product and technology fit.
There are a few factors that the companies should be looking at when evaluating technology or product fit for their business processes. However, analysis of every factor should keep the focus on two aspects
- How does it impact your Time to Market (TTM)
- How does it impact your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?
Some of the important factors to consider are:
1. Cloud & cloud architecture
The pressure to move to the cloud is real. For few, they are already there, for some more they are in the process of getting there and for most others the realization may take some time. However, the pressure is real. Discounting all the obvious advantages in a Cloud solution Vs an on-premise solution, the pressure:
- will first come in the form of competition where constant push to reduce the Capital and Operational Expenses will drive the Operating margins of many companies
- the competition will also push companies to compete, match and excel in delivering the new capabilities faster to market.
- Lastly, the pressures will be from the internal structure – the Board of Directors, the C-level executives will have to respond favorably to the external pressures and competition.
If all this is not yet clear, just look at the big-name companies and their products and the pressure they feel to move to the cloud. Once the decision to move to the cloud is reached, the next big decision is to develop/select a product (homegrown or 3rd party) that is “architected” for the cloud. There is a huge difference between ‘Architected for Cloud’ Vs. ‘Moving to Cloud’. Some of the on-premise products are moving to the cloud. However, at best, most of them can achieve is a ‘Lift & Shift’ where the on-premise application is deployed in the cloud but cannot provide the true benefits that the cloud architecture can provide.
If you are moving to the cloud for only to save on the Data Center cost and management, saving time in procurement of additional hardware and certification, read no further. It will give you significant savings but may not prepare you well for tomorrow.
There are many aspects of the cloud architecture and there are volumes of books and content written. However, for the technology and product fit evaluation, the most important aspects are:
- Micro services Architecture – the Cloud architecture must be a complete Micro services architecture, that can scale flexibly per the demand and load on the system
- Decoupling – The independent micro-services need to be designed, developed, and deployed for their intended purpose only and with that achieve a significant level of decoupling. This will ensure that not only the size of your micro services is optimal, but they independently scale per the demand.
- Scalability – The positive outcome of the Decoupled micro-services architecture is in achieving horizontal and vertical scalability – complete flexibility in scaling up and down per the load during the day or during the month.
These 3 factors along with the choice of technology make up a large part of the difference between products that are “Architected for the Cloud” Vs. “Moving to the Cloud”. For applications that are “Moving to the Cloud”, either the redundant images are deployed as different micro-services or does not provide the level of decoupling of the micro services. As a result, it does not scale optimally and gives you diminishing returns as you increase your pods/containers for the independent micro-services.
Lastly there is so much more that is required for being truly cloud architected application.
- Cloud vendor – Flexibility with the choice of cloud vendor.
- Cloud region – Flexibility with the region to deploy to. With most governments understanding the fact that the biggest asset in today’s world is ‘Data’, almost all of them want the data to be local.
- Type of Cloud – Choice of Private Cloud, Public Cloud, or some sort of a Hybrid.
- Cloud Tenancy – Choice of Multi Tenancy or Single Tenant deployment.
- HA and Redundancy – Choice of Multi region deployment for larger enterprises.
2. Choice of right technology
The technology landscape is changing at an unimaginable pace. Companies are growing at a faster rate through merger and acquisitions. Large number of companies are going through digital transformation and the need for digital transformation is growing at an even faster pace. Today new age technologies make a world of difference with respect to faster ‘Time to Market’ and with that reducing ‘Operational Budget’. Look at the new age technology companies and the speed at which they are bringing out newer and value-added products to the market. Much of that can be attributed to the right choice of technology. Many of the large enterprises or big-name products are still on old technologies and have not necessarily got on to the technology-revolution train. There is a world of difference between old-technology and old-technology based products Vs. newer technology and newer technology-based products. Some of the obvious advantages of new technologies are:
- Much smaller S/w assets to develop, integrate, certify, operate, upgrade, and maintain
- Significantly faster development or onboarding life cycle
- Much simpler and easier to operate, thus requiring smaller operational teams and smaller operational budgets
- Greater exposure to broad and growing eco-system around the newer technologies
- Keeps you current with new feature sets, newer technology up-keep.
- And many more….
Picking the right technology or selecting a product on the right technology is one of the most important aspect now and more so going forward. This can make the world of difference for organizations to be truly “Agile” – and I do not mean the methodology here. Organizations can be Agile in the true sense – delivering value-added and revenue-growth products and capabilities faster, responding to competition faster. So focus on understanding what technology is your homegrown product or the 3rd party product based on and how has that evolved over the last 1-2 or decades.
3. Flexible integration framework
For long running projects, that require many applications, integration cost is a serious drawback that increases the TTM for launching new capabilities and increases the overall TCO. When evaluating 3rd party products, this is the most overlooked aspect and often ends up being a very painful experience. 3rd party products that do not have a flexible, easily configurable, easily manageable integration framework are prone to higher density of tickets that range from software quality, operational management, reconciliation & recovery, etc. Products with poor integration framework are less amenable to changes and often require larger effort than the change itself. Here, if you have been evaluating a few products, you should make sure to score those products on Integration framework capabilities. We understand this aspect well as it is bread and butter for lot of SI work – long running project cycles.
4. Neutral review and feedback
Here we assume that moving to the cloud is a given. Now, consider a company X which offers a product Y. Company X is also a Cloud vendor. How do other cloud vendors rate and review product X? For this factor, companies should try to get unbiased review and feedback from neutral cloud vendors. For a lot of big name products from the erstwhile On-premise solutions that have now moved to the cloud or have a cloud offering of some sort, you will be surprised to hear the unbiased feedback from the big name cloud vendors like Amazon, Google, etc. This feedback will be in the form of issues faced, Security compliance, Scalability, Failover and Redundancy, Product Release Upgrades and deployments issues, and certifications.
In today’s day and age, this is especially important and will highlight the difference between a product that is ‘Architected and Designed for the Cloud’ Vs. ‘Moving to the Cloud’ in some sort of a Lift and Shift model. This is also true for your homegrown IT products that are moving to the cloud.
Companies are spending millions and millions of dollars in the pressure to move to the cloud and then they need the right 3rd party products to complement their content delivery or services delivery. Before spending a huge amount of capital, you may want to pause and re-think, re-align your technology stack and overall architecture. It can be a very tedious task for large enterprises. However, it may be the best thing for the future of your company. Taking your current technology stack and current architecture to the cloud may be a relatively easier task but may not be the right one. Remember, you need to be prepared for disruptions. Additionally, for 3rd party products try to get a neutral cloud-vendor review from more than one source. At the minimum, you would know what you are doing right and what you may have to keep in mind and invest significantly more later. At the best, you do course correction and try to be on the path that will be “more right in many ways” than not.