/  Craig Slack

What is Cloud Governance & How it Relates to a Road Trip in the Scottish Highlands

First: Why Care About Cloud Governance

Is governance one of those words that makes you outright cringe when you hear it? Or maybe you’re an accountant and just a whisper of the word gets you excited. Cloud governance is a much newer concept and a different beast.

For full transparency, I am definitely not in the latter category. Governance doesn’t really bring exciting thoughts to my mind. In the world of IT, though, it has become a necessary evil for many companies and for various different reasons, such as:

  • Strict governance because they are in a regulated industry
  • Public companies that have an obligation to shareholders
  • A boss who is an accountant and loves governance

However, even if you don’t land in one of these categories, I guarantee that adding cloud governance will be good for your business. Instead, it can be viewed as a good practice to achieve the highest return on your investment in technology. It can even be used to gain a competitive advantage for your business.

As uninteresting or exciting as the topic of governance can be, my goal in this post is to share with you why every company needs to implement a cloud governance strategy. It is important no matter where you are at on your cloud journey or digital transformation.

I have been working with public cloud technologies since the cloud was young (in 2010). Since then, I have seen the maturing of cloud offerings from simply running virtual machines (VMs) on infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to a crazy number of highly scalable and easy to use platform as a service (PaaS) offerings.

Don’t Just Jump

The amount of cloud technologies that you can tap into today is constantly evolving. There is no end of “cool things” that you can do with Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). It’s so cool, in fact, that we see many IT organizations jump in with both feet and no plan.

They just start consuming. And that is a problem.

Fast forward six to twelve months and senior management is jumping in to what used to be the realm of IT. Why? Because they get a monthly bill … and it keeps going up!

When management sees monthly bills getting bigger, they take notice. This is especially true when they don’t see direct value, such as a reduction in spend elsewhere in the IT organization. Many companies then jump to the conclusion that moving to the cloud is not worth it and that it costs more, rather than less. In almost all cases something is either being done wrong or communicated wrong. The implementation of a cloud governance strategy will help ensure they are looking at the numbers through the right lens.

The cloud is not about doing things more cheaply, although there are many cost effective solutions that the public cloud does bring which can lead to cost reductions (if done right). Instead, what I say to Invero clients all the time is that you will get much greater value out of your dollars when you spend them in the cloud.

That is a fact.

You might ask why I’m telling you all of this? Well, it is to paint the picture that if you jump in without a plan, you are likely in for a world of hurt. Or at least some serious conversations with your boss down the road.

My Story in the Scottish Highlands

It’s not only about the whiskey

I would like to use an analogy (and tell a story) to help describe what I mean. When you go on a road-trip do you just put the keys in the ignition and start driving?

The answer is usually no

  1. You have a plan of where you are going to go – your goal
  2. You know your mode of transportation – car, plane, boat, skateboard, pogo stick
  3. You know how you are going to get there – the path
  4. You know what you’re going to do along the way – milestones
  5. You have a budge.
  6. You know where you’re going to stay

Granted, some of the best road-trips can be had without knowing where you will end up. You figure it out as you go and make decisions along the way. If you’ve ever done this though, take a moment to think of how those trips went for you and what happened (both good and bad). It’s okay to be “agile” on a trip or with cloud governance, but sometimes even the minimal planning will make a world of difference.

My Story With Minimal Governance

I had an amazing road-trip in Scotland with my wife and one of my step daughters. We had a week to ourselves after an Irish dancing competition in Glasgow and decided to rent a car and just drive through the Scottish Highlands. Our goal was to see as much of the countryside as we could in a short period of time.

We had a few places (and distilleries) that we knew we (I) wanted to go to, so some milestones. We also had our transportation taken care of. How we were going to get there, though, was entirely unknown. We didn’t have any accommodations booked for anywhere except our last night, which was the hotel at the airport. Sounds exciting, right? It was, but it wasn’t without its lessons that we learned and some of those lessons were completely avoidable and cost us a lot more than they should have.

The first day we set out and didn’t know how far we would get, but we got up early in the morning and just started driving north from Glasgow. We had a great day driving and seeing the Scottish country, it was beautiful. Then around dinner time we went through what looked like a nice town, but thought we had another 15-30 minutes in us before we were ready to hunker down for the night. We decided to see what the next town had for us. We were being free spirited and “agile” with our traveling, nobody was going to tell us what to do.

Well, that was our first mistake because what we didn’t know was that just around the corner was the Cairngorms National Park and lots of hilly climbing and winding roads. Not to mention, no towns to speak of that would have accommodation for us. We ultimately didn’t find a town until around 8pm, in the pitch dark, pulling into a very small town and crossing our fingers that there was room at the inn. We walked in, and the innkeepers looked at us like we were crazy not having a reservation, but they said they only had one room left and wouldn’t you know it had 3 beds!

A Great Experience Will be Better with the Right Planning

Phew, disaster averted, right? It all worked out perfectly. Chalk it up to experience, and did we learn something? Maybe, but we didn’t apply what we learned, instead we continued on the trip and repeated the same story in almost every place we went to. In one town, we had to go to half a dozen hotels to find a room because the whole town was full up (that stressed me out wondering where we would sleep that night). In that case, the only room available was a huge suite that cost us almost $1,000 for the one night! In another town, the only options were bed and breakfasts and their rooms only had one bed, so we had to take two rooms. These turned out to be costly mistakes, but we look back on it now as a fun “experience” that we had and we can laugh about it in retrospect.

Now, Tying it Back to Governance.

Does this sound like the way you would want to run your IT organization? Probably not, right? Then don’t be like most of your peers making the same mistake in terms of your approach to your cloud journey. Most businesses that we see doing this figure that they have very smart people working for them and they can figure it out because it’s just technology, right?

Right, BUT unlike new technology that has come along in the past, this time around small mistakes can have big impacts in terms of costs, security, sprawl and ultimately trying to manage it all.

The cloud requires a whole new way of thinking and looking at your IT investments.

  • IT truly is a paradigm shift for IT that requires different skillsets, tools and processes.
    • Just as when I had to pay $1,000 a night for a hotel suite when we just need a bed for a few hours, you might make some mistakes that cost you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. That mistake that I made could have been avoided with some pre-planning and booking a hotel ahead of time. Similarly, approaching your cloud journey with a plan can avoid a lot of pitfalls and ultimately save you from making those costly mistakes.
  • Cloud Governance is not just about managing your cloud spend. There are many other considerations, such as:
  1. naming conventions
  2. security
  3. optimization of workloads … and more

I hope with this post has given you some food for thought in terms of why cloud governance is important. In an upcoming blog post, I will delve into the specifics further to provide you with some insights into what sort of things you should put in place to avoid the common pitfalls.