Build a Firm Foundation with a Cloud Architect

June 22, 2017

Contributor: Christy Pettey

The cloud architect is paramount to the eventual success of cloud adoption.

Cloud computing shows no signs of slowing down. Spending on public cloud services is growing more than five times faster than growth in IT spending across all categories, and the complexities of cloud adoption will continue to challenge organizations from successfully adopting cloud computing.

“The implementation of cloud computing is multidimensional and must be run as a multi-year program, rather than a fixed-duration project,” says Kyle Hilgendorf, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “These impacts are far from trivial, and reliable, scalable solutions do not result from ad hoc, simple projects .The complexity of cloud adoption requires a strong architectural leader that will take executive vision and oversee the entire cloud adoption process.”

“ When an IT initiative shows indications of being challenging, but displays no signs of slowing down, it is time to allocate people to the initiative.”

Most organization are likely already leveraging cloud computing in some fashion, but the technical architects may not feel ready for the adoption that is occurring. This lack of preparedness often arises from organizations beginning their cloud adoption through ad hoc processes that inevitably lead to issues, frustrations, duplicate work cycles, general inefficiencies or inappropriate use that puts the company at risk. The first step to remedy the issues that stem from ad hoc adoption is to place an architect in charge of the cloud program.

A cloud architect is responsible for the entirety of cloud computing initiatives within an organization and for directing the architectural aspects of a cloud brokering team across all aspects of IT and the business. They must not only evangelize, strategize and delegate, he or she must also architect, design, facilitate, lead and direct cloud initiatives on multiple fronts.

The responsibilities of the cloud architect will necessarily be very fluid day to day and over time will vary from organization to organization. As the cloud computing market matures and the organization improves its cloud adoption, the cloud architect will also need to evolve to support the tasks and projects in front of them.

However, three main responsibilities currently sit squarely on the shoulders of the cloud architect:

1. Lead Cultural Change for Cloud Adoption

Successful organizations develop a "cloud-first" strategy. However, no matter how sound a strategy may be, if the culture of the organization does not buy into it, the organization will accomplish nothing. The cloud architect must inspire a new culture and influence a change in behavior toward the adoption and consumption of cloud services. This changed behavior will lead to a culture of embracing cloud services as the primary, prioritized and promoted approach.

2. Develop and Coordinate Cloud Architecture

The second priority for the cloud architect is to develop and coordinate cloud architecture across a variety of disparate areas within the organization from application development to user experience. A focused cloud architect must closely coordinate the architecture changes to all of these areas. This does not mean that the cloud architect dictates or implements all such changes, but they must build relationships with the functional architects in each area to influence each toward the changes necessary

3. Develop a Cloud Strategy and Coordinate Adoption

A cloud-first strategy does not mean "cloud-always." The cloud architect will therefore be responsible for clearly articulating to the organization those scenarios for which cloud services may not fit. The way in which the cloud architect will do this is by creating a cloud adoption process to coordinate and align adoption.

“When an IT initiative shows indications of being challenging, but displays no signs of slowing down, it is time to allocate people to the initiative, and the role of cloud architect is the cornerstone to cloud computing success,” said Hilgendorf. “Time is of the essence as it is often much easier to architect for complex IT initiatives in the early days rather than down the line, when many existing or in-flight projects already exist.”  

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