The Cloud is Faster Because it is More IterativeAlex Fields
It is perhaps no surprise that many organizations have been adopting cloud and mobility the way they would have adopted a new server upgrade in the past, but that’s not quite right. We have been trained to take changes in larger leaps and bounds, and less often.
In the cloud, there cloud be several new features being released into any given service on any given day. Sadly however, adoption of these services is still happening at a rate commensurate with the olden days of on-premises server upgrades that would come around only every 3-5 years. But contrary to popular belief (and practice), you do not pick up your apps & data, set them all down in this new cloudy environment, and then forget about the whole thing for the next few years until the next big upgrade comes around.
Instead, we have to learn that the way forward is adopting new changes that are each smaller in scale on their own, but we should expect that they will happen with much more frequency. One clue that we’re headed in this direction is that Windows 10 works much in the same way by default–there will no longer be major releases every few years, instead all updates will be delivered over the Windows Update service in a series of “branches.” The most an admin can do is adjust which branch they participate in (i.e. they can delay non-critical updates for a period of time).
Rome wasn’t built in a day
We need to make this same adjustment to our thinking about all of our IT systems. When we do, we realize that far from killing off the IT department, the cloud is going to put us all to work more than ever before. I’ll give you another practical, real-world example.
Let’s say you start your move to the cloud like many organizations do: a migration from Exchange on-premises to Office 365. To most people, the differences will seem negligible at first–for the most part, it feels like the same old Microsoft Exchange. Actually, it probably has a lot more capabilities than you were aware–compared to what you had on-premises. But you might be nervous or feel that it’s “too much” to implement all the extras (or even any of them) at the same time as your initial upgrade. Perhaps.
But guess what? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you don’t have to build your IT systems that way, either. Maybe this week you can quietly turn on RMS and give users the gift of IRM templates and Email encryption–that won’t be too hard, and it doesn’t take a lot of planning. Configure and test it on a Tuesday afternoon, send out a “heads up” about the new features Wednesday morning.
Then maybe sometime later you decide to enable Multi-factor authentication (slightly more planning, but not bad) and follow it up with Azure Active Directory Premium–hey check out that new Identity Protection feature! Or–would you look at that–Microsoft now offers free Mobile Device Management with Office 365–enable it to deliver the gift of self-installing Email profiles for new mobile devices, and selective wipe functions for departing employees.
Then you get into SaaS management, and learn through Cloud App Discovery that more than 50% of your users already use Evernote and Dropbox for Business or similar. I wonder if you could enable single-sign on for those apps in Azure Active Directory? Why yes, yes you can! And the list goes on.
Small changes + more frequency = greater velocity
Because of the cloud, change is now happening faster than ever–we can no longer deny that. But what most people don’t yet realize is that change has also never been easier or more accessible. The increase in velocity is not because so many things are changing all at once, but because we have the power to change so little–it’s just that we can now change it all the time. The good news is, you do not have to “catch up” all at once, either. Start small, and just keep moving. Big shifts are precipitated by smaller ones.
It’s funny because these little tweaks might seem to unfold slowly over time, but looking at it objectively: within a single year, your environment could easily go through more iterations, and see more improvements, than it might have seen in a full 3-year refresh cycle in the past.
Lesson: in the cloud, you do not need to make grand plans and go through a painful upgrade process to add new functionality. Just light up a new feature here, enable a new one there. As you move forward each day, you add a new dimension to your overall visibility and increase your level of control over apps, data and ultimately the end-user experience.
And by the way, your IT job is not going away anytime soon–far from it–you just have to be willing to pick up your feet a little bit more each day to keep pace with the industry. I think it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and I hope that you will agree with me. Good luck out there with your incremental upgrades!