The importance of keeping the end user at the center of cloud deployments
- By Ian Tewksbury, Cameron Wyatt
Although a private hybrid cloud can be tailored to an agency’s users, many developers forget the end-user experience as they explore the new tools the cloud offers.
If users are frustrated with agency technology, they often turn to shadow IT solutions, or, even worse, leave the agency. Besides the security risk of shadow IT and the costs of turnover, an agency’s ability to produce value can be compromised by frustrated users. IT managers must stress the importance of cloud solutions providing end users with services that meet their needs.
To do this, IT personnel should employ the following strategies and tactics:
Solicit user input. The first step is to ask users for a list of their needs and wants. Those features should be collated, prioritized and used as the agile product backlog for private hybrid cloud development.
Start small. Incremental iterations can help deliver solutions designed for both today and tomorrow. Don’t think of cloud deployment as a monolithic waterfall project that will deliver a complete and never-changing black box. Consider this to be any other type of software project built on agile software practices that breaks down code into small, testable, maintainable and reliable pieces.
Strive for upgradeability. A private hybrid cloud integrates different hardware, software, services and paradigms, each of which will inevitably be updated with newer versions, so it should be built to be easy to upgrade.
Thanks to the now-ubiquitous availability of application programming interfaces, building a system that can be continually enhanced to meet the changing needs of users is not only possible but practical. Developers can choose a single cloud management logical location and use that as a hub to reach out to the API of any service, hardware or software to implement the required paradigm. This makes it easy to update or replace services in a stack. When developers add an appropriately prioritized backlog item, they can redirect the implementation to the new or upgraded service while leaving the overall user experience unaffected.
Reassess current policies and procedures. The most common mistake developers make is leaving old policies and procedures in place while building out their cloud technologies. Creating a one-click, end-to-end deployment of a full stack virtual machine application isn’t going to matter if there are policies and procedures in place that require weeks of approvals before a user can click that button.
Consider the agency that established a two-review-board process for that one time a user accidentally took down a production application. If such an approval process is needed for the deployment of a private hybrid cloud, that deployment may not be successful.
It doesn’t matter how fast the technology can deliver the solution if existing policies, procedures and organizational culture is slowing down the system. Therefore, it’s important to also address any needed changes to current policies and procedures that may slow or affect cloud production and the overall user experience.
Designing, implementing and maintaining a private hybrid cloud is a substantial investment. In order to get the maximum value out of that investment, an organization must ensure that the system is actually used. If a system is designed poorly, requires too much policy overhead or is not up to end users’ standards, its intended users may go elsewhere. They could make a digital migration, moving to a different system that may circumvent the agency’s policies, monitoring, security guidelines and oversight. Or they may opt for a physical migration that sends talented employees to other agencies that are willing to provide them with the resources that they need.
The IT department must provide a technology and policy environment that supports the work of agency employees. When developers make the experience of the end user a primary objective, they can promote employee satisfaction, increase their efficiency and help the agency deliver greater value.
Ian Tewksbury is a senior consultant with Red Hat.
Cameron Wyatt is a consultant with Red Hat.