AWS CTO Werner Vogels wrote Working Backwards, a blog post about creating cloud services by starting with the user needs. You can see organizations doing this today such as the UK Government Digital Service.
This may sound obvious but there is a lot of IT folklore about long-running programs that don’t meet user needs. It’s almost like people are ignoring the obvious, a case of Invisible Gorilla syndrome? There are many stories of one-size-fits-all VDI solutions not meeting the needs of all users. With enterprise cloud, are users ready for the new world of self-service, different budgets and not being able to pinpoint exactly where their data or applications are?
If users are decoupled from the IT team by the introduction of an Enterprise Cloud that runs on a hyperconverged infrastructure, then intuition might say that less understanding of users is needed, not more. But this is incorrect. The changing responsibility model of Enterprise Cloud gives users more autonomy and control and therefore more requirements.
There are three ways to go beyond just consulting users and instead actively have them drive the Enterprise Cloud:
- Discover Your Users’ Needs
- Create a User-centric Framework
- Users As The Engine of Evolution Call To Action
1. Discover Your Users’ Needs
If you are creating an Enterprise Cloud then your true north should be pointing towards users and their needs, not what the IT team thinks the users need. The biggest mistake people can make is thinking they know, intuitively, what other people need so they don’t go out and even confirm what they know is true or not.
It’s also true of humans that if we are focused on one thing, like doing our own job, then we miss the obvious, like what someone else needs to do their job:
There is no shortcut to discovery, it involves time, effort and willing to be wrong about what you thought users need. There’s no need to boil the ocean and suffer analysis paralysis, but there is perhaps a minimum viable user needs discovery:
- Identify who is and who is not a user (and why).
- Visit users in person, respect their time, insights and concerns.
- Learn about what they do, why they do it, what’s good about it, what problems they experience.
- Share the “working backwards” press release, the FAQ, the User Manual that defines the envisaged service, can you describe how the user will interact with the service?
- Do small, focused surveys to collate data with the free online services.
There will be more than one set of needs. Users will have needs for the self-service Enterprise Cloud interface but they could also have needs for application migration, managing workloads in the cloud and more.
2. Create a User-centric Framework
A good example of a User-centric Framework is from the UK Government Digital Service Standard. This really describes what their True North is, for everyone to see. It forms a contract of trust with their users, their partners and their stakeholders
This is a foundational framework that services and solutions “inherit” when they are built. Your Enterprise Cloud, and the workloads that migrate and the new services built on top, should inherit from a framework like this.
This framework is different from cloud reference architecture or vendor-driven solution frameworks because it starts with your users in your enterprise. Everyone working on your Enterprise Cloud and the solutions a-top of it should sign up and commit to behaving in accordance with this framework.
3. Users As The Engine of Evolution
It starts with User Discovery but there shouldn’t be a gap or a silent period between that initial discovery and go live. At each stage of the evolution of your Enterprise Cloud the users should be involved. The cycles are user driven because they provide the input needed to focus on what’s important in a cycle, instead of weaving off the path. Having the users involved in testing, feedback, quality assurance are also key ways to have them drive the program.
This happens across the industry now as a standard approach and the example cycles here are again from the UK Government Digital Service. Here we use the tri-modal Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners model to match user engagement to the evolution model:
- Pioneers, the early creators of your Enterprise Cloud, engage selected users in an invitation-only Alpha cycle of the service. At the end of this is a minimum viable enterprise cloud, but with many features not yet implemented.
- Whilst Pioneers may change focus to create new services, the Settlers take the minimum viable enterprise cloud and develop it further with user engagement in a Beta cycle. The end of this cycle is an enterprise cloud version that is robust enough for wider, open-invitation engagement and a switch to general availability or live mode.
Call To Action
Teams that are delivering hybrid and private clouds, application migrations and other enterprise programs must engage users throughout their program to be aligned with user needs. Failure to do this risks failure of the whole program. Nutanix consultants have expertise in all aspects of these programs and can help you work with your users.
Visit www.nutanix.com/services for more information
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