Be Wary of Analysis Paralysis When Using the Cloud

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” -Elbert Hubbard

Last week I returned to the east coast after a productive three weeks on the road. I was able to attend and speak at the AWS Summits in San Francisco, London, and Sydney and meet with several dozen executives at different stages of their cloud journey. It was encouraging to see how IT is evolving across every industry around the world while also learning about some of the regulatory nuances between the US, Europe, and Australia. I’m fascinated by the regional differences, and am looking forward to learning more about them during my trip to Asia next month. I’ll look to author a post that details some of these nuances when I get back in June. In the mean time, there were at least two themes that consistently came up in my conversations abroad that I’ve detailed over two posts. This one will focus on avoiding analysis paralysis, and the other on automation.

In Sydney, the setting for our enterprise summit was intimate and less formal than the large auditorium style presentations we had in San Francisco and London. This offered an opportunity to turn my presentation about the future of enterprise IT into more of a conversation that included some engaging Q&A. I found it both humbling and educational to learn from Australia’s most forward thinking IT executives and discover how they’re transforming IT and their businesses using the cloud and 21st century methodologies.

The first question I was asked came from Tom Quinn, the CIO of News Corp Australia. I had the pleasure of working along side Tom for several years when I was the CIO of Dow Jones, which is also owned by News Corp. Tom asked me what is the most common success-limiting pitfall that I see companies fall into when working with the cloud. I get this question a lot when I’m meeting with individual executives, where the conversation is very specific to that company’s issues. Surprisingly enough, this was the first time I was asked this question in a group setting where the answer needed to be specific enough for the participants to act upon, but also broad enough to apply to a diverse audience. I answered without hesitation: analysis paralysis.

The apprehension to get started has been the most limiting factor I’ve observed to an organization’s success with the cloud. I believe there are several factors that contribute to this.

Exhaustive planning can sometimes become ingrained in traditional IT. In the old world, procurement cycles took a long time. Capacity planning was hard, and mistakes were expensive. If you bought too much infrastructure you wasted money and may have tried to coerce other systems into the spare capacity, even if they weren’t suited for it. If you bought too little your customers suffered. In the new world, most IT projects can be viewed as an experiment. You now have access to a near infinite amount of IT resources and only pay for what you use. In this world, it often takes less time to build something to show your customers than it takes to plan in the old world.

Sometimes companies try to solve problems before they have them. I certainly won’t suggest that you shouldn’t plan ahead, but the cloud enables you to think of your projects as experiments. Mistakes are less costly and it becomes easier to alter course as you learn. If you use this to your advantage, your time to market will likely improve and your customers will notice.

Finally, most common analysis paralysis I see is when companies spin their wheels trying to develop a multi cloud strategy on day one. Related to the third myth of hybrid architectures, it’s hard to get value from multiple cloud providers until you’re getting value from one. Getting the most from the cloud often requires training, experience, and, in some cases, organizational change. These activities are hard enough, particularly in the enterprise where there can be years of muscle memory built around doing IT in a traditional way. Focusing on building the core muscles needed to maximize the benefit of the cloud — like automation — will make the organization much better suited to assess how multiple service providers fit into their strategy once they’ve become proficient in one.

What’s holding your organization back? If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know!