Service level agreements get broken all the time. That's as true in the physical economy as it is in the digital one.
I learnt a lot about service levels when I worked in a coalmine.
At one level, coal mining is simple. Coal is valuable. The shale that surrounds it isn’t. Mining is about digging out as much coal as possible while leaving the shale behind.
In practice, things are a little more complex It’s often hard to dig out the coal without shifting a lot of shale, and the boundary between the two is often unclear – strata that are 90% coal and 10% shale grade gradually into strata that are 90% shale and 10% coal.
And predicting the exact shape of the coal seam as it meanders through the earth requires a lot of skill. But what makes things really complex are the contracts, the mine’s equivalent of service level agreements.
If the Cloud is just about cost savings, then it's pretty dull. It could be about so much more.
The reality behind the cloud is pretty boring. When you look closely at what most people are doing there, it’s all about cost savings.
Take a commodity application from your on-premise servers and push it out to the cloud and your costs (probably) go down.
Few applications are heavily loaded 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so paying only for the compute capacity you need as you need it makes a lot of sense, but it's hardly exciting.
Projects don't come about through some law of nature. They're a mental construct we've created to help ourselves manage our work.
I spend most of my time on projects.I’ve worked on projects to build e-commerce systems, projects to build and update websites, projects to create new products, even projects to define the way we do projects within an organisation.
The idea of a project as the fundamental unit of work is pretty pervasive within our industry. Many organisations structure themselves almost entirely around the portfolio of projects that they are undertaking.
And a large industry, think of PRINCE2 and the PMI and various other project management bodies, has emerged solely to service the interests of projects and project managers.
But how real are these projects?
IT departments can create a lot of value when they take responsibility for Integration Technology, bringing together the activities of people across the organisation and beyond its increasingly porous boundaries.
But if they sit behind their firewalls chanting verses from the ITIL, then they deserve to die.
Making decisions requires mental energy. When your energy is low, 'decision fatigue' sets in and some fairly predictable biases result.
Too many teams set themselves up to operate in an almost permanently fatigued state. How can you avoid this?
What does a good strategy look like? How can we recognise the right one when we see it? The problem is, even in retrospect it's hard to recognise a good strategy. As often as not, we end up creating a myth.
Successful organisations often point to a clear strategy underlying their growth. They analysed the market, identified leverage points, focused their resources on those points, and reaped the benefits. Their success is a reward for good strategy and hard work.
Or so they say. I don’t think it really happens that way.
Pain is indeed a sign that something isn’t working. The testing phase of most projects is painful, for example, because it’s telling us about all the mistakes we made earlier in the project.
Integration is painful because all the poor assumptions we made about how the system would work are suddenly made clear.
Organisations that avoid discussing governance end up spending a lot of time on it. They define it afresh for each decision. They argue endlessly about decision rights.
They end up with little time to actually make the decisions.
So they make poor decisions.
Datacentres go down. It doesn’t matter who runs them, nor how much redundancy you build into them, eventually something happens that takes them down.
It could be an earthquake. It could be a flood. It could be (most often is) human error. You may be able to mitigate such things, but you can’t prevent them entirely. The Cloud doesn’t change that.
Say the word “governance” and what springs to mind?
For a lot of people, the first thing is “bureaucracy”. Some central body to define a thick manual full of policies. Endless reviews and compliance checks. Long-winded approval processes.
The next thing they think about is finding ways to bypass all the controls so they can actually get some work done.
It doesn’t have to be that way...