Navigating your way to a new Operating Model [Guest post by Roman Arcea]

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    Happy Friday readers!


    I hope you enjoy the below article written by one of my fantastic colleagues in the Cloud Team at Google. The Change team and I have been learning a lot about IT Operating Models from Roman recently so we can help guide customers through these types of changes as they move to the Cloud.  Roman was kind enough to put his great insights into writing for this audience - hopefully this topic resonates with many of you. Please do comment below to share any of your insights & experiences, or to ask Roman or myself & the change team any questions on this topic.






    Are you part of a self proclaimed agile team that ended up having to commit to a 2 year product road-map? Have you ever been amazed by the fact that the new shiny tool that was supposed to make everyone’s life easier, just added an extra layer of complexity and cost? Have you wondered why despite best intentions things never seemingly move forward?


    If the above statements feel familiar, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there.

    I am Roman, and at Google I cover the Professional Services activities in Central and Eastern Europe within Google Cloud. My span of responsibilities includes technical and business consultancy, training and enablement as well as long term relationship management with Google Cloud customers. Before joining Google I worked with companies including SUSE, Nokia and Orange, each time in a different country. Five countries by now to be more precise, and each time taking on a different role. I’ve been lucky to cover jobs all the way from engineering design and operations, to project and program management, as well as managing engineering teams, onsite and globally distributed, all the way from Australia to the US and across all time zones.


    For years, questions related to complexity of operating models, identifying the true value of processes and impact of the work environment on personal performance have been capturing my attention. With every new role, every new culture, I began seeing patterns emerge.


    In the early days of my career, I thought that the performance of an organization has linear dependency with the experience and depth of knowledge of its employees, and that probably the best performing organizations simply have more experienced people. Years and several companies later, I discovered that assumption to be wrong. Every single enterprise I have worked for had an amazing talent pool and yet there was little correlation between this and productivity. Another hypothesis I had was that the performance of the organization has a direct correlation with the org structure. But this assumption also never seemed to hold. In the end, companies with identical org structures and similar processes were showing very different outcomes. Another hypothesis was that performance is directly dependent on ‘know it all’, super-star managers. But even this one fell apart. With time and experience it became clear that managers that knew how to be humble servants, who have  the skill of trusting their hires and letting them grow, were far more resultative in long term.


    So what is it that makes the difference? For me, it’s process ownership. In its essence, a process is simply a pattern that is designed to achieve repeatable success. Obvious, right? Yet, how often are the inflexible processes crippling our road to the repeatable success they were designed to pave? How often have we found ourselves being part of seemingly logical organizational structures, with an awesome talent pool, and yet not being able to achieve expected outcomes?


    Becoming the master of your processes and how you really operate is proving to be harder than people think. It’s a mindset matter that is as much individual as it is collective.


    How’s that even related to Cloud? In the most strange of ways it is.


    Moving to Cloud is likely to be one of the most meaningful operating model transitions you make in decades. Inevitably, many of you who have taken the first steps into Cloud will have realized by now that this move triggers the need to have a second look at the way your organization operates. Why not use that trigger to start the change in your mind and across the minds of those you work with?


    Earlier this year I lead a session with Kim Wylie and the Cloud Change Management team at Google on the topic of Cloud IT Operating Models. I shared my experience and thoughts on how Cloud should be a driver for behavioral and operational change. After the session Kim asked me to share some of my key points with this audience for a blog post. Here are the principles you might want to consider.


    1. Build organizations that enable. People are only as good a performer as the organization allows them to be. An organization is a living organism, with its own beliefs, behaviours and rules. The same person will achieve different results in different organizations. When you start thinking of your new setup for the Cloud - ask yourself, how are you enabling each individual to perform at their best in this brave new world? How far can they go by themselves? If you will put a team of five together, have you designed to allow enough space for such a team to bring realistic results? Or are they drowning in rules and processes? Given the opportunity, can they own the processes required to achieve repeatable success instead of the processes owning them and keeping them prisoners?


    1. There are (probably) no right or wrong org structures or operating models. However there are models that will work for you and your team in a specific moment in time. So if you find yourself realizing that implementing Agile did not have the expected results, or trying to do things the ‘Spotify way’ (and here) did not transform you into Spotify, take a step back and see if you might have followed the rules too literally. Ask yourself: In that moment in time is this  the right setup for you?


    1. The Cloud is forgiving. If you’ve made the move to Cloud, you’ll know that gone are the days where for each new project you have to go through the procurement ****, deploy and operate infrastructure, authorize the usage of each single resource. Take a step back, give your organization some freedom and observe if behaviours change. With cloud you have significantly more freedom to experiment. You can reduce your planning cycles from years to weeks and iterate through what makes sense for you without committing to three year long project plans with rigid processes and guidelines. So take the chance to run some experiments, launch and iterate as you go.


    1. Yes, you can hire remote teams. Having trouble finding talent? Used to have people onsite who can trigger the reset button in the datacenter? Think twice. With Cloud you have all the right tools to follow talent where the talent is and make those people feel like a team no matter where they are. Take a step back and see what processes run today that keep people from being mobile and equally performant irrespective of where they are. Are old habits and ways of working still important for your organization or are those behaviours driven by inertia?


    1. Rethink what you reward people for. Cloud is your opportunity to break silos. Data silos, communication silos, application development silos, process silos. It’s a unique opportunity to expose everyone to the amazing capabilities of your organization. You might have taken the leap into the unknown, created cross functional teams, squads, tribes and chapters - but have you actually thought what you reward your people for? The move to the Cloud is your unique opportunity to drive habits of building solutions that are designed to talk to one another, that share data and expose amazing value that has been hidden for years in the unknown corners of your segmented data centers. So work with your HR team and leadership and make sure people are rewarded for demonstrating the new behaviours that you need to ensure success for your organisation.


    My  list of learnings doesn’t end here and I could go on and on. Yet, if there is one thing I encourage you to take out of this article, I would say the following: The move to the Cloud gives you access to tremendous freedom, virtually unlimited resources and time to focus on what matters to your customer. But this might mean nothing if all that freedom is buried under years of written and unwritten rules and processes that enslave you and the way you work. The move to the Cloud is a once in a lifetime opportunity to become the master of the process (rather than being mastered by the processes) and bring the same freedom to how you operate and what you operate alike.


    I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions on this topic - please comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.