Benjamin Wootton is the Co-Founder and CTO of Contino, and the architect of Contino’s successful digital transformation methodology.

A big part of this methodology is about evolution of the ‘operating model’, modernising the people and process elements in the new world of DevOps in the cloud.  

We sat down with Benjamin to discuss what cloud operating models are all about, how to implement them, and why they are an important part of the digital transformation journey.

Key Takeaways:

  • You will miss the benefits of the cloud unless you evolve your operating model
  • DevOps isn’t about tools or culture - it’s actually a new operating model
  • DevOps operating models are the most effective way of consuming the cloud
  • Best practice is only just emerging for the enterprise so trusted advice is key
  • The best way to get the requisite skills for DevOps is to properly train and support your existing teams
  • Security and compliance is possible at speed and scale with automation
  • Leadership support is key as part of this operating model evolution
  • Born-in-the-cloud competition is starting to bite traditional enterprises - start now and with urgency.


What is a cloud operating model and why is it so important?

A pattern that we often see emerge when enterprises begin to adopt the cloud is that they put the same processes and practices in place as they would have done in a traditional data centre scenario.

Effectively, they don’t optimise their operating model for the cloud, and they therefore miss out on the speed, agility and cost benefits that the cloud promises. The risk is that disillusionment can then set in and the cloud migration or broad digital transformation slows.  

To secure the benefits of the cloud, you need to evolve your organisation and processes by which you manage your infrastructure and applications. These ways of working together represent your cloud operating model.  

Could you share an example of this?

The cloud is vastly more conducive to automation than is a traditional data centre. If you adopt the cloud in the right way – taking advantage of these automation possibilities – you benefit from accelerated time-to-market, reduced costs and improved security.  

A simple example of leveraging this automation and APIs would be to turn off cloud servers overnight and auto-scale up and down with demand in order to minimise cost.  

A second example and common theme for us is putting continuous compliance and security checks into place to ensure that internal controls are met.  This is much easier in a cloud environment, but many companies still take quite traditional approaches to information security which are less effective and kill their time-to-value benefits.  

Again, if you don’t modernise your operating model when you move to the cloud you’re missing the opportunity: it’s not just an end in itself, it needs to be used appropriately.  

How does DevOps fit into this operating model?

At Contino, we believe that “DevOps” is the right operating model for the cloud.  This includes cross-functional teams provisioning their own infrastructure, high degrees of automation using templates, codified rules for security and controls, cloud-native architecture etc.  

There is an endless debate about whether DevOps is tools- or culture-centric.  Nowadays, we actually define DevOps as a new operating model for enterprise IT – and one that’s increasingly proven.

How can organisations start to develop a cloud operating model?

Enterprises are comprised in the most part of people who are used to working in traditional ways, so it’s natural that they fall into the trap of replicating what they are used to.  There’s no question of blame here, this is simply how IT has been delivered for a long time.

On the other hand, cloud has only relatively recently emerged as a proven strategy for the traditional, regulated enterprise. Everyone is just getting to grips with it, with limited tried-and-tested approaches to replicate, s0 a lot of organisations are struggling and reinventing the wheel.

While I’m obviously biased, it’s clear that this is an area where a trusted advisor can really help. Born-in-the-cloud service companies have seen many enterprises go on this journey and know where the pitfalls and the opportunities are. So my advice would be to work with a partner who has done this before to design your future state operating model.  

That said, we actually ask our clients to build experience in the cloud by delivering real projects before a formal target operating model exercise. Going straight to Powerpoint or Word without any experience in the cloud is a recipe for a broken operating model!   

What does a cloud operating model need to cover?

Contino has a framework for cloud operating models that covers the key considerations.  It is split firstly into infrastructure- and application-oriented parts. Then we have concerns that cut across both of these such as people, processes, financial models etc. There are around 35 key considerations that we aim to build out with our customers as part of their target state operating model.

Let’s take the example of financial workstream. In the old world, you would buy hardware under a CapEx model and write that down over time. With the cloud we shift into an OpEx model. Costs are variable based on consumption, which traditional budgeting methods are not set up for. So you need new processes and financial controls to be able to handle new problems: discovering if people are under- or over-spending, making sure that the right costs are charged back to the right projects and teams, etc.

Finances are therefore an immediate process that should be rethought before you end up with an angry call from your CFO!  

That's it for part one. You can the second part of the interview in prettified PDF form here

Want to read the rest of the interview?

Click below to get the second half of this interview with Ben Wootton on cloud operating models.

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