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Current Rants

Keeping Up With the Cloudashians, Episode 1: Cloud Services & Rapid Change Releases

Cloud services have been encouraging businesses to “jump on the band wagon” for last decade or so. Microsoft, Dropbox, Google and even Box have proven that the cloud is a good direction to move towards to enhance business and increase productivity and overall efficiency. The assumption was that by moving to cloud services, resources within the businesses would have more time to focus on other projects – the cloud services would essentially run by themselves completely or with little oversight and maintenance.  If valid and successful, it would mean that the businesses would see positive ROI in record time which equals more money. However, it is not as simple as that nor is it realistic. Business technology the has completely changed and since it’s the foundation of how the business runs and what supports the day to day processes, end users and their culture has to change, too.

Rapid Change

Recently, Microsoft introduced the term and theory of “Evergreen,” which essentially means that there will be new features and functionality continually being released in what I call “Rapid Release.”

What businesses and users are realizing in this scenario is their supporting business technology is changing so frequently, that these releases also more frequently contain bugs, process failures, deprecations in addition to new features/functionality. Microsoft is not the only cloud services provider that has implemented this type of “Evergreen” or “Rapid Release” methodology. In fact, I am starting to notice it is more the norm and not the exception to the rule.

In the beginning, I was (and, a very small part of me still is) excited by the fact that the wait time would weeks rather than months or years for new features and functionality to be released. It’s like being a kid on Christmas morning, wondering what awesome new toys will be under the tree.  Being patient for months or even years for an update or new features/functionality is not in the nature of an IT professional.  Nobody likes to hear the words “It is being released soon,” or as they say in the movies “Coming Soon.” Admitting to ourselves and others that, “We all love new shiny things!” is step one.  Step two is figuring out how businesses introduce these new technologies, and at what rate.

Microsoft releases O365 updates every Tuesday. These changes can consist of a large list of changes for not just 1 piece of their cloud stack, such as SharePoint, but for ALL areas of the stack. I have participated in many presentations in the last year on how to keep up with the ever-changing features/functionality of numerous cloud services, and they have all been great — but in every one of them, I have the same thought running through my head: “This is just like trying to Keep Up with The Kardashians.” Funny thing is, I don’t even watch the show, but I know many that do, and let’s face it — social media can’t shut up about it. Never would I have thought that I would say Microsoft or Cloud Services in the same sentence as the Kardashians, but there it is – and I don’t think I am alone.

Not Easy to Sell

What’s even more difficult is selling the concept of a service that is ever changing. Within my consulting business, we are seeing about 50/50 between On-Prem Environments and Cloud Services. However, at this point I would have thought that Cloud Services would be taking the lead. Recently, my curiosity on this data point got the better of me, so one evening I reviewed our client data and identified the ones that were “on the fence” and reviewed the notes of the various meetings we had on “what solution is best for you.”

What I found is that with each decision to stay with an On-Prem environment vs. the Cloud, I found this comment multiple times: “Our users can’t handle that much change.” Those responses make me think of the many migration projects where companies wanted to upgrade to the next version…. but not change anything else, because that would be *too much* change. They wanted a slow, gradual, bit-by-bit implementation. Thankfully, we don’t see that many like this anymore, but clearly there are some limits on the volume of change that people can handle at one time, and the frequency of change.

Beyond volume and frequency of change, there is another piece that I feel gets pushed to the side, and I always imagine someone from a Cloud Services provider saying, “Ignore that for now, it’ll be gone soon” regarding reported bugs and issues within the application. Yes, there are avenues to make them aware of bugs, and yes, some things are fixed eventually…but not as rapidly or as frequently as new functionality is released, and each release tends to come along with an additional list of issues.  So, between the new functionality, the changed functionality, or the deprecated functionality updates every week, we also get more issues and bugs.  When do you “truly” know if it is a change that was intentional vs. an oversight or bug? The old saying connected to Microsoft, “It Works as Designed,” has kind of taken on a whole new meaning.

Read more in “Episode 2: Staying On Top of Rapidly Changing Services”

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