Application Management in a Hybrid Environment

Brad Jobe, VP of Applications and Software Engineering, TriMedx and Eric Errard, Manager of IT Enterprise Applications and Software Engineering, TriMedx
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Gone are the days of building and supporting your applications, in your own data center. We all know that the Cloud is simultaneously making our lives in technology easier and harder as we attempt to deliver value to our businesses.

Managing the Technology

With the many factors at play for managing your application stack in a hybrid environment, the biggest investment your company can make is in its people. With the ever changing technologies, and techniques to develop and operate your application stack, it is essential to ensure you have the right people in the right roles who can grow and evolve alongside you and the company. Forms of Agile and Scrum have recently changed the need to deliver results more quickly. SaaS solution providers sometimes provide little forewarning to an upcoming release outage. The expectation of constantly upgrading to the latest and greatest or you won’t be supported, are now all real factors at play. These constant changes make all of our lives and our teams lives harder. Adjusting and managing your team to be successful and efficient is just as important as to effectively manage your applications and partnerships.

The skills of our internal teams change as well during this transition. Hardcore engineering and development skills may not be as critical in a Cloud based “configure” only type of environment. While the level of understanding of how everything is put together remains equally important, some of the skills on existing teams may need to morph into something new. This doesn’t mean a wholesale move of the old team out and a new team in, but it will require flexibility both from the leadership and the technical teams. Many of the deep technical experts in an organization also have a great understanding of how the business operates, and that business knowledge may take years to build. Putting together resource teams that are technically adept, flexible, and willing to change with the changing environment requires patience, training, and investment.

  â€‹Building the right team, working closely with your business, and ensuring the right contract is in place will be the keys to successfully manage in the new world of hybrid environments   

Vendor Management and SLA

With the heavy reliance on Cloud SaaS solutions, it’s more important than ever to closely pay attention to your Vendor/ Partner agreement. Your data is now outside your four walls, and users are connecting more than they ever have anywhere they can get a network connection. You may have the most resilient internal IT infrastructure and application stack, but if your SaaS providers solution does not align to your internal goals and business needs, you have left open a big piece of the puzzle likely left to disappoint. Do their SLAs and OLAs align to your internal service and quality needs? What are they doing to protect your data? Is your organization entitled to audit their data center operations and security? What level of protection do you have in the event of a data breach? How does your partner manage a data center, infrastructure, network, or application outage? Is the application hosted in just one data center or multiple? All these become critical questions during the selection and then on-going partnership with your vender once you have jumped all in. Ensure that the contract details out the business requirements for all of these aspects. Call out specific change management process, planned and unplanned outage allotments to support SLA requirements, data security requirements, and disaster recovery timelines. Having these all documented in the contract will be key to driving vendor behaviors to make your business successful.

How do your internal applications interface with these external applications is a question that many take for granted. Assuming the vast list of questions above have good answers, how does the internal IT organization manage any of those scenarios if there is a required outage, failure, or a breach? Many times the same internal procedures cannot be followed because of this new dependence on the external partnership you have created. There is no one answer for these, so depending on architecture and business requirements each of these scenarios need to be carefully thought out prior to needing to execute.

Managing the Business Partners

Another essential piece to manage your applications starts and ends with understanding your business. Truly knowing and understanding your business needs are critical to being able to successfully deliver for them. Building working relationships to understand how their users interact with the system, what they need to be able to deliver on their own goals, and listening to their everyday pain points, will go a long way in managing any application stack. As your organization is determining on-premises versus Cloud, ensure that technology teams are playing a key role in the discussion. Too many times, cloud software vendors sell business executives on the wonders of the Cloud. While many of these things are true, the details really count in the implementation of a successful solution, and the business teams may not have all of the details needed available. Get in the weeds, ask the tough questions, and accept the difficult criticism of the current operations, all of this will help build a stronger foundation for the longer term success. At the end of the day, your business expects an always on, reliable, and easy experience. If you fail to manage their expectations right alongside of managing the applications—no matter how great the technology, you will likely fail to deliver.

Building the right team, working closely with your business, and ensuring the right contract is in place will be the keys to successfully implementing and managing in the new world of hybrid environments. These steps will allow moving certain functions to Cloud based environments while potentially internally housing those functions that are absolutely key to business success. Whatever the reasons for moving to a hybrid environment, the appropriate due diligence will help IT and business teams see the value of implementing in this way, and for your organization to be successful.

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