The CIO’s guide to becoming a hybrid IT powerhouse

Aol CIO James LaPlaine and Apptio CEO Sunny Gupta recently released a report outlining what they believe to be the first and most important step in effective cloud migration: embracing a hybrid IT mindset.

In the report, LaPlaine and Gupta share leadership strategies for cultivating an innovative cloud culture. Both agree: more than what you manage, it’s how you manage cloud that will determine your success.

To enable new business models and drive business value, employees need to be mobilized to think and design in loosely coupled, cloud-native ways that bring new agility, flexibility, and cost effectiveness to your organization. 

Hybrid IT thinkers leverage the innovations of countless engineers, whether developed internally or procured externally, to become true business and value brokers of service. James LaPlaine CIO, Aol

So how do you ensure your team has the right mindset to drive effective hybrid IT strategies? 

Why a hybrid IT mindset is essential to success

The premise of hybrid IT is that it expands or eclipses legacy systems, allowing IT teams to develop new, more agile platforms that enable projects and services to meet rapidly evolving customer expectations. This mixture of technologies can include on-premises infrastructure, public cloud services (like AWS, Azure, and Google), private cloud services, hybrid or multi-cloud systems, and cloud-based SaaS solutions. 

LaPlaine suggests to leverage hybrid IT, CIOs have to recognize the function of hybrid IT thinking, or a willingness to participate in a broader marketplace of technology. This mindset helps CIOs embrace their role in supporting cloud migration and hybrid IT strategies that support business management principles.

“We changed our mindset to accommodate cloud in a number of ways. We allowed our partners to run with cloud, letting them know we would come back and make adjustments based on our shared experience. This helped us win the hearts and minds of our developers, who felt empowered to use industry-relevant tools with the support of the CIO and central technology team,” says LaPlaine.

Empowering a team of hybrid IT advocates

At Aol, the hybrid IT mindset begins and ends with culture. To this end, a former software engineer VP now heads the cloud effort under the title “Utilization Czar.” His focus is to foster the team building best practices for the public cloud environment in order to advance cloud maturity within business units. Priorities include: optimizing reserve instances, monitoring utilization, deeply understanding cloud billing, helping business units elastically scale processes and workloads, and more.

In addition, Aol regularly recognizes employees who generate value with hybrid IT thinking, like those who successfully use cloud to align capacity with demand, scaling processes for cloud and linking work demand to the size of infrastructure. “Those are the people we call up on to stage and reward,” says LaPlaine.

LaPlaine’s team has also created an “AWS Strike Force,” a forward thinking, cross-functional group that meets monthly to explore various topics, like new releases in the Amazon Web Services ecosystem, ways to automate deployments, etc. LaPlaine explains, “The goal is to get new information in front of the organization. What I like most about it is that topics are peer-driven and not directed by upper management. These folks are super engaged and they’ve become a recruiting mechanism for us, as they know how relevant they are to the company’s long-term success.” 

Pairing a hybrid IT mindset with cost transparency

In the report, Gupta draws on experience with hundreds of customers, including more than 40% of the Fortune 100, to point out that CIOs are uniquely positioned to drive innovation. By leveraging their vantage point in the enterprise, CIOs can guide their teams to better outcomes, freeing up funds for innovation and enlisting a service-oriented approach and new processes that further the purpose of the organization. Apptio's customers are doing this with TBM (technology business management) applications.

With hybrid IT, CIOs have the potential to significantly change the way they fund and deliver projects and services. But to succeed, they must have an accurate view of IT costs and value across the IT landscape. To harness cloud and truly improve business agility, cost transparency is an essential ingredient. Sunny Gupta CEO, Apptio

Successful cloud migration requires an investment in methods and technology for managing a hybrid IT world. Adopting the TBM model fosters the right mindset, as transparency around cloud costs helps build trust across your organization.

Automation enables real-time analytics

Automating the reporting of cloud costs offers several benefits. First, it equips IT teams to run comparative analytics of fully loaded legacy and cloud infrastructure spend across environments. This also empowers them to evaluate application TCO for traditional infrastructure, private, and public cloud. The application spend in varying environments informs cloud migration strategies. 

Second, automating the ingestion of Azure and AWS cloud billing data and mapping these costs to a standard model improves IT financial reporting and creates a system of record from which to make economically sound decisions for cloud migration. Because cloud services track usage and consumption by the hour, it’s easy for costs to quickly spiral out of control and become unsustainable. With real-time analytics for the cloud, IT leaders gain more proactive control over cloud spending as costs are incurred to drive better decision-making and alignment with business priorities. 

We needed a way to deal with ephemeral instances that can come and go every hour, and multiple cost units based on region types, and all those things. Getting to the data was really important. The TBM [technology business management] model has been essential because it allows us to compare our public cloud bills to our baseline. And as we charge costs back to the organization, it helps us share an accurate story about cloud with the business. James LaPlaineSVP & CIO

Embracing a broader marketplace of technology

Having a hybrid IT mindset helps LaPlaine and his team guide business decisions at Aol as they evaluate the cost of using public cloud alongside traditional services. “Our view is that we’re participating in a marketplace of technology,” he explains. “We’re an important service provider, but we’re not the only one our business units use. We need to know how we fit and perform in the marketplace of services and we need to provide that transparency to business leaders to advise them and let them make the right decisions.” 

To learn more about how Aol leverages a hybrid IT mindset to capitalize on opportunities, download the report: “Embracing a hybrid IT mindset.”