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What I’ve learnt from cloudifying Electrolux: Interview with Kaveh Djavaherian

What I’ve learnt from cloudifying Electrolux: Interview with Kaveh Djavaherian
Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash
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The first tenet for successful cloud implementation is respecting the organization’s history, culture, way of working and people. Of course, robust cloud architecture that offers uninterrupted access to data and applications is a must, but your efforts will be in vain if you don’t have the support of the right people and a network of allies. These are some of the crucial learnings Kaveh Djavaherian, Head of Global Cloud & Hosting at Electrolux, underlined from his ample experience with executing cloud strategies and infrastructure management. Kaveh Djavaherian revealed his valuable insights gained through leading cloud implementation in Electrolux and other organizations. More to come during his Data 2030 Summit presentation in February.

Hyperight: Hello Kaveh, first of all, we are super thrilled to welcome you as a speaker at the 5th edition of the Data 2030 Summit. To start with, please tell us more about yourself, your background and role at Electrolux so that we can get to know you better.

Kaveh Djavaherian, Head of Global Cloud & Hosting at Electrolux

Kaveh Djavaherian: First of all, thanks for such a great opportunity to share some of the insights I have gained throughout the years with the readers. I started at Electrolux in summer 2019 with the task to create and execute on a cloud strategy, whilst at the same time manage the on-prem global delivery of Infrastructure across the organization as Head of Cloud & Hosting.

I started my IT journey with Amiga 500 back in the days, and once I did my masters in computer science (Java 0.9B!) After some years, I realised that business management is a key capability since regardless of how good technical solutions you have the financial numbers have to add on, so I did my masters in business administration as well. Throughout my career, I have managed both on-prem and outsourced delivery centers, so it felt like an exciting opportunity to add cloud delivery on top of things a couple of years ago. I will describe in greater detail what I am doing later, but it needs to be said that my delivery is only as good as my team. Here all my achievements have been thanks to a team of 70 dedicated and magnificent people sharing the same vision as me: Create a team that makes everyone else jealous! And with this simple slogan, we mature, deliver and collaborate.

What I’ve learnt from cloudifying Electrolux: Interview with Kaveh Djavaherian
Image by Do Exploit from Pixabay  

Hyperight: At the Data 2030 Summit, you will be presenting on the topic Cloudifying Electrolux – A summary of dos and don’ts. What were your most significant learnings on this journey that you like other companies to know?

Kaveh Djavaherian: So let’s start by the actual answer to the question which might be disappointing for some looking for the silver bullet. The best learning is to be mindful about the organization’s history, culture, way of working and respecting the people. That’s about it. But let me explain the title a bit. When I joined Electrolux, cloud was not unfamiliar to the business nor IT. Actually, we have been utilising various cloud services (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS) for quite a while, which has enabled us to be at the forefront of some of the consumer-oriented as well as back-end services. So cloud services were used throughout the organization extensively. So why was I brought to the organization you may ask? For that, we need to understand how IT is organised at Electrolux. Business areas are responsible for their IT in collaboration with Group IT. So that’s where understanding the culture, the history is important. Simply ignoring this legacy will not help, nor will accepting that as given and not trying to do more. So it is about respecting this set-up and creating the necessary forums, teams (virtual or not), talking and promoting your initial ideas but being humble enough to adapt and change based on feedback. 

Those are the major success factors regardless of how the strategy could look like. Persistence is also a key success factor. But that is always applicable to any situation. Don’t give up. Adapt, change directions but keep true to your core. For example, creating a forum where teams could share lessons learned is not a simple task, but there are many people in various teams eager to listen in to others’ success and failures. And there are teams and individuals who would like to share their stories but would also need to feel safe. So it is about creating an environment where this could happen. Have I succeeded? The jury is still out there. So let me come back next year and see if our cloud community is still alive or if it has been reshaped to something else.

Another lesson learned is to find allies. It basically comes down to a combination of luck and your own capability to network. In my case, I was able to get a great collaboration with a team of individuals who were not just eager to listen, but also to contribute. So by having that network, your credibility of proposals is increased massively.

One of the most crucial insights is the importance of people. Nothing will get done if you don’t have the support of the right people. I pointed that out earlier when talking about allies. However, it is also important to have the right talent in the team(s) to get traction with the changes needed. To be very clear and blunt, there are many models on how cloud should be embraced. All major service providers have their version, and so do a lot of big consulting powerhouses. So you will not go wrong in choosing one model and stick to it, regardless of which one. However, there is no silver bullet when it comes to the people part of it. Let me take it back; there is only one silver bullet – having the necessary talent(s) in your organization to facilitate this change. That’s it. Find the right people, or upskill the right people, and then go all-in. That is THE key success factor. So ultimately cloud journey is not a technology journey but a people journey. 

What I’ve learnt from cloudifying Electrolux: Interview with Kaveh Djavaherian
Photo by Pxfuel

Hyperight: When choosing a cloud strategy, organizations have several options to choose from: public, private, hybrid, and the latest trend that emerges – multi-cloud. Which option of cloud computing is best according to you and why? What are the considerations that should be taken into account?

Kaveh Djavaherian: So I really much like the way this question has been asked. The best cloud. Simple answer, all of them are best, but best for what? What is your operation environment? What is your regulatory environment? What are your demands? Answering them is more important as it will narrow down the options. Are you working in a highly regulated environment? Are you a digital company with massive data needs? Where are you located? Do you need to consider data privacy? And in this age where governmental reach to data is becoming an increasingly bigger factor, where you operate is now, even more, a factor to consider. All of the options mentioned have their advantages, so it is really hard to say which. 

Again, I keep going back to my first point, which was about your organization and your culture. If you are heavily invested in one cloud service provider and excel in that, why should you consider another cloud option? Is it a procurement strategy to play the providers against each other? Then, in my opinion, you will lose. Cloud option is not a procurement decision, and I think this is a game-changer in some traditional companies with huge purchasing power. Cloud ultimately is a developer decision in my mind. And this might be a bold statement for some of the CIOs out there, but with the accessibility of cloud resources, the central decision making has been shifted. 

There is only one silver bullet – having the necessary talent(s) in your organization to facilitate this change.

But having said that, it is still needed. Why? Governance, compliance, common direction, corporate strategy, application strategy, to mention a few. All of these will impact your options and the cost for these options. So this new balance will need to be established. But one clear thing is that managing multiple clouds will have an increased direct cost. But when does this additional direct cost offset access to innovation and shorten time-to-market? That is the key question. If your company is primarily focusing on, say one cloud service provider, why do you want to open the flood gates and bring in the second one just to do IaaS? Even on PaaS level, would the new one add that much value? So my advice is: if you are a single cloud shop, continue to grow there, as there is a lot which needs to happen to get control of that service offering. I mean, look at your security footprint, cost optimisation, application migration and life-cycle management, all those need to be maturing as you invest more in a cloud provider. 

But, and here is the big one, I am not sure if closing the other providers is a sound choice. Why? Because there will be cases where your existing provider is not the best solution. It could be the cost, it could be simply supporting your demands, geographic availability or potential direct competitors to your own business. And here is where companies need to embrace multi-cloud and create a framework that could at least quickly onboard applications on the “other” provider. Of course, this might lead to the feeling of opening the floodgates and letting the cowboys in. I would say no, create a tight governance process for your cloud architecture decisions, be clear when the incumbent provider is not the best choice, and allow the developers to choose wisely. So there will be a need to keep a close dialogue and collaboration with the developers, application managers to choose wisely. So answering the question: Multi-cloud is a reality. It is just about to what degree you as an organization, have to adopt it.

cloud implementation
Photo by Pxfuel

Hyperight: Who should be involved in the decision-making process for migration to the cloud?

Kaveh Djavaherian: This one is almost a trick question. Cloud affects the whole organization. In fact, cloud strategies are rarely a technical roadmap for a specific Database, OS or network. Cloud migration is not even an infrastructure question even if traditionally, it starts there in bigger organizations. 

In the DevOps and Agile area, as I mentioned earlier, cloud allows for a federated decision-making framework. Successful cloud migration also requires governance and direction that cannot evolve by itself in a federated organization. So what does this philosophical answer give? Well, as mentioned, most of the organization has to be on-boarded at some point. HR is needed to attract and upskill talent, security to update the security policies and guidelines, ITSM to find this new balance (as mentioned earlier), procurement and vendor management for compliance but also for correct reporting and follow-up as well as helping for the rare cases of exit. 

However, it comes back to where in the migration your company is. If you are not using PaaS/IaaS services (are there any companies left who don’t use SaaS services?), then regulatory bodies in your organization need to be onboarded, and maybe you don’t start by changing or adapting ITIL processes. If you already have a huge presence on cloud and covered ITIL processes, you might need to focus on cybersecurity and use that as an element to mature the cloud migration. But remember, the public cloud service providers have a bigger security organization than your whole IT department. So that should be the focus. 

Traditionally security and compliance is a great ally for successful cloud presence. But in the end, it is also investments in capabilities to migrate, develop, and operate, which will be the key success factors. If your organization is heavily outsourced, either work with an existing partner or simply start fresh and choose a new one. Remember that you don’t need a 200,000-employed company to be able to deliver good cloud operations. Sometimes a smaller local one can create magic. 

This since the old Data Center provider approach with local eyes and feet is completely diminished in a cloud world. So going back to the question on the decision-making process, my answer is everyone is still valid. But start with the correct “everyone”. Could be a CIO needed or your Regulatory officer, but it will change HR, finance and application owners. So again, it is crucial to appreciate this complexity when choosing the people who should lead this journey. And expect setbacks and resistance. Lot of them!

Image by Buffik from Pixabay 

Hyperight: As a final point, what are the cloud trends we can expect in the upcoming years?

Kaveh Djavaherian: I think it will become more clear where each cloud service provider will excel. And with that, I mean which technologies, especially as multi-cloudism (is that even a word?), becomes more accepted. 

I think there will always be a need for some horizontal cloud management tools that could go across multiple vertical cloud service providers, but there is a risk that many of them will be consolidated in huge tools a-la-ERP. One area of concern is governmental influence on cloud or data on cloud. We are already facing this, for example, with the Patriot Act and or Chines 2017 National Intelligence Law, which would affect globalism. How? Specialised cloud versions for Europe, eliminating the risk of data access to governments outside the EU would certainly help the financial industry, but would limit innovation provided by the cloud service provider. 

We have already seen this in some cloud service providers where the customers are leaving those providers due to lack of innovation. But to conclude, it is safe to say that cloud consumption will increase exponentially, it will disrupt many internal IT organizations, it will shift the focus from infrastructure to application and data, and it will be more fun for us working in this field.

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