Community post by Danielle Cook and Simon Forster, CNCF Ambassadors and members of the Cartografos Working Group

The last year has seen cloud native projects put on hold, layoffs announced, budget cuts and more. It’s been a wild ride as many organizations navigated how to exist, perhaps even grow, while not being able to invest in business transformation projects or expand tooling in support of cloud native environments. While we all went through different experiences in 2023, one thing became clear – we do a terrible job as an industry explaining why and how cloud native investments create business value. 

Evolution of the Cloud Native Maturity Model

To address this challenge, the Cartografos Working Group took a fresh look at the CNCF Cloud Native Maturity Model. We challenged ourselves to reevaluate who could use this model and why they would and realized very quickly we needed to double down on the business value materials. 

The Cloud Native Maturity Model seeks to provide any person whether at the C-level to an individual contributor with a general understanding of the levels of maturity ranging from building, operating, scaling, improving and adapting cloud native environments. What was weak was how this met business goals. We knew we needed to bridge this gap. 

Bridging the Gap between Tech and Business

For the purposes of the model, we define ‘business’ as the board members, C-level executives and directors that are tasked with delivering against business goals and held accountable at the most senior level. (In fact, everyone has to deliver business value down to the junior developer or engineer – they are all part of the value stream and need to explain their value well!) What do these people care about? Increasing profits, reducing risks and decreasing costs. Depending on the structure of your organization, they may be involved in the execution of these goals, but no doubt, you the “technologist” has been set a task to help: 

The problem with these goals is they aren’t always communicated from the top down as to why they need to happen so there is a gap in educating in both directions as the business value and goals – from the business to the technologist, and likewise from the technologist to business leadership. 

Take for example one organization that wanted to reduce its cloud spend by 70% in 2023. This goal was set at the finance level and communicated to the cloud leader. The cloud leader set the goal and then tasks were created against these. For the technologist, they were looking at rightsizing opportunities, cost optimization tooling. The finance team was looking at negotiating cloud contracts. In the end, the reduction was achieved, but the benefits of why a cloud native environment could help achieve this faster than traditional infrastructure was lost. The tech team could have explained that because the organization had containerized its applications, adopted Kubernetes and used open source tooling, the goal had been met in half the time allotted, exceeding business expectations.  Sadly this was not communicated, missing a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the business value of cloud native technology.  Technology teams need to speak to the value of cloud native in a way that allows the business to understand the investment. 

Cloud Native Must Result from Business Requirements

The drive to go cloud native, and to scale, improve and adapt i.e. mature, must result from a business requirement and consistently communicate value over time in terms the business understands. No organization can become cloud native without business goals informing the decision. As a result, the maturity model now emphasizes what the business must consider to get the benefit of cloud native.

Too often as an industry, cloud native professionals default to discussing the technology in depth. This can cause a misalignment between “the business” and technologists. The “business” doesn’t care about the technology. It cares about growth, managing risk, meeting compliance obligations, customer satisfaction, trust, and cost effectiveness. In the Cloud Native Maturity Model, we talk a lot about the technology, but we need to translate all the technology into language meaningful to the business.

The CNCF Cloud Native Maturity Model now includes three business model examples with business, technology, process, policy and people goals as well as example KPIs in each. Within each level, we address what the business should expect during maturity. 

If you are a technologist in this space, take the time to review business expectations. It could help you save a project, headcount or innovate more. 

You can also watch an overview from KubeCon North America 2023 in Chicago.