Perfect 10: Insider insights on setting up for successful Cloud adoption
One: Don't fear the Cloud: Despite its widespread use in consumer-facing digital services, ‘cloud-phobia’ can be common elsewhere in a business. Disruption of any sort can be concerning, but the secret is to be afraid of the right things; chiefly losing out to competitors who have embraced cloud and are using cloud-only capabilities to re-invent business processes and enter new markets. Many organisations have seen the benefits from cloud based collaboration and remote working through the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic and others will be looking at Cloud to help provide additional levels of business resilience, process automation and flexibility to be prepared for a future disruptive event.
Sure, there are various important factors that need to be addressed in adopting cloud but these need to be framed in the context of the impact of not embracing the change.
Two: Be business-led, not IT-led: Cloud adoption should be based on supporting real objectives, solving business problems and enabling new services as well as becoming more agile, more capable or more scalable. Align your cloud strategy with your business priorities and build cloud technical and operational capability in parallel. Cloud initiatives should always be linked to business value and fit with your overall corporate strategy.
Three: Address the pushback by thinking differently: Existing security and compliance controllers, auditors and risk management folk may point out that cloud is dangerous, that data may be lost, or cyber compromise made. In an incorrectly architected and operated cloud service this is certainly true. The way that you secure your data in the cloud is different, the old ‘perimeter-based’, castle-walls focused model doesn’t apply; instead more granular controls can be put in place at different layers in the architecture. Through this ‘defence in depth’, adopting data centric and a ‘zero-trust’ approaches to design cloud can be secure and compliant with your needs (and quite likely exceed them) but only if you accept that the approach will be different and architect and operate it effectively.
Four: Don't be seduced by the Cloud: Despite its transformational power, cloud is not the unified field theory of everything and the cure for all ills. While some in your organisation may fear cloud, others will see it as the solution to everything and happily sign up for all sorts of technology because it is ‘cloud-based’. Cloud in itself is not a strategy. It’s what cloud can deliver that’s important. Getting on a plane is not a strategy, it’s arriving at the right destination that matters. Vendors will be keen to sell you all sorts of products that come in a nice cloud packaging. Ask yourself whether you really need them.
Five: Define your adoption strategy to achieve your Cloud vision: A cloud strategy that simply asserts a preferred cloud platform – ‘our cloud strategy is to use X’ – sets targets for the amount of adoption, or is simply stated as ‘cloud first’ doesn’t cut it. Define your objectives and where you intend to get to by adopting cloud. Clearly articulate the anticipated benefits – greater operational efficiency, flexibility, agility, increased revenue generation, reduced costs, enhanced security, better risk management, and so on. A plan to deliver the vision typically involves a combination of (i) enabling prioritised business solutions, (ii) building the capability, including skills, to operate cloud effectively at scale and (iii) removing technical debt by re-directing refresh investment in existing services to fund your cloud plan. Remove any one of these elements and the case for change will be much harder to make, or you’ll end up with a suite of cloud solutions that will cost more in total and may actually inhibit your agility.
Six: Lighten the legacy burden: Cloud adoption is not merely a question of reviewing your business applications to see which ones should be migrated to cloud. It’s much more profound than that. By all means, understand which parts of your enterprise architecture are most likely to benefit from cloud and prioritise delivery of your vision in these areas. But also, use the power of the cloud to adopt new and better ways of working.
There may be a case for migrating your existing services and applications to cloud as a mass-migration project, for example in the case of a datacentre closure or major business event like a divestiture. Specific technologies enable you to do this at pace. The challenge is that the end result is likely to cost you more to run than before and bring you little of the agility you were aiming for. In most cases, however, a migration should be an opportunity to perform a level of modernisation; to adopt a level of automation, new ways of delivering availability, environments and deployment. While a mass migration project may not be able to deliver a full transformation to cloud ways of working, done correctly it can be a stepping stone.
Seven: Don't be a perfectionist: There is a real danger of fixating on perfection. Van Gogh did that and lost an ear. Management can spend too much time setting up to achieve perfection – spending vast sums but gaining nothing of real business benefit. Don’t over-specify your project and obsess about achieving the ideal all-singing, all-dancing platform on day one. Don’t try to find cloud solutions for things that aren’t problems. Cloud adoption is not a one-off event. It is a process so don’t over-engineer it.
As a case in point don’t be afraid to have different operating models (or styles) for born in the cloud ‘dev-ops’ applications and for hosting existing applications in the cloud. This may be more effective than attempting to force together as one uniform model, but these are optimally underpinned by a consistent set of services.
Eight: Iterate constantly: When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007, it was pretty revolutionary…but it’s been through ten upgraded versions since then. Expect your cloud adoption journey to take a similar trajectory. Cloud services on which you depend continue to evolve at a fast pace. Manage expectations and set-up your new architecture and operating models to be able to accommodate this. Your cloud journey is iterative. You need to continually evolve.
Nine: Take your people with you: It is particularly important to ensure that your people are ready for cloud adoption. Do they have the right skills, expertise and attitude to deliver successful adoption or do you need to upskill and hire in talent? A Cloud Centre of Excellence (or Enablement, which might be more accurate) is critical but it is more than a team of great architects and engineers. Its success depends on how you bring together previously disparate technology domains and operational disciplines into a new integrated approach. The trick is how to get the templates and controls in place but without stifling the agility your business needs to have. It is not uncommon to find a business spending 30% more than it should on cloud services, so there can be a clear business case for brining in the right team and skills to the cloud effort.
Ten: And last but not least, define what success looks like: Merely getting the cloud adoption project over the line can’t really be counted as success. Over the line is not always pretty and business benefits can get eroded. However, by setting yourself clear objectives and an adoption strategy focussed on shorter term goals aligned to current business requirements you will deliver that much-sought-after business transformation you’ve been working towards.