Posted: 02 Nov. 2022 5 min. read

From cloud first to cloud serious

A blog post by Eric A. Marks, specialist leader, Cloud Strategy, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Cloud has been a viable technology for well over a decade, and it has dramatically revolutionized the information technology industry. Over that time, there has also been remarkable growth in the cloud landscape. The cloud industry is now dominated by several hyperscalers, and there are other, smaller, providers that serve a growing number of customers worldwide.

However, despite the fact that cloud is over a decade old, many cloud strategies still focus on understanding and migrating to cloud, as opposed to fully exploiting cloud from a business and IT perspective. These “cloud first” strategies have building a sound business case as their goal.

Although a sound cloud business case is an essential requirement as part of an overall cloud strategy, viewing cloud from a business-case lens tends to focus on technology and cost, as opposed to the impact of cloud computing more broadly across the business and information technology landscape. It doesn’t represent a transformative view of cloud.

Instead, it is critical to understand that a transformative cloud strategy looks to transformative factors such as: how cloud will drive innovation, agility, and growth; improve resilience, reduce costs, and improve time to market; and improve the relationship between the business and IT.

Origins of cloud first

In December of 2010, the United States Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra published the “25 point implementation plan to reform federal information technology management.”1  This document included the term “cloud first” as one of its top priorities to drive IT efficiency. Further, in 2017, recognizing the need for a cloud strategy refresh, the US Federal Government adopted a new mantra, “cloud smart,”2  in an attempt to accelerate agency adoption of cloud computing by equipping agencies with actionable information and guidance harvested from leading commercial and public sector use cases.

So, if “cloud first” is now officially passé, what should a more contemporary cloud strategy look like? We might call the next generation “cloud serious.” To that end, what might be the essential elements of a “cloud serious” strategy?

Moving from cloud first to cloud serious

What makes a cloud strategy evolve from a “cloud first” approach to a business-driven and more strategic, “cloud serious” approach? There are three factors that make up a minimum viable cloud strategy: current situation analysis , cloud strategic planning, and reverse engineering analysis. 

Current situation analysis

Current situation analysis is an important starting point for any strategy development process in that it helps organizations develop an understanding of global business conditions from a macroeconomic perspective and can reveal how an organization is impacted by those conditions. The process develops a fact base from which the cloud strategic planning and development process builds on, and it often includes analysis of markets, business conditions, goals, cloud imperatives, and expected value from cloud.

In some situations, companies may wish to bypass current situation analysis and to move directly on to the cloud strategy development phase. However, it’s essential that some discovery time and effort be invested in understanding the current situation to best inform the future cloud strategy. Once the current situation is understood, strategy planning can begin.

Cloud strategic planning

The cloud strategic planning process is an iterative, creative process of a developing a future-state vision that helps achieve business, technology, and workforce goals and objectives. This visioning process is essential to open the aperture of the “possible,” and it helps identify potential avenues of opportunity that may not have been considered before.

In cloud strategic planning, organizations should consider their mission and vision, business drivers, cloud goals, cloud architectural options, workforce capabilities, success metrics, and governance. There are many other variables to consider, but the visioning and planning process will help ensure that cloud strategy fits into the business context and is truly business-driven.

Reverse engineering analysis

One strategic planning step that is often overlooked is “what-if” scenario planning and reverse engineering analysis. Simply put, this activity explores the potential barriers and concerns regarding the success of the defined cloud strategy and attempts to pre-mitigate those occurrences with actions and tactics specific to the identified barriers or concerns.

Reverse engineering analysis centers on identifying barrier-to-cloud success and risks that may impact the cloud strategy, developing strategies to mitigate risks and respond to challenges, and pressure-testing those strategies. A reverse engineering analysis can provide valuable insights into events that might disrupt or derail the defined cloud strategy, and it should become a standard part of the strategy development toolbox.

Don’t forget cloud storytelling

Aside from focusing on formal strategic planning and analysis, a cloud strategy can strongly benefit from storytelling. Storytelling helps stakeholders connect with and engage with the cloud strategy, and it helps all participants imagine themselves fitting into and operationalizing the defined cloud strategy. 

A good cloud strategy should include short vignettes that examine various “could be” scenarios about what the client’s enterprise might look like after the adoption and execution of their defined cloud strategy. Storytelling helps the leadership connect and engage with the cloud strategy, and visualize what success looks like.


These cloud strategy development ideas are not new, and most derive from classic business strategy development models that have been used for years. The main takeaway is that a cloud strategy must be business-driven and must help deliver business goals; it must also address the business goals for IT as well.

A well-developed cloud strategy will not leave opportunity on the table and will help galvanize support for a more visionary adoption model for cloud. Opening the planning aperture beyond the mindset of “cloud first” will ensure cloud becomes a strategic initiative and not solely a migration exercise.


1 Kundra, Vivek. “25 point implementation plan to reform federal information technology management.” January 2010.

2 Federal cloud computing strategy. “From Cloud First to Cloud Smart.” 2017.

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David Linthicum

David Linthicum

Managing Director | Chief Cloud Strategy Officer

As the chief cloud strategy officer for Deloitte Consulting LLP, David is responsible for building innovative technologies that help clients operate more efficiently while delivering strategies that enable them to disrupt their markets. David is widely respected as a visionary in cloud computing—he was recently named the number one cloud influencer in a report by Apollo Research. For more than 20 years, he has inspired corporations and start-ups to innovate and use resources more productively. As the author of more than 13 books and 5,000 articles, David’s thought leadership has appeared in InfoWorld, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NPR, Gigaom, and Prior to joining Deloitte, David served as senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, where he grew the practice into a major force in the cloud computing market. Previously, he led Blue Mountain Labs, helping organizations find value in cloud and other emerging technologies. He is a graduate of George Mason University.