You can do something correctly and as expected, but it might not be the right thing to do at that specific time or in that specific context. Not only will it not achieve the desired outcome, but it could also have a completely unintended effect. Before that happens in your relationship with the public cloud, we would like to offer you our view on how to do cloud right.
1. Define cloud
First and foremost, do you know what cloud means to you and your organization? This sounds like a simple question, but as we have explored in detail, everyone seems to have a different answer, and making sure you’re correctly defining cloud can have far-reaching impacts for your organization. Some say cloud is VMware on-premises, because users can request virtual machines quickly, and others say it is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that powers their business. Some might counter that cloud is about utilizing the native capabilities of the public cloud providers such as Amazon. And then there are others who might argue that cloud is not a destination but rather the way IT should operate to deliver value. All these answers have an element of truth to them, so before you embark on your cloud journey figure out what cloud means to you.
2. Identify whether cloud is right for you
The next question to answer is: “why cloud?” Those who read Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, might remember this line: “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” We lean toward the idea that cloud is not a destination, but a way of doing business — and that requires a significant amount of change in the way enterprises currently operate. This change impacts people, process, and technology, and, by far, the people aspect is the most difficult — and the most impactful. And if you want people to follow you on this journey, they need to buy into WHY you are doing it.
I have been “in the cloud” on my own since 2010, and since 2014, I’ve had the privilege of observing and helping large enterprises migrate their workloads and operations to public cloud. There are a number of best practices and lessons learned from those years, but one that stands out is that the companies that agree on why they are doing cloud succeed far more often than the ones that do not.
At CTP, we have noticed that companies who have conducted cloud adoption workshops before they started their initiatives were able to openly discuss the hidden issues, face their fears, understand and agree (even in principle) on the desired outcomes, and generally get aligned with the WHY. The consensus and shared vision established during these workshops allowed companies to more easily overcome the various issues they encountered along their cloud adoption journey.
For example, a common issue is not getting Security and Governance groups involved early enough. We have seen those groups get defensive and even adopt a “not our problem, you should have asked earlier” attitude, which of course had a negative impact on progress. This was not because they were not interested in helping, but because they were put on the spot and told what to do, instead of being included as part of the solution from the start. Prevent the finger-pointing by getting consensus early.
The key benefit of getting consensus and identifying the WHY is that it makes you think through the problems you are trying to solve. Cloud, as good as it is, might not be the right answer for everything.
Let us take a look at the classic people, process, technology intersections.
Figure 1: People, Process and Technology Intersections
People, process and technology make up the WHAT of any transformation, including cloud adoption, but they are not the WHY. There are different WHYs you might identify, but the ones we have commonly seen over the years are:
- Culture Change is at the intersection of people and process. Companies need to break away from the status quo and the “we have always done things this way” mentality.
- Time to Value is realized by getting the best out of process and technology. It is not just about the automation of software deployments but rather about improving the entire value chain.
- Innovation is driven by people applying technology to come up with new ideas. Cloud certainly allows companies to experiment and innovate much faster than they were able to before.
Make sure you are clear on WHY you want to go to cloud, before you embark on the journey.
3. Make sure the timing is right
Humans are creatures of habit, and change is hard. For some people, it is never the right time for change, and analysis-paralysis is prevalent in a number of organizations. On the other hand, just because cloud might be the right answer for you, it might not be the right answer right now.
For example, if you have a long-term contract with your data center provider and still have a few years left, now might not be the right time for cloud. Or, if you just made a significant investment in your on-premises infrastructure, you may have to wait a couple of years before taking on additional financial obligations.
But the biggest reason the time may not be right is that the organization is not ready for the change. For example, you might be going through a number of changes already (acquisition, re-org, new ERP system implementation), and do not have the capacity to absorb more structural changes. Cloud transformation involves exercising every one of your organizational muscles, so you need to be truly ready to do that. The simple “sure, sure, we will just deal with it when it comes” approach is not going to work. You need to be truly prepared to face the challenges ahead.
So: are you ready for change, and is everyone aligned with what it is?
4. Execute well
To do something well, you have to know what you are doing. These are the WHAT and HOW parts of the WHY, WHAT, HOW trifecta. You have defined what cloud means to you, why you want to do it and prepared yourself for the journey. Now, let us take a look at what you should focus on and the actual execution.
The large majority of our clients want to do public cloud in order to deliver more value to their end customers. They want to mature their operations so they can stay competitive by delivering value faster and more cost-effectively. All say they want to use the cloud to transform how their business operates. We help them understand the key areas of focus based on the eight pillars of our Cloud Transformation Maturity approach:
Figure 2: 8 Pillars of Cloud Transformation
These maturity domains are all interconnected, and in order to be truly successful in the cloud, companies must address all of them. That does not mean you have to focus on every domain right away, nor that you should put the same amount of effort into each one. However, you should absolutely understand your current level of maturity first, and identify your desired target end state, so you can chart your course accordingly. Transformation takes time, so do not worry about boiling the ocean right away. Pick a couple of areas and begin the journey: The Strategy and Security domains are usually good candidates.
The majority of technical personnel at large enterprises adopting cloud either do not have the required skills or, more importantly, the needed time to focus on this new initiative. Oftentimes, they are busy supporting mission-critical applications every day, which does not give them enough bandwidth to dedicate to other work. Therefore, most enterprises choose a partner to help accelerate the cloud transformation and enable the IT staff to become capable and self-sufficient in the cloud over the long term.
Could an organization’s IT staff do everything on its own? Maybe, but certainly not right away, and not at the velocity a partner can help establish. Sometimes there is a bit of healthy tension between the partner and internal IT, but please resist IT’s argument that they can do the same work, with the same quality and in the same timeframe as the partner. If they could, who would be doing their regular work?
The key thing to remember is this: it is not about “us vs. them.” There is plenty of work for everyone. The most successful projects we have seen happen when teams identify all the key stakeholders relevant to the undertaking and get their buy-in and participation out of the gate. The whole point is to accelerate your journey and enable your people, and it is easier to do those things when you have the right partner alongside you, instead of trying to do it alone.
Over the years and hundreds of successful engagements, we have developed significant expertise and honed our methodology to effectively help our clients steer through various challenges and quickly realize the benefits of the public cloud. Whether it is in workshops and targeted assessments (economics, security, and migration readiness through Right Mix Advisor), as part of public cloud architecture and design, or in the development of net-new, mission-critical cloud applications, we can help you get value from cloud more quickly
Pick the right partner that will help enable your organization to be self-sufficient in the future.
5. Keep learning from it
As we said earlier, cloud is not a destination, but a way of doing business which involves agility, lessons learned, and additional improvements. Whatever applications, operations, or services you end up migrating to the cloud, make sure you foster a culture of continuous improvement in your organization to keep getting the best you can out of the cloud. This includes constantly monitoring your spend, focusing on your security and compliance posture and innovating based on the feedback you are receiving. Do not punish failure but encourage innovation, creativity, and feedback. A shorter feedback loop will result in better software, quicker deployment of features for customers, more efficient operations, fewer issues, more cost savings, and better value.
Good luck with your cloud adventure, and we hope you do it right.