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John Keller

Director, Product Management at Comcast Business

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Three Keys to Successful Cloud Migration

May 23, 2018

Successfully prepare your enterprise for a digital future by creating a well-defined cloud migration strategy.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu, Ancient Chinese Military strategist

If you are not in the cloud today, you will be shortly.

A recent survey of CIOs found that cloud computing came in third place for tech initiatives that were driving IT. Only implementation of Enterprise Applications (CRM, ERP) and Data/Business Analytics ranked higher in the respondents’ eyes. Many organizations continue to view the cloud as their preferred option for IT deployments. They believe a cloud-first approach will enable scalability, spur business growth and agility, drive innovation and reduce IT costs.

However, getting to the cloud is not always easy. The sad truth is that a large number of transformation projects are destined to fail. According to research performed by Enterprise Management Associates Inc. (EMA), cloud implementations are often postponed or cancelled. The poll found that as much as 57 percent of AWS users reported stalled or failed cloud adoption projects while 44 percent described the same sort of problems implementing Microsoft Azure. Often challenges arise from unclear goals and a lack of cohesive vision across the enterprise; teams get bogged down with too many initiatives, the sheer volume of options and (sometimes contradictory) information and expert recommendations.

The bottom line is that cloud transformation efforts can “cost” not only money, but time, resources and people as well. On the other hand, when done right, the rewards for migrating to the cloud are plentiful. Here are some thoughts on how to proceed:

Adopt a Selective Strategy

Although a cloud implementation can benefit the enterprise, decision makers must remember that cloud-first does not equal “cloud everything” and not all workloads function better in the cloud. An analysis of business benefits and risks should precede a cloud implementation.

If cloud-centric projects occur in an ad hoc fashion, you’re bound to end up with an unmanageable, costly hodgepodge of services and applications. To avoid such a scenario, decision makers should step back and ask themselves what they want to accomplish by going to the cloud. Are they moving workloads to the cloud, replacing on-premises workloads with cloud services or tapping entirely new services in the cloud? This requires prioritization and selectivity of which applications belong on premises and which belong in the cloud.

A common assumption is that it is better to keep mission-critical workloads in house to avoid performance problems and/or to ensure security. In fact, the opposite may be the case: These days cloud environments can provide better security than one might find on-premises. By leveraging appropriate measures (which may include setting up secure and direct connections to the cloud), enterprises can move mission critical workloads to the cloud with confidence.

Considerations Before you Start

There are many aspects and tactics to consider when moving a workload or environment to the cloud. In addition to worrying about engaging your (possibly unconvinced or scared?) employees, starting your migration with smaller/less important workloads or having a governance plan, there are some additional elements you may want to consider:

Don’t force it Many legacy systems that run your most mission critical applications are not cloud-ready. Not all workloads will benefit by using cloud services, so don’t force it. Consider engaging third-party expertise for your migration efforts. Don’t be afraid to mix multiple clouds and non-cloud infrastructures. Companies increasingly are using multiple clouds – both private and public – as well as on-premises infrastructures and data centers to create a hybrid environment.

Understand the true cost Make sure you consider the true cost of moving to the cloud. The initial, low cost of running a workload in the cloud is enticing, but make sure you include the migration effort, the opportunity costs as well as the long term running costs. And don’t forget the potential complexity and costs to decommission your cloud environment.

Protect your data It cannot be stressed enough: make sure your systems, infrastructure and data are secured from the get-go. This includes data at rest (as it sits in storage in the cloud) as well as data in motion (as it traverses between systems and between the cloud and your users). Make sure your team has the tools and training to secure and protect your environment in the cloud. Also consider regulatory compliance, service availability and feature set when choosing a cloud infrastructure.

Future-proof Not an easy task, but make sure you don’t blindly implement something that will end up being a figurative IT dead end. Vet your options and consider how your IT will evolve in the coming years. And consider the trend towards leveraging multiple clouds simultaneously. This is counterintuitive to the one-size fits all mentality that sometimes stalls cloud projects.

Don’t ignore Shadow IT Anyone in your organization is able to procure their own cloud resources without engaging IT. Don’t ignore or punish them. Instead, embrace and learn from them by creating lines of communication where business operations and IT can assess the resources needed to meet corporate goals.

Ensure adequate connectivity When you move your infrastructure offsite, you need to pay even closer attention to things like network performance, reliable connectivity, and network security. The consequences of ignoring these aspects may mean poor user experience and/or loss of mission critical data.

Research and test new options Don’t get left behind by ignoring leading-edge technologies. These will likely give you an edge over your competition. However, make sure you adequately test them before adoption.

Apply Robust Change Management Best Practices

Moving to the cloud is often inspired by hopes of slashing IT costs, increasing performance and gaining the agility all organizations crave to better compete in today’s marketplace. However, developing an enterprise cloud strategy takes more than just issuing a corporate mandate to move all digital assets to the cloud. Cloud migrations succeed and fail on how well you manage the project.

Successful transformations share some common attributes: clear, aspirational targets, a clear structure, energy and organizational involvement, and strong leadership. Companies who succeed in these transformations do well because they have defined their targets, roles, and structure of the transformation from the outset. They spend time understanding their current situation, identifying both capabilities and problems. They look at the transformation not only as one big mission, but break it down into “bite-sized” projects that can be achieved individually. And they engage their employees actively, looking for collaboration and consensus along the way while giving them the opportunity to have input in the process.

In the End Having a Plan is the Key to Success

Without a solid plan you may never actually accomplish moving anything to the cloud effectively. Before jumping in, you need to assess your current situation, define a strategy, visualize a desired end state and then identify the tactics to ensure a successful cloud implementation. Otherwise you may end up spending a lot more on your transformation than you expected and with limited success.

A clear cloud strategy stimulates the right behaviors across the organization because it covers a broad swath of functional areas and also clarifies each stakeholder’s role within each area. It includes leadership and executive sponsorship which will help the plan move forward. It also specifies each stakeholder’s role and responsibilities, not only for accountability purposes but also to spur enthusiasm and move projects along.

A well-defined plan is the foundation for all things cloud within the organization – architecture, security, network performance, reliable connectivity, bandwidth planning, governance and consumption should all be covered. Done right, the strategy development phase is what will move your cloud project forward and successfully prepare your enterprise for a digital future.

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