The appetite for cloud services from Enterprise organisations is forecast to grow by almost a quarter in the next four years. As the demand for cloud services increases, it is essential that any move to the cloud is backed by a clear business strategy.
Reliability, flexibility, plus potential cost savings and efficiencies are all great if the result of your move to the cloud is successful. However, transitioning Enterprise IT systems to the cloud are rarely straightforward and can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. How many times have you heard of a cloud project being scrapped after outrunning its budget or failing to deliver the results that were expected?
Ian Sharpe, a senior consultant with iomart’s public cloud consultancy SystemsUp, has helped design and deliver many successful projects in partnership with organisations across both public and private sectors.
Here are his recommendations for ensuring your move to the cloud is a successful one.
What does the cloud mean for my organisation?
This is the first question you should ask yourself. The answer can be vastly different depending on what sort of company or department you are, what sort of cloud services you want to use and what you want the end result to be. If you are an enterprise, your goal might be to get rid of legacy infrastructure and become more agile as a business while still protecting your business-critical data. If you’re a government department you might be making the move to the cloud because of a drive to cut costs and enable a more digital approach to delivering services. What is important here is to create a definition that can be understood by your senior management or your board of directors, right down to your front-line staff.
What is my cloud strategy?
The next step is to create a cloud strategy. This is a clear strategy that your senior management team, executive board and IT operations management can understand, and one that has been signed off by the business proper. It has to fit in to your overall business strategy. Do all your services need to be consumed in the Cloud? It might be that a combination of private and public will work better than a full blown leap into the unknown. This is important for you to understand and plan for, especially where your business is risk averse or has to meet certain regulatory or legal standards.
Cloud deployment models
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) need to be understood here. This is the time to understand which specific cloud services might work best for you. Is Amazon Web Services your best option or should you go for Microsoft Azure? Perhaps a combination of services from both would be your best course of action? If you’re not sure this is the time to bring in specialist consultants who can lay out the options and give you the pros and cons of each, in context of your requirements.
What are your timescales? Some thought should be given here to staging - do some applications need to be moved first, or can your entire IT system be moved onto a public cloud platform in its entirety. Is a phased migration appropriate for your business, or would a single cutover event be deemed less risky? This means considering factors beyond the technical such as whether the move you’re planning will complicate your existing support arrangements.
The vision forms
As your roadmap to the cloud starts to emerge, assessing and understanding your current platform will help you decide whether you need to standardise your existing proprietary systems or re-platform and upgrade them before you undertake the move.
This is the stage for deep analysis on the strategic impact of moving your legacy services to public cloud. Does this approach align with your strategic plan? What implications are there for your technology roadmap? What impact will it have on your business strategy? Understand how moving to the cloud supports all of the above.
Assess risk formally. Establish the risk register for cloud and bind it into the overarching Enterprise Risk Management process. Understand and document which new risks both moving to and operating your legacy systems in the cloud will bring. It is equally important to assess how cloud can help you mitigate some of your existing corporate risks.
Costs will move - broadly speaking - from CAPEX to OPEX – so your financial model will change. The finance team has to understand the impact of that model change on the way that IT operates. Consider resource costs, return on investment, and changes to your asset base. Benchmark your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) today, and model it for your post-cloud transition. It is important here to understand where IT stands in relation to the rest of the organisation, and if cloud services will be seen as a genuine business benefit in the long run.
The detailed requirements
It is now time to document the formal requirements for the project. This is a critical step because the requirements defined at this stage will drive the design and determine which providers you use as well as the most suitable deployment model. Depending on the nature and complexity of your organisation and its systems, this could take weeks or months. At this stage you might need to engage consultants if you do not have this expertise in-house.
The costs for the project will be a lot clearer now, although they will refine as the design is matured, so it is also time to work out how your cloud migration project is going to be funded.
As previously stated, this is likely to be different for every organisation. The simple fact is that the sheer number of options for making a successful move to the cloud means there is no such thing as a "one size fits all" migration. By following the steps above you will have the right strategy and the right design to get the unique outcomes your organisation desires.
This is where the prospect of failure rears its ugly head. If it does all go wrong, it can go spectacularly wrong. You will find yourself stuck somewhere between your legacy service and your new cloud service. A halfway house is an unfortunate place to be, with potentially twice the cost and complexity until the situation is resolved.
Strong project management, and governance of risk are essential.
To ensure successful implementation, therefore, you should:
- Establish a formal project or programme structure using a standard methodology. Do not cut corners. You are moving the heart of your enterprise into the cloud, which is always going to carry risk.
- Appoint a sponsor who is active, interested, and well plugged into the executive of your enterprise. Better still, make sure your sponsor is part of the executive.
- Choose a project manager with plenty of demonstrable project success in this area. They will be expensive, however they will also be a key factor to success.
- Test, test, test and test some more. This is not always possible with cloud transition of legacy systems. However, if you can move some development and test environments into the cloud provider early, it will ease the path of the production service. Remember, the migration planning and execution will be based entirely on the solution you have chosen.
- Manage your staff and contractors. Moving an IT system to the cloud will significantly impact your people so make sure they are kept well informed and work closely with your contractors to keep on top of any issues that crop up.
- Communicate, communicate and communicate some more. Make your project board meetings open where possible. Distribute information to all stakeholders and assign champions to help spread the message.
- Make your people aware that they are going to have to work long and hard during and also post implementation. Do not make the mistake of shutting down your project too early.
- Retrain early. It is inevitable that new technology will be introduced to support the new cloud service. Train your people in advance. Do not make the mistake of trying to train them during implementation. If you outsource some or all of your IT support and operations, make sure the partner you choose has the appropriate skills and experience to support you through this process and beyond.
This is the stage where you can move from transition phase to your ‘business as usual’ activities. It sounds simple but if you are not ready with these steps and processes then the first few months of the new service will be very difficult indeed, so the earlier they can be defined and agreed with your operations teams and application owners the better.
Remembering these 7Ms of management will help:
- Disaster Recovery management
Not just from your organisational perspective (what you do in in a disaster) but also from the cloud provider’s perspective (what they do in a disaster). Have a thoroughly-tested plan that is regularly maintained.
- Capacity management Failure to have control over the capacity of the cloud service could have catastrophic consequences for your finances. Some of the strongest advantages are also the highest risks. Having the ability to scale your platform for millions of instances in seconds is a distinct advantage, however not managing it properly is a high operational risk.
- Availability management Less of a concern as this will now be managed by your cloud provider. However don’t forget that you still own the infrastructure chain up to the provider (i.e. Internet or network edge) and this still has to be managed.
- Production change management Now made more complex, particularly if you have chosen an offshore cloud provider. Your operations team needs to have a process that informs bilaterally of intended impacting changes to production.
- Release management If you have moved to a full Software as a Service (SaaS) model this is critical as the cloud provider is now responsible for all product upgrades and development.
- Problem management If you have chosen a hybrid multi-cloud model for your new cloud service, process becomes far more important. The number of ‘moving parts’ is likely to have increased as is the number of providers you are using. Problem management must be fast in a world with that many variables.
- Process management Ensure there is a well-documented operational manual and process. The new cloud service is just like any other IT system. It requires maintenance and daily operational tasks.
By taking these careful and considered steps, you will be able to design and deliver your enterprise IT systems to the cloud.
SystemsUp understands that every organisation we work with to facilitate cloud migration has its own unique requirements. That’s why our highly qualified consultants work closely with you to understand each and every challenge you are facing and help you to define the right solution for a successful outcome.
If you would like to know more
SystemsUp is an iomart company.