Navigating your journey to the cloud
Your organization may understand the benefit of cloud computing, but you still face a challenging journey to get there. Migrating a company’s IT operations to the cloud may be more complex than it seems.
One of the biggest mistakes when beginning a cloud migration is to view it in a narrow context. Managers typically begin by working out how to move applications from existing IT environments. A mature approach to cloud migration goes beyond this, though, and covers three main areas.
A transformative move
The first area to consider when migrating to the cloud is business transformation. After all, applications are there to fulfil business goals. Migration teams should begin by asking what business outcomes can be supported by a move to the cloud, and how they might be updated or enhanced in the process. Cloud computing opens new opportunities for businesses, and business executives may consider new business initiatives as part of the migration process.
The second broad area for consideration during a cloud migration is organizational transformation. The move to cloud computing can redefine the role of the IT department within the larger organization by changing the provision of IT services.
IT departments can use the enhanced management capabilities in the cloud to create an ‘IT as a service’ model, providing a more transparent and accountable flavor of IT than previously possible. The ability to transform the business and change its organisation will in turn can elevate the IT department from its traditional role as a cost center within the business, to a strategic business partner.
This organizational transformation goes beyond the IT department, though. A transition to the cloud is a far-reaching process touching many different parts of the business. Consequently, it can only succeed if there is sufficient buy-in from senior management.
An executive sponsor must support decisions that may have significant ramifications within the business. New business goals identified during the migration process may entail new roles and responsibilities to support them. Reporting structures may have to be redesigned. Existing groups within the organisation may have to be realigned to accommodate these new business goals, and it may even involve the creation of entirely new groups that will be necessary to support these new objectives.
A culture of openness
Underpinning these strategic, organizational challenges is another layer that must be considered: technology architecture. Changes to the existing architecture are inevitable when migrating to the cloud, but a ‘rip and replace’ approach is typically too simplistic.
Most modern IT architectures are a complex mix of different technologies, separated into different stacks, ranging from storage through to networking and security. Each stack is governed by different tools and relationships with the business. Each of them will have its own service level agreements, and its own way of presenting those services to customers, if they’re visible at all.
It is highly unlikely that an organization would move all of its applications and each of its different technology stacks to the cloud. Some will depend on legacy equipment and will be too expensive or too mission critical to update. Others will be considered too sensitive in heavily regulated industries, perhaps. Picking through these concerns and prioritising which applications to move to the cloud first can be a challenging task.
Even more challenging is the fact that many of these different functions within the IT department will be siloed, with teams that don’t talk to each other, and with stacks that don’t exchange information with each other.
This lack of communication is an opportunity. Transitioning to the cloud demands a collapse of these silos, enabling implementation teams to create a new, more open environment in which information is more readily exchanged. In a cloud-based environment, where storage, server, network equipment and software security appliances all sit together in the same rack, there is no room for balkanisation.
A unification of the IT environment will create a need for new technology standards within the IT department. These will help to ensure that previously disconnected parts of the IT infrastructure now make data and services available to each other within a cloud environment.
This unified view of technology must be replicated within the IT team. In the past, experts may have focused on one particular aspect of IT operations. A more joined-up cloud-based environment requires a more generalist skill set, in which experts have a broad view of different IT functions within a single architecture. These will range from security through to change and performance management and beyond.
Cloud migration may be a larger and more complex project than it initially seems, but this complexity brings with it great opportunity. Designed and implemented properly, this transition could transform an organization so profoundly that it reinvents large parts of itself. It can bring new business models to light, and root out entrenched inefficiencies, both in technology and business operations. It’s a daunting prospect, but the rewards are huge.