Migrating to the Cloud is easy. Migrating to the Cloud effectively, not so much. There are two key issues that need to be addressed by businesses defining their migration: understanding the current position and defining what “good” looks like in the Cloud.
You need to know where you are now
Migration to the Cloud is a sliding scale. At the very bottom are those organisations where Cloud adoption remains a shadow IT issue – employees are using hosted services for various functions without official sanction. Other organisations have already migrated part of their workload to the Cloud, effectively replicating their existing infrastructure on hosted platforms. At the top of the scale, forward-thinking organisations have begun reengineering workloads to take advantage of scalable, cost-effective technologies like containerisation.
To further complicate matters, every Cloud migration is different. Fortunately, it is possible to better understand current position – and how the intended destination is reached – by answering some basic questions.
Why are we moving?
Businesses must be clear about what they hope to achieve when moving to the Cloud. Hoping for a massive reduction in IT costs? Looking to outsource various business functions? Joining the trend now and hoping to make a return later?
Defining goals in advance and conducting a feasibility study to see if they can actually be achieved are an important first step. Otherwise, a migration project is likely to fail as it simply won’t have direction or anything to succeed against.
Are we committed to radical change?
Moving to the Cloud is not “just” an IT project. Changing the way technology is used has the potential to radically transform ways of doing business – if allowed.
By increasing data visibility and adopting advanced analytics, businesses gain the ability to make informed strategic decisions more quickly. Business processes must be flexible enough to take advantage of those insights however. Technology provides the capabilities, but C-suite executives will have to enact the necessary cultural reforms to take advantage.
What does migration offer our customers?
If Cloud migration strategy is solely focused on what technology can do for profits, it is almost certain to fail. Customers demand increasingly personalised products, services and interactions – and well-built Cloud systems allow businesses to meet those demands.
Every aspect of migration and development project needs to be laser-focused on how to better serve customers.
What are we doing now, and what does it offer?
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of a Cloud migration project is understanding the current state of play. Businesses need to know the systems currently in place, how they are used, and what they mean to operations.
Why? The move to the Cloud is more than a lift-n-shift exercise. Applications need to be re-engineered to take advantage of serverless environments for instance – otherwise, businesses simply replicate the same technical problems they have always had into the hosted data centre.
What are our users doing?
The way in which existing systems are being used provides insights into the way the business works behind the scenes. How is data used and moved around the company? How can those movements be made more efficient? Which systems need to be linked – or replaced? And when systems and processes need to be updated, how will cultural change be used to support users? How will any change or downtime impact the business? Understanding this from the people who it affects directly, will increase collaboration and adoption within the business.
What does a “good” Cloud team look like?
When a business understands what it currently has, they are then in a position to define where systems are failing to deliver for customers and users. They can also identify opportunities to exploit the limitless potential of the Cloud to improve processes and operations.
Again, technology is only part of the Cloud migration process. The basis of every project is people, the team that builds and maintains the platforms that will drive the project forward.
One solution is to build a team around the concept of a ‘Cloud Centre of Excellence’ (CCoE). Answerable to the C-Suite (usually the CISO or CFO), a CCoE team consists of the following:
- CTO/CIO – to assume final responsibility for Cloud transformation operations.
- Site Reliability Engineer – responsible for maintaining server and application availability according to a server level objective (SLO).
- Infrastructure Engineer – focuses on platforms and shared services that support the rest of the business.
- Security/SecOps – oversees security provisions, from initial system design through to ongoing maintenance.
- Architect – integrates all design elements and environments to build out the Cloud environment.
- Network Engineer – responsible for building secure virtual interconnects between your various environments, including those that remain in the on-site data centre.
- Project Manager - as may be expected, manages the various processes and resources to ensure deliverables are completed on time.
- Finance – as well as controlling project spend, finance needs to be a part of the CCoE so they can properly understand how Cloud radically changes IT spending models.
- Support Engineer – providing the nuts-n-bolts technical support to service users.
(Take a look here for a more detailed breakdown of the various CCoE roles.)
Now you’re ready to migrate
The work supporting a Cloud migration/transformation project begins long before data and applications are moved off-site. Analysis of what is already in use will be crucial to redesigning processes to better serve customers. And building a Cloud-specific team will be instrumental in building a secure, future-ready platform that helps a business reach its strategic growth targets.
- Before moving anything, you must properly understand existing systems infrastructure, processes and use.
- You must have a clear reason for moving to the Cloud - or your project is unlikely to succeed.
- Do we have a culture that encourages change? If not, what do we need to do?
- Change should always be focused on how to better serve customers - this will always bring the greatest benefits.
- What would a successful Cloud migration look like? Defining success up-front will help you track progress and set workable targets.
- You must have a Cloud-specific IT project team in place. Don’t be afraid to seek external assistance when required.