The only thing constant about change is change itself, and history provides us with the proof.
Inevitably, business organisations have had to go through many changes in recent years regarding their business models and how they operate. Most of these changes have been mainly to keep up with technological advances and work smarter. Organisations today need to remain flexible to adapt better to the changing demands and technological innovations.
Adapting and acclimatising to new business methods requires firm groundwork to enhance work performance and ensure agile growth. To put it simply, a good cloud strategy is necessary for a hypothetical future scenario that would be practical impactful, improve the business's overall performance and power your business forward.
The number of organisations moving their IT infrastructure to cloud computing has increased every year. Business enterprises that have advanced their whole IT infrastructure from ‘cloud first’ to ‘cloud only’ have also increased. This means that moving to the cloud offers a better way of doing and carrying out business operations.
What is a cloud strategy?
Before moving to the cloud, a strategy needs to be in place that encompasses all the aspects regarding the move, from business baseline and financial deliberations to security and alignment of IT infrastructure moving to the cloud with the big corporate picture.
So, a cloud strategy may be defined as one of the corporate tools, a plan that outlines the role of cloud or cloud computing in an organisation. It answers the questions ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ regarding the move to the cloud. The cloud strategy provides the best hypothetical IT roadmap to cloud adoption and its usage. Without a proper cloud strategy, an organisation may attempt to make choices that divert the business from the path towards meeting its critical corporate goals. A cloud strategy also enables a company to adopt actionable objectives and the appropriate focus.
The Cardinal 14 Step Cloud Strategy
When forming a cloud strategy, numerous factors need to be considered starting with the executive baseline.
The executive summary summarises the need to move certain aspects of IT to the cloud and the benefits to be gained from doing so, for instance, lowering the volume of repetitive tasks and ensuring seamless workflow automation. The executive summary provides for a communication platform with the senior management regarding the members of the cloud council, their names, and roles. But more vitally, it summarises the ‘why’ of the move to the cloud and consequently the strategy for the ‘why’.
Setting Business Objectives
The first stage of cloud strategy is setting up business objectives or baseline, that is to validate the need for cloud adoption in alignment with the overall business outcomes - how and in what way will the adoption of cloud help in solving problems, overcoming challenges and enhancing the overall work performance of the business.
This stage of the cloud strategy will define when and how to use the cloud services. Have discussions on the feasibility of using a public service provider or building and maintaining a personal one, which would be better in the short and long term – keeping in mind that building and maintaining one’s one cloud services takes enormous effort and commitment.
Cloud computing or adopting a cloud does not come for free, and one does not necessarily save money by moving to the cloud. So before adopting cloud, the various pricing models against each kind of cloud service need to be correctly understood, and its financial implications are recognised on the business.
This stage of financial considerations should look at available financial options, focusing on budgeting and cost transparency.
Assessment of Existing IT Infrastructure
In this stage of cloud strategy, you look at your existing IT architecture and assess its technical prowess and maturity. This assessment will provide you with an insight into both the merits and flaws of your current IT architecture and the things that need to be worked on or finely tuned before moving to the cloud.
Gap Analysis and Planning
This part comes subsequently to make an overall assessment of the business. Following the evaluation and identification of gaps and shortcomings, activities can be planned to fill those gaps and improve the deficiencies to ensure a seamless and smooth cloud implementation or adoption.
The cardinal principles of your cloud strategy primarily define how you will be adopting the cloud. It is an integral part of the overall cloud strategy. It focuses on what form of cloud adoption will best suit your IT capabilities and is in alignment with the business requirements. When it comes to principles of cloud adoption, the common ones are – cloud-first, best–of–breeds, multi-cloud and buy before build.
Among these four common principles, the ‘cloud first’ approach is generally the first option considered by business enterprises for any new technology or technological initiative.
Creating the Inventory
While creating an inventory of workloads, it is imperative to understand them first and categorise them by their importance and which workloads are best suited to be moved to the cloud. Not all the workloads must be transferred to the cloud as the ones running well in your data centre need not be touched.
The best way to start creating an inventory of the workload would be through basic information like the owner's name, vendor, security requirements, and other dependencies.
Ensuring proper security is of utmost importance. When it comes to a public cloud or cloud used by a vendor, the responsibility of ensuring data security is shared among many parties, making role assignment and identification even more critical.
In terms of cloud strategy, if the move or adoption of cloud entails some changes to be made to the existing data security in the face of cloud computing, the cloud strategy should be flexible to accommodate these changes.
The Support Framework
One of the critical factors to be considered in the cloud strategy is staffing, data centre and cloud architecture that will provide the support framework for cloud computing.
Staffing or selection of potential candidates to work on the cloud will be an integral part of your cloud strategy. The cloud service adopted may require different skill sets to cater to cloud computing needs.
Additionally, hiring HR personnel or including one in your cloud strategy team to oversee the requirements and compliances of the staffing needed for cloud computing would be wise.
The cloud strategy should have an objective and rational perspective while assessing the potential risks of adopting the cloud from the business and technological viewpoint. Upon evaluating the potential risks, which can be appraised in two categories – benefit risks (overall business success falling short) and delivery risks (not able to deliver as promised) – and have secondary, tertiary plans to mitigate these risks.
The main goal of the implementation plan is to support the adoption of the cloud as recommended by the cloud strategy. The main elements of an implementation plan include (but is not limited) –
- Establishing an efficient framework for the move or adoption of cloud computing that is perfectly aligned with IT requirements and business outcomes.
- Prioritisation and classification of cloud project
- Planning and arranging the distribution of resources to ensure streamlined and timely delivery of services.
- Recommending and forming the best practices for the adoption of the cloud.
- Implementing the overall cloud strategy into action.
Keeping track of an implementation plan is tough work with many minute details to take note of, so it's important to keep track of your tasks with weekly workplans or come up with a weekly workplan template.
Further adjustments refer to the fine-tuning of the overall cloud strategy in context to the IT requirements and business needs. As important as assessing the existing IT architecture and its functioning is, it is also vital to have a clear vision of what it will become after adopting cloud computing. Technical and business priorities need to be identified and functions and mechanisms put in place to successfully fulfil those priorities.
The last factor to consider on the ‘why’ of developing a cloud strategy is having a solid ‘how’ for an exit strategy. Many regulators, especially in the European Union and financial services, have asked for an exit strategy out of a cloud contract.
The two most essential elements to be considered when it comes to exit strategy are – Data ownership and Data backup. The recent covid pandemic has brought into light the uncertain times we live in, necessitating a viable and solid exit strategy.
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