5 key learnings of those who ventured into the cloud

Over the past few years, thousands of companies have moved to the cloud. Thousands more are about to make the move. According to IDC, global spending on public cloud services will grow nearly 20 percent per year, reaching more than $195 billion by 2020. That same year, IDC predicts that one in four software applications will be delivered as a service over the Internet.

Despite the hype and optimism, not every cloud initiative goes well. As you plan your move to the cloud, it’s a good idea to learn from the mistakes of those who came before you.

Here are five of the most common key lessons that those who have ventured into the cloud have learned.

1. Craft a mission statement

Sure, moving to the cloud will impress shareholders, and the media might even take notice. But unless you craft a mission that articulates your reasons for moving to the cloud as well as your goals, you almost certainly won’t see the return on investment you were hoping for.

Want to increase productivity? Software as a Service offerings let employees run line-of-business software inside their web browsers, so you don’t need to maintain these apps inside your data center. In this case your mission might be, “We will move some or all of our line-of-business software to the cloud to increase productivity.”

Hoping to get your IT budget in line while scaling your business? Infrastructure as a Service providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform let you order up virtual servers as you need them and configure them remotely.

Need a sandbox for your developers to write code without touching mission-critical business apps? Once again, Infrastructure as a Service may be your best bet.

The ability to craft a simple mission statement requires an understanding of the cloud and how it can help your business. If you are unable to determine your mission, you have homework to do before you move forward.

$195b

$195 billion is the amount IDC projects will be spent on public cloud services by 2020.

2. Articulate clear success metrics

Once you’ve aligned your IT goals with those of the business, you need to establish metrics that tell you whether you’re fulfilling your mission.

You may want to double your call center volume, cut your IT costs by 25 percent, get your apps to market three times faster, or improve your Net Promoter Score by 30 percent. The goals you articulate in your mission will determine the metrics you use to prove success.

3. Create a strategic plan of attack

Moving everything to the cloud may be the right path, but actually getting there requires careful planning. Migrating mission-critical apps or ditching your physical data center for a virtual one is far from trivial. If you think you’re going to move your enterprise resource planning (ERP) to a cloud service within a few months, you will need to readjust your expectations.

As with nearly everything else, planning is key. Work with your teams to anticipate the things you need to do and the ways your business processes and customer experiences might change.

4. Talk to all stakeholders

For a cloud migration to be successful, you need input from everyone it touches. For example, some business apps may not work in the cloud, or you might be able to get only 80 percent of the functionality that your on-premises versions provide. Is it the right 80 percent? Your line-of-business people will know.

Ask your operations team how long it would take to move ERP to a cloud service.

Your security team may have concerns about potential data breaches due to weak authentication systems.

Your legal department might tell you that regulatory requirements will squelch your plan to store customer data in the cloud.

It’s better to know these things upfront before issuing any mandates.

This is not a one-time change; it’s a gradual transition.

5. Know that moving to the cloud is not a one-time switch—it’s a new way to do business

Just as you can’t just flip a switch and migrate operations to the cloud, you won’t wake up any time soon and discover you’re all-cloud, all the time. This is not a one-time change; it’s a gradual transition.

The odds are that you will need to maintain a hybrid environment, with some of your computing in the cloud and some maintained on premises, for a long time to come. In some cases, it may make more sense to keep things in-house more or less permanently. While the cloud has the power to transform your business, it will only happen when you are thoughtful about your move and take the time to do it right.

Summary

While it’s healthy to want to transform your business via the cloud, don’t be in so much of a hurry that you fail to plan a realistic strategy for achieving your goals. Take the time to craft your mission and metrics. Get all stakeholders involved and try to anticipate everything you might need to do as well as everything that might go wrong. Understand that you’ll be involved with this process for many years, adjusting your plan with every evolution in cloud capabilities.