Despite Australian investment in public cloud services projected to reach $4.6 billion by the end of this year, CIOs and IT managers still struggle to sell the benefits of cloud computing to their CEO.
CIOs picked cloud as third on their investment priorities list, according to CIOs ‘2018 State of the CIO’ survey, yet Gartner estimates less than one-third of organisations have a documented cloud blueprint and strategy that aligns the capabilities of the platform with the unique goals of their business.
Anything other than a cloud-only strategy is also predicted to require justification at more than 30 per cent of large companies by 2020, resulting in delayed adoption and reduced perception of value.
The unfortunate reality is migrating to the cloud won’t automatically help your business reach its efficiency or cost-saving objectives, or get your key decision-makers on-board with its capabilities. It’s essential, then, to approach the adoption of a cloud service with the framework of meeting business outcomes rather than technology enablement - otherwise the potential value it provides will be lost in translation before you can even get started.
Why a cohesive cloud strategy is key
The current business landscape is more competitive than ever before, and it’s understandable companies are being compelled to move their ageing hardware and software into the cloud. After all, who doesn’t want to achieve the level of operational agility, organisational mobility and better business decisions the latest cloud technology offers?
While investment into cloud-based infrastructure is clearly on the rise, properly obtaining the level of innovation and future-proofing it provides is another story. Selling the cloud on its own is not enough, unless you can fully articulate what your business can achieve with its capabilities, and understand how the technology support overall goals.
For example, if your objective is to fuel overall growth by 50%:
- How can that be supported by cloud technology?
- Can you fuel the growth by hosting workloads in the cloud for greater efficiency?
- Which cloud platform and type best suits this objective?
Answering such questions accurately is only possible by aligning your goals with the technology, which necessitates the need to develop a clear cloud strategy. We go over the top 3 reasons why you need a cloud strategy to help you understand its importance in fuelling success.
1. Aligns your business goals with technology
A properly defined cloud strategy helps align the technology with your business goals and successfully adopt the cloud as both an operational framework and a future-proofing technology, rather than just having it as a misunderstood, underutilised talking point.
Being able to focus cloud efforts on specific objectives makes the buy-in smoother and the benefits clearer. For instance, having a defined framework that bases server migration on a workload-by-workload basis can help meet your target of minimal downtime, and having a comprehensive outline on how the cloud can scale up during busier periods and down after work-hours can make the obvious cost-saving benefits a whole lot more compelling.
Attempting to migrate to the cloud solely based on infrastructure needs will only result in a narrow outlook of what you can potentially achieve in the long-term. Without proper alignment, your business faces:
- Increased risk of failure
- Potential resource wastage
- Reduced perception of value of cloud
It’s very easy to focus on vendor selection or cloud implementation details, but having a solid decision-framework for which workloads need to be in the cloud, which apps are ready to migrate and which parts of the organisation need to be prepared for impending change helps you avoid unsubstantiated myths when it comes time to sell the idea and meet any unexpected challenges of the cloud adoption process head-on.
2. Defines the guiding principles for your cloud adoption
Having a cloud strategy allows CIOs and IT managers to define their exact decision process on determining which cloud service is best suited for your business based on your requirements.
For example, 90 per cent of enterprises now use the cloud in some form, but many have moved haphazardly without a proper plan. Their current environment may no longer be adequate - and having a comprehensive strategy would help realign their current business state with future plans to enable a refresh to set themselves up for success.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the three major cloud computing service categories:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Allows businesses to use on-demand virtualised hardware, utilise scalable computing power and spin up a virtual machine to install apps and workloads. Hardware investment or management is automated and you get servers, networking, storage and virtualisation, but you still have to maintain your apps, databases, operating system and security.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): Provides a scalable cloud platform for businesses to develop and deploy applications without having to deal with or provision any infrastructure or worry about OS and networks - you also request, use and pay for resources when you need them, scaling up or down as your needs shift.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): Third-party hosted software (think Adobe, Office 365, Salesforce) that is accessed via the Internet and charged through a subscription model, without the need to install software on specific hardware manually. No need to worry about development, updates or maintenance, but you’re dependent on the provider for security and capabilities.
All of these types of cloud computing fall under various location classifications, such as public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud, all with their own distinct pros and cons to consider. Without a cloud strategy, you wouldn’t even be able to map out which of these cloud services best suits your business goals and needs based, on where you are right now and where you want to be in the near future.
Perhaps, for example, IaaS makes more sense in terms of your licensing - or with impending renewal, consolidation into a public cloud PaaS might be a better choice. The point is without a decision-making framework, you’re less likely to adopt the best pathway.
With the proper strategy, however, you would be able to communicate that a move to IaaS could meet your hybrid infrastructure needs best, and accurately account for factors such as hardware lifecycle and licensing lifecycle, resulting in a fit for purpose solution.
3. Reduces your overall risk
The lack of a high-level cloud strategy driven by your business strategy “will significantly increase risk of failure and wasted investment,” according to Gartner’s David Cearley.
Taking the time to properly define and enforce critical protection practices into your cloud implementation will ensure your business recognises the importance of implementing end-to-end encryption for your data, both in transit and at rest, and why two-factor authentication is vital to control the sharing of account credentials between staff.
A plan helps you keep prepared for compliance requirements. Data sovereignty, differences in legislation for geographic regions and service agreements all take time to learn and understand, and jumping into the cloud without first assessing these elements is risky. If your business is knowledgeable in these areas, you’ll be better equipped to review regulatory necessities and ensure the provider you go with adheres to current industry standards.
Having a solid cloud strategy also helps you better align to your organisational cost-saving goals and avoid the risk of high spending wastage. Rackspace surveyed 1,300 companies who achieved proper cloud implementation and found over 88% of cloud users saved significant money after moving to the cloud, with 56% noting a profit increase.
Ultimately, with a cloud strategy, you gain a better understanding of how it reduces your overall risk while granting better control over your sensitive business-critical data.
Where do I begin with our cloud strategy?
CIOs who want to find the right cloud infrastructure for their business must first focus on what you want to achieve with the cloud’s many capabilities and why exactly you need them to enable your success - so you can fully align your overall objectives with the benefits of the tech.
- Determine cloud suitability with your goals: Define your business goals with your team before you even begin outlining the cloud’s benefits and challenges and how it mitigates possible deficiencies. Then, determine its suitability with your main objectives. Migrating to the cloud is not enough to solve your problems if you can’t explain how it‘s right for your situation.
- Evaluate the right cloud services: Cloud computing encompasses a myriad of different services and technology. There’s location (public, private, hybrid), service (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and solutions (fully managed databases, data analytics, identity & security management, storage). Understanding each unique approach to cloud infrastructure and identifying your best options will help you more clearly articulate the cloud’s advantages and disadvantages to your team, so you can eliminate potential misconceptions and reduce any unrealistic expectations on what the technology can actually provide your organisation.
- Assess organisational readiness: An important consideration often overlooked is to properly assess which parts of your company are ready for the cloud and actively championing the move. It’s one thing to have key stakeholders eager to move over to cloud computing, but if your IT department are still deeply entrenched in on-premises systems, it’s a major problem that needs to be addressed, preferably with a defined timeline to prepare these employees for the move.
- Appraise current environment: CIOs must examine dependencies of the current infrastructure carefully and closely to formulate the right strategy. You might still need legacy apps or hardware for internal purposes, or need to address compliance and regulatory challenges before kicking off your cloud proposal to the board, meaning an incremental transition over months or years is preferable to moving all operations in a shorter span of time.
- Align to your business strategy: Evaluate your current overall business and IT strategies and whether you need to make changes to seamlessly integrate your processes with your move to the cloud. The benefits of having cloud infrastructure alone is not enough to compensate for a misalignment in your existing business or IT strategies, and is a recipe for disaster. Your IT strategy needs to align with your overall business strategy, and your cloud strategy is a part of your digital framework. Define answers to the ‘when’ and ‘why” from a business perspective rather than a technology perspective.
- Form your strategic cloud plan: Develop your strategic planning process to help identify the best cloud services to reach your target business outcomes. By diving into the details with key stakeholders, you can properly define the costs, effort and gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed to reach your end-goals.
A cloud blueprint based in reality and centred around your business goals - rather than assumptions and undefined checklists - means you get the most out of your investment, whether it's with Azure, AWS or Google Cloud.
Why you need a cloud strategy: Key takeaways
CIOs increasingly fulfil the role of innovation enabler and digital transformation champion. While there is evidently a number of cultural and technical challenges when driving cloud adoption in the average business, all of them are possible to overcome with the right cloud strategy.
The effort you place in your cloud strategy will define your overall success, in both properly communicating and utilising the full benefits of cloud infrastructure. If you don’t look into the state of your business or align your goals with your cloud blueprint, it’s likely you’ll face higher costs, risk of failure and substantial waste of resources.
Assess your business goals, understand which cloud services best suit your needs, and actively engage and educate key stakeholders about the opportunities the cloud can provide - so when the time comes for a transition to the cloud, everyone is on the same page about its benefits.
Start your cloud strategy: What's next?
Looking to kick-start your cloud strategy? Learn more about Xello's Azure MasterPlan, our business solution that that aligns your current applications, infrastructure and future growth areas with the capabilities of Microsoft Cloud and provides you with a custom-built strategic roadmap.
We're a Microsoft Gold Partner across Cloud and Data Platform, and our consultants can help provide the foundation for your cloud strategy with a blueprint backed by thorough discovery, architectural assessment and analysis to help you pinpoint the exact business considerations you need to address before you migrate to Azure Cloud.