Developing your organization's cloud strategy
If it isn’t enough that every technology publication is focused on cloud technologies, many IT leaders are now faced with answering to the Board of Directors – what is the organization’s cloud strategy?   While the individual members of the Board may not be the best judge of an appropriate cloud strategy, they are forcing IT leaders to confront an important, strategic question because it helps define many of the priorities for the IT organization.  IT leaders should execute an Identify, Classify, Prioritize, and Execute strategy for Cloud deployments.  As this plan is developed, it can influence the organization’s needs around training, outsourcing, IT Security as well as service, vendor, and risk management.

Identify

While it may not have been part of a strategic plan, most organizations today have significant use of cloud technologies within the enterprise – the question is whether they know it.  The first step of a cloud strategy should be to identify the cloud technologies already in use.  It is easy to identify the large implementations such as Salesforce.com or Office 365, but most organizations have dozens of cloud applications in use – many that have been deployed without the support of IT.  Tools like Cloud App Discovery, included in Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory Premium service, allow organizations to identify the use of all cloud applications in the enterprise.  Using this data, IT leadership can understand not only what applications are in use, but who is using them and how much data is being transferred. This information can help prioritize further discovery and decisions related to how to control and govern these cloud technologies.

Classify

The reality is, many applications can be migrated to a public cloud infrastructure with little to no modifications.  This is especially the case with custom .NET applications, which can often be quickly migrated to Azure, Many applications are now also able to utilize the Azure platform, with almost 3,500 applications in the Azure Marketplace and many more supporting deployments.  Using the organization’s current list of supported applications, each application should be classified as one of the following:

  • Currently using cloud technologies
  • Custom application which could be easily modified and deployed to cloud platforms
  • Packaged applications published in cloud marketplaces
  • Packaged applications supported in cloud infrastructures by the application vendor
  • Applications that require significant modifications to be moved to the cloud
  • Applications which must be replaced to be moved into the cloud
  • Applications which are not appropriate for the cloud

Classifications should not be based solely upon the technology requirements.  Other attributes, such as appropriateness for the cloud (cost, regulatory, security, etc), should also be factored into the classification.

Prioritize

Once you have the list of in-use cloud applications (sanctioned and unsanctioned), as well as, a classification of cloud appropriateness for your enterprise applications, IT leaders can begin to prioritize the waves of cloud deployments.  Most enterprises will first choose to get the unsanctioned cloud applications under corporate control by deployment of centralized contracts, authentication, and vendor management.  During this period, IT architects can begin to plan out waves of cloud migrations for corporate applications. This planning and prioritization should consider:

  • Will moving this application to the cloud save the organization money?
  • What is the excepted lifetime of the current application?  Is it likely to be replaced or overhauled in the next 24 months?
  • Will the application benefit from the deployment flexibility and scalability inherent in cloud technologies?
  • Does this application consume data from other resources?  Will this application perform better if moved in conjunction with other applications?

As you consider these questions and others, you can begin to develop a roadmap of cloud migrations for the next two to three years.

Execute

Once there is consensus on the plan, challenge your team to aggressively execute on the plan.  In order to get business leaders and the IT team comfortable with the plan, execute on quick wins.  Examples may include:

  • Find an isolated new feature or use case independent of current systems that could build familiarity and save money (e.g. messaging platform that integrates with current systems, line of business application, etc.)
  • Development and Quality Assurance environments to support concurrent development streams
  • Proofs of concept to test new solutions/tech (Hadoop/Analytics platform, real-time event processing, NoSQL operational data stores, etc.)

Use this first wave to build skills, confidence, and most importantly – process to successfully support cloud applications.

As many companies have relationships with outsourcing firms, it is important to assess how they can be a partner in this transition.  Many are conflicted because they have revenue streams associated with hosting their customer’s applications in their data center.  West Monroe’s Performance Services team has taken a different approach to IT outsourcing and managed services.  We believe the focus should be on IT process delivered by experts, passionate in their areas of expertise.  With this focus in our core, we manage IT resources regardless of their location – in your data center, at a co-location facility, or in a public cloud environment.  We can also bring to bear a consulting team who can help you develop your cloud strategy and execute on the migrations.

 

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