Moving onto the cloud has many benefits, including greater flexibility, faster support for innovation and agility, and a wealth of options for adjusting to changing security and regulatory demands.
In particular, hybrid IT – the balance of both legacy on-premise and the new cloud – can be the most effective and cost-efficient solution.
However, as many people have found, making the business case for the transition is not as clear cut as it might initially appear. There are numerous unfortunate myths about the cloud, which although positive can actually hinder rather than help you when you come to make the business case.
Instead, it’s vital to look at the realities of hybrid IT, clearly consider what your business needs and set out the true advantages. This is a guide to getting the board on board and proposing the hybrid IT strategy that’s right for your business.
Avoid the hype: dispelling those cloud myths
Many businesses planning to transition applications to the cloud begin with the belief that cloud-based IT will always be more effective than legacy IT.
In fact, board-level decision makers will often welcome proposals for a move to the cloud, assuming it will mean an end to traditional capital expenditures.
However, the situation is far from this simple, and the case for switching from an in-house system to an outsourced cloud provider rarely provides a straightforward comparison.
The run-cost of a cloud application may be cheaper, particularly where this avoids a necessary upgrade to legacy IT infrastructure. However, the cost of transition to this new model may be substantial, off-setting future savings.
Moving all operations onto the cloud in one fell swoop might not be feasible. As a result, the company might need to maintain at least some legacy data centre space in the short term, with associated costs from server and software licences, real-estate and personnel, to name a few.
Legacy costs might continue to outweigh cloud costs for some time. This initial outlay can be enough to put off business leaders expecting immediate savings.
Business decision makers can oversimplify moves to the cloud, as not only generating capital cost-savings but offering near-infinite flexibility. There can be a tendency to view the cloud as a single, Amazon Web Services-like option.
In reality, there are as many cloud options as there are cloud providers. The business will need to ensure that the changes to the cloud model match the needs of the organisation, make financial sense and meet the organisation’s long term goals.
Dispelling the myth of the cloud – and acknowledging the complexity of the possibilities – is a vital first step in selling the reality of the cloud to the board.
What to consider when you’re considering
Any business mulling a move to a software as a service model needs to recognise that it has a wide range of ‘recipes’ to choose from, and the right ingredients will depend on its unique ambitions, vision and needs.
To design a successful hybrid IT strategy, the organisation must ask – and answer – a number of questions as early in the process as possible. It’s vital to have input from all the major stakeholders in the company, and as such ensure that these questions and answers are communicated in a language that everyone can understand, whether they’re from the IT team or executive suite.
You should regard IT in the context of the organisation’s broader business strategy. Consider, what are your company’s current needs and how are those likely to evolve over the next several years? What is your company’s appetite for risk? Are there other factors – for instance, the rollout of a new business division or service offering – that could affect the timing of new IT services, whether those will be in legacy or the cloud? What future proofing does your organisation need to take into consideration?
As part of these discussions, consider how much cloud-based flexibility your business might actually need – for example, this might be a short term division of 80% legacy where IT needs are static and 20% cloud where IT need can flex up and down.
Security is of course a crucial element to think about as well. Depending on the industries and markets you operate in, some of your strategy might be determined by legal and regulatory requirements.
Where your data will be stored might be important to you from a control perspective, as well as with respect to the laws that could be applied to it depending on where it is hosted.
Your infrastructure provider can also help with this by conducting an audit of what your current system looks like and what you might like it to look like, for example, five years down the road.
It can also be useful to consider what best practice looks like and how companies similar to yours have handled their own cloud transitions. Answers to all of these questions can vary greatly business to business. But the more you can do to address these issues before approaching a cloud services provider, the better prepared you’ll be for the change.
While engaging with the business, it’s important to not only underline the potential benefits of hybrid IT, but manage expectations about the process.
Adding cloud-based IT to your existing in-house infrastructure is more of a journey, than a simply defined and completed one-off change.
However, there are tools available to support hybrid IT that can address the challenges and mitigate risk, including the difficulties of integrating new and old systems, getting technical services to the proper scale and overarching growing complexity.
Digital enablement platforms can enable you to manage the different speeds of IT, while allowing for robust security, visibility across multiple cloud platforms and effective cost management. This helps companies to navigate the hybrid IT journey more smoothly – and reap the rewards both now and in the future.
It’s clear that when planned and implemented effectively, hybrid IT can bring numerous benefits to a business, which should be underlined from the outset.
The cloud offers a level of flexibility and adaptability that no self-managed data centre can offer – but the gains go far beyond that.
With the cloud, for example, you can quickly spin up virtual machines whenever you need them, enabling your business to rapidly develop, test and go to market with new and innovative offerings. And cloud-based storage can make it easier than ever to relocate data if regulatory and compliance demands suddenly change.
One company successfully transformed a patchwork of multiple HR systems across 16 countries into a cloud-based system; this enabled it to better allocate resources, identify areas for improvement and develop employees around the globe. By eliminating the need for numerous, multiyear contracts and gaining economies of scale, the business also saw a clear benefit to its bottom line.
Hybrid IT may not be a straightforward path, but it is the best way for organisations to keep up with today’s rapid changes in IT, as well as in business, regulation and customer expectations.
Today’s pace of change will only continue to accelerate, demanding ever faster and more nimble business models, and hybrid IT is an essential part of how businesses can best respond to those changes.
To make a successful business case for hybrid IT, it’s important to not only be positive, but realistic. Navigating the journey to achieve an ideal balance of IT approaches goes beyond tech and money, and can have ramifications for almost every aspect of your business.
However, the benefits – from flexibility and agility to greater competitiveness – are clear. Almost every business can reap similar benefits – if it looks beyond the hype of the cloud, asks tough questions about what will work for all parts of the business and views the transition as an ever-evolving challenge, rather than a one-off switch.
Dispelling the myths of the cloud, doing your homework first and having an informed discussion with all stakeholders about the overarching strategy is vital to getting the board on board – and helping your business reap the greatest benefits from hybrid IT.
Sourced by Conway Kosi, head of managed infrastructure services at Fujitsu EMEIA