How do you ensure success from your cloud IT modernisation strategy?

More and more businesses are migrating their workloads to cloud infrastructure, and Gartner predicts that over 45% of IT spending on system infrastructure software, application software and business process outsourcing will shift from traditional solutions to the cloud by 2024. But the cloud is no silver bullet for success, and migration to such technology requires careful planning in line with business goals, as well as clear communication with the board and workforce.

Jez Ward, head of advisory at Cloudreach and presenter of the Cloudbusting Podcast, spoke to Information Age about how cloud IT modernisation can help organisations to maximise value, what a successful migration strategy entails, and the cloud trends that could emerge in the coming years.

Getting the board engaged

Cloud infrastructure has now widely proved capable of reducing costs and making operations more agile and scalable, and prioritisation on the part of the company board is a must when embarking on a cloud IT modernisation strategy. Gaining approval from the top early on provides more time for planning what kind of infrastructure would work best in line with business goals, and which to invest in from a financial standpoint. This is also important because this process requires a change in people and process, which are just as vital as the tech.

When it comes to gaining board buy-in, Ward believes how to go about this depends on the organisation’s culture: “Some boards will look to take a top-down approach and come up with a cloud-first aim, and getting approval this way tends to be straightforward.

“Typically, however, transformations are led by IT, and getting the business buy-in can be quite challenging. We’ve found that if IT tries to dictate the strategy, it tends to fail, so you need to bring the whole organisation with you on that journey.”

According to Ward, the easiest way to achieve this is through: determining pain points across the company, communicating with all departments on solutions to these challenges, and gaining feedback from customers. From here, a clear and collaborative vision should be set out before any coding begins.

He continued: “Most board members have gatekeepers that you need to go through if you want them onside. If those gatekeepers have been involved in creating the strategy, you’ll tend to find that the board members will become engaged quite easily, because they see the value in it, and it’s been clearly communicated.”

Aligning with the business strategy and goals

In addition, cloud IT modernisation will not be successful if it isn’t aligned with the company’s business strategy and goals. Failure to achieve a common ground would lead to goals not being met, and any possible value being lost.

“Every business will have its own reasons for growth and evolution, so there isn’t any point in creating an IT strategy that goes in the complete opposite direction,” Ward explained.

“With cloud, you can say this will help to innovate more quickly, but if the whole business strategy is based on cost-saving, you can’t go and invest in products that are likely to cause cash flow issues.”

With the amount of cloud infrastructure that’s available in today’s market, the IT team needs to find the right products for the goals that they’ve set out, whether it’s lifting and shifting, refactoring or achieving a better time-to-market. AWS, for example, has a product suite that covers 26 different operation areas, from analytics and business applications, to compute and storage. This means that there is no ‘one size fits all’ infrastructure to be put together.

“You also need to think about the impact,” said Ward. “If you go with multi-cloud, your operating model and governance will need to become more complicated, and you’ll have new security challenges to consider.”

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Communicating with staff

As well as getting the board motivated to support the new vision, the entire workforce should have an understanding of why migration to the cloud is needed, and the best way to do this is by explaining the benefits to them. From Ward’s perspective, this comes down to clarifying how the new infrastructure “will make each employee’s day better”.

Cloudreach’s head of advisory advises: “Engage the business. Go out there and talk to staff. This doesn’t just mean the heads of departments, but also those who will actually be using the infrastructure.

“For example, we found that one customer’s users were getting hugely frustrated with the time taken to get a piece of hardware to develop on, when they’ve requested it. It had taken months, and the IT team hadn’t realised this because they hadn’t spoken to the users.”

Once Cloudreach had gauged the pain points of the organisation in question, and looked into possible solutions, it was found that users appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback.

When it comes to articulating the value that new infrastructure can bring to staff, a good example is AWS’s ‘working backwards methodology’. This involves creating a mission statement or statement of intent in the form of a press release which sets out exactly what the end aim of the project or new service is and how it would be communicated to market being created at the outset. This could be sent to all workers, to get everyone aligned to the project and its goals, and to cover all questions that staff may have.

Future cloud trends

Looking forwards to the near future of the cloud industry, Ward identified the following trends that are set to disrupt modernisation strategies further in the coming years:

  • Edge computing: “I think we’ll see a lot more edge computing, with 5G coming to the fore and allowing it to play its part. The number of edge devices out there is likely to massively increase, and therefore costs will go down, leading to a further surge in devices, and that cycle will continue. Autonomous vehicles will play a part in driving edge computing. Also, we’re going to see a huge amount of processing, decision-making and intelligence running at the edge.”
  • Cloud as a central storage hub: “Intelligent learning powered by AI at the edge could send information back to the storage hub, which can then communicate this outwards.”
  • Easier problem solving for verticals: “We’re likely to see CSPs make industry-specific modular building tools, like Lego bricks, available that will solve challenges for vertical industries. We’ve seen that AWS are already doing this to a certain extent with AWS Solutions, but these could be cleverly pieced together to solve problems.”
  • Sustainability: “We’ll hear some announcements from AWS at re:Invent on how users can track how sustainable their infrastructure is. This is going to be big for organisations, as they’ll want to be seen being sustainable, and the more offers we see from CSPs, the more attractive this prospect is going to be.”

This article was written as part of paid content campaign with Cloudreach

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.