What's the single most important decision when migrating to the Cloud? | Itoc

What's the single most important decision when migrating to the Cloud?

Written by Richard Steven, Co-CEO | Brisbane.

Posted September 10, 2018

Allow me to set the scene before the big reveal... 

Moving your business to the Cloud is one of the most rewarding yet potentially risky transitions your business will make in a decade. 

The more transformational your journey - the more benefits it can drive - but with this the risk of failure increases. 

The diagram below shows that as you move from a traditional IaaS infrastructure through to more transformational PaaS/ SaaS business solutions and cloud native PaaS, the increase in the rewards are accompanied by the risk of failure. 

Company leaders with both a business and technology focus need to map out the organisational requirements and associated risk appetite. These risks will vary greatly between what I call CIO organisations - “where the IT runs the business” and CTO organisations “where technology powers key products and services” and some organisations are firmly in both camps often with competing agendas and budgets. 

Once the organisation has an understanding of the organisational requirements, risk appetite and an acknowledgement of where they lie on the Transformation Agenda profile above they need to ask the big question: Do we build a significant internal cloud capability or is it best to work with an expert cloud partner? 

Bear with me… 

This definitely sounds like a leading question from a (self-serving) partner salesperson. Perhaps that’s why it’s often pushed to the side. However, it is the most important and fundamental question in migrating to the Cloud. The answer to this question informs: 

  • What transition or transformation your business is required to undertake 
  • What skills you need 
  • The final operating model 
  • Budget required 
  • How long will it take to get there 
  • What risks need to be mitigated 

To start a cloud journey in earnest without making this decision is like throwing enough mud against the wall and hoping something will stick (in a pretty pattern). 

Here are a few questions to consider: 

Is technology your core business or key to your success? 

Many businesses consider themselves tech businesses but you have to be brutally honest with this answer. 

In the world of “as a Service” you can work with key partners who can provide: 

  • Operational heavy lifting around aspects such as 24x7 support, managed security, DevOps / automation as a Service etc. Thus freeing up your team to work more closely on customer requests, new features and building your intellectual property.
  • Increased efficiency and lowered costs when you select the right partners that are experts in providing the above services 
  • Expert advice and specialist services on-demand when you need them e.g. data science, machine learning etc 

Building this breadth and depth of capability internally should be reserved for organisations that have the requirements and budget to push these areas to the extreme to gain competitive advantage and/or deliver at scale - shining examples being Netflix, Facebook, Linkedin but closer to home is realestate.com.au with over 35% of the staff working in IT and Engineering disciplines (approx. 370 people according to Linkedin). 

Does your business have the skills and experience to execute? 

This aspect cannot be overstated enough. Real-world skills and experience with a proven track record are critical to success. Your business cannot afford to grind to a halt (or go backwards) whilst technology professionals retrain in cloudy architectures, tools and methods. This needs to be managed carefully. 

If you decide to build up your internal capability you need to make sure your leadership and delivery capabilities have the right level of expertise - this may require hiring and acceleration of training. 

Obviously building an internal team of unicorn calibre will be challenge given it’s a tight and expensive hiring market - be pragmatic. 

Beware of the “experts” 

I’ve seen so many times where a technology leader puts their hand up as a “cloud expert” to lead a transition or transformation agenda with little or no real experience in the Cloud. The following hiatus of discovery, planning, failed starts, cultural void and missed opportunity is often 12-24 months long, with the business finally becoming frustrated with lack of progress and missed expectations of the Cloud. 

This is grand scale “Technical Adventuring” and it kills businesses - fast - especially small businesses. This should really be the subject of another blog but I think it’s important to at least introduce the concept. 

“Technical Adventuring (aka Geeking Out) the act of exploring technology for personal satisfaction and learning - whilst justifying the time and expense as valuable research or development with no consideration of commercial imperatives or outcome - thus delaying real delivery” 

Red flags for this kind of behaviour are: 

  • Comments like “it’s good to fail it’s how we learn” - Failure is bad for 99.99% of businesses. Cloud is not an experiment - it is a mature platform that has been with us for a decade and is now the defacto standard place to do business. 
  • Religious like discussions and meetings about one brand of x versus another brand of x - these can burn weeks or months of time 
  • Selecting bleeding-edge technologies (with no resulting advantage) which will require lots of maintenance and tinkering to support 
  • Replatforming or refactoring applications without specific, valid business and technical reason 
  • The creation of internal code to perform functions that can easily be performed by 3rd party scripts or SaaS e.g. backups, security checks, inventory etc 
  • Claims like “but no we can’t use the standard blueprint we do things differently here” 
  • I’ll save the rest for a further post on this topic :-) 

Failure is bad for 99.99% of businesses. Cloud is not an experiment. 

In conclusion 

So where are you positioned on the transformation agenda profile? Our experiences with customers at various stages of their cloud journey have shown that it is crucial to understand your organisational requirements and associated risk appetite when migrating to the Cloud. We have discussed the importance and impact of making the right decision for your organisation to either build up internal cloud capability or find the right balance with seeking expert help. 

Chances are you’ve already started investing in your cloud journey and it’s costing your organisation time, effort and you’re counting on a business outcome, perhaps soon. I’d love to hear how it’s going - good or bad. I also welcome constructive feedback on this post. 

And if any of the points above rang true call Itoc today or learn more in the whitepaper and checklist below. 

Overcome critical challenges delivering SaaS - whitepaper

How to choose the right MSP - checklist

Richard Steven

Co-CEO | Brisbane

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