The transition to cloud can be a complex and significant change for any organisation. It requires time, expertise, alignment, understanding and ambition. And – like any good transformation, it requires a plan.
Cloud strategy varies widely across organisations, from an executive team saying “We will be cloud first in our technical requirements — Cloud Strategy Done!” to pockets of excellence in the IT and product development teams that are driving systems-based cloud adoption.
Both of these top down and bottom up approaches to cloud have their value — but to deliver a successful transformation, your cloud strategy needs to be developed with organisation-wide understanding and adoption in mind.
What is a cloud strategy?
A cloud strategy is fundamentally a plan of action supported by the spirit of those who are affected by it; to do this well is to address not only the technology but the people and process that supports it.
This is not a new idea: Sun Tzu was a visionary 2500 years ago, and it’s intriguing to be able to apply those same values to a technological shift, but the reality is that “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks” is just as applicable as a technological strategy in 2020 as it was in the fifth century BC. It will take a team effort to deliver both the strategy and the outcomes it demands, and the enablement of the team to deliver should be one of your foremost considerations.
Cloud Strategy: The Questions
In order to create an effective cloud strategy, we need to address the following questions:
- What are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to lower your costs of production, increase your adaptability and/or increase your speed of innovation?
- What beneﬁts can be realised by delivering to the strategy? Are you looking to gain operational efficiencies, improved governance, and/or reduce business risk?
- What does success look like? In 12 and 24 months, how will you measure your success? By having workloads in a cloud environment, by having a user adoption programme underway, by retiring some of your current infrastructure?
- What’s your transformation appetite? Do you have any com- pelling events such as hardware refreshes that are approaching? Have you got teams that are utilising cloud services at present? Do you have resource capabilities or constraints that are driving this behaviour, or are there market conditions that impact your organisation?
- What’s your capacity and capability? Who’s on your team? How many people do you have, and what are their capabilities? What resources can be focused on this programme?
Cloud Strategy: The Executive Drivers
The executive team of any organisation represents the wider organisation by department; Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Operations, Security and any number of specific roles based on the industry or framework that the organisation runs on. Each member of the team has individual drivers, concerns and capabilities — all of which are required to make a cloud transformation successful. Examples of some of these drivers to consider are below:
- Improved technological capabilities
- Improved customer engagement
- Revenue growth
- Better governance of resources
- Operational efficiency gains
- Innovation and speed to market
- Streamlined compliance management
- Improved governance of security
- Human resource enablement and development
- Increased productivity
When designing a cloud strategy, there needs to be an explanation for each of the drivers.
Answer the question “How is delivering this transformation programme going to address the business driver?”
As an example: “Cloud will help streamline our compliance management by enabling us to quickly view and address any security concerns. This is achieved by our cloud system providing regular, automated compliance reports that can be submitted for review or a third party audit at our convenience.”
Cloud Strategy: Risks and Contingencies
It doesn’t matter how good your plan is, how much information you have, and what you have in terms of resourcing — something can and will go wrong.
It’s imperative in the strategy to call out some key risks and build in contingency plans to deal with them.
Some of the best advice ever given in planning and strategy is “If you worry about it, odds are you’re going to get it right.” So, get comfortable with the risks; think (and worry) about them; and focus on finding ways to address them. Consider risks around information, regulation and access, time constraints and critical paths, legacy software and applications.
Understand the implications and pathways of your contingencies, such as a decision matrix, budgets, and approval processes that will help to determine a course of action should you run into an issue.
Cloud Strategy: The People
Have you ever tried creating an effective plan without discussion or input from others? How about implementing that plan, or mitigating the issues that rise during that implementation?
The people component of any strategy needs to be a critical focal point. This takes shape in the form of alignment of your leadership, and a plan for adoption and education throughout the organisation.
It’s important to factor how you will take your teams on the journey; include in your strategy an outline of the following:
- What sort of education do you need to provide on your strategy?
- What support do you need from your teams, and what communications channels need to be created to allow for information to flow across the organisation?
- What (if any) special resources are you going to need? Such as technical experts in cloud, programme management and project execution specialists, or training staff.
By enabling your teams’ understanding and acceptance of the impacts of the strategy on a micro level (as well as a macro one), you encourage them to take on the objectives as their own, and it’s that spirit throughout all your ranks that will determine whether your cloud strategy — and indeed your cloud transformation — is a success.
Talk to us about how to build your cloud strategy and aligning it with your organisation’s goals.