Get Cloud Adoption Right First Time: 4 Overlooked Steps to a Smooth Transformation
“If I only had known...”
“I wish I had done that differently...”
Throughout my career, I have heard these words uttered time and time again, typically after rescuing a client from an ill-planned journey from their data center to the cloud.
Often cloud builds and migrations are implemented due to this business need or that executive decision, but rarely do organizations take the time to break down how it should be properly rolled out. Many fail to predict that it will primarily entail governance and security, along with buy-in from every level of the organization.
From my experience, your cloud adoption journey is not just about getting into the cloud, it also covers the journey within the cloud. And there are four steps that, if taken properly, will immensely increase the likelihood of successful adoption.
[Step 1: Assessment and Planning] Perfect is the enemy of good!
There are a myriad of services out there to choose from, as far as assessment and planning is concerned, and this can make your migration process incredibly daunting.
The key thing to remember here is that if you are aiming for perfection, you’re not doing it right!
Your first step should be to look at services in terms of the value they add in the context of your wider business. It can be useful to consider which of the ‘6Rs’ you will use for which workloads (rehost, replatform, rearchitect, repurchase, retain, retire) as each carries different costs, benefits and risks.
I recommend that you begin by planning your route to the cloud that is the quickest and easiest, even if that means less of an immediate value proposition. I say this from experience, having witnessed some clients putting too much time and energy into the assessment process by trying to get it perfect. If you wait until everything is at 100%, you won’t ever get it done so it’s key to prioritize the steps you take in round one. As well as saving valuable time, you’ll also be able to save yourself some money.
As cloud journeys involve continuous exploration, avoid using the entire budget in the first round and leave yourself enough to allocate to the second round. You should be able to dedicate funding towards Agile and DevOps training for your staff so that they are on boarded properly instead of thrown into the mix without enough insight into the who, what, where, why and how of this migration.
[Step 2: Design and Build] Consider the wider business
This may sound counter-intuitive, but for your second step it helps to take the mindset that this is actually a business endeavor, not a technical one.
Putting your primary resources towards overarching principles versus an ad hoc approach is key. Understanding that you need to cherry pick fewer services to migrate to the cloud (instead of trying to do them all, and not getting anywhere), will actually make this journey much smoother in the long run.
Migrating to the cloud involves seismic process changes that will greatly impact your team. It’s therefore imperative to act with empathy and endearment to your entire IT organization. Make it all-inclusive because what everyone does impacts the bottom line.
Start by asking simple questions across the org chart such as, “How can we work with you better?” or “How can you enlighten us as to something we’re missing?”. Taking a Lean DevOps approach of looking at the constraints inherent in your organisation will also highlight where changes need to be made to avoid bottlenecks and help prevent a lack of adoption to this new way of working.
So you've heard of the Gospel of Cloud?
[Step 3: Feedback] Keep everyone in the loop
Step three involves creating a feedback loop so that your people know what’s happening and communication is constantly moving along.
In my experience, this is much more successful than someone dictating from the top and expecting everyone else below to follow orders. The basis of this loop should be that your organization is interested in continuous exploration, experimentation and learning. Even the individual contributors should know their observations and suggestions are valid, because at the end of this journey everyone’s lives will be radically improved.
Rather than just going ahead with a design that a few people at the top agree on, I have seen a much better success rate when initiatives culminate into a deliverable from either early cloud adopters or a cloud MVP. Having visible evidence of something working in the cloud goes a long way in demonstrating value to the larger organization. As you move forward you will have the scaffolding in place to continuously deploy to the cloud, but be able to release on demand (AKA deciding when it’s the right time to push to production).
Just because it’s in the cloud doesn’t mean it’s ready for the wider audience just yet!
[Step 4: Deployment] Don’t rush your roll-out!
In our fourth step, because we can commission and release on demand, we can control whether or not the business is actually ready.
I’ve seen countless examples of people who think “we did an assessment, designed whatever we were told to, now let’s push to the cloud ASAP” and this doesn’t tend to work so well.
It’s worth also bearing in mind that just because you helped your organization get to the cloud, this doesn’t guarantee wider organizational adoption (which is key to making this endeavor a long-term success!). Therefore you need to continue to work within your organization to garner feedback on how they are taking to this new cloud environment and stay focused on continuous improvements such as training, the realignment of organisation structures, etc.
The key takeaway is that you need to understand the distinct stages involved in this transformation and that it’s not going to happen quickly or easily.
Think of yourself as a baby: first you need to learn how to sit up, then crawl, then walk and then run. If you take things in strategic pieces and execute each piece well, you’ll be miles ahead of other organizations that push through plans that are repeatedly held hostage by arbitrary timelines and folks that don’t truly understand that’s it’s not just the journey to the cloud, it’s also the journey within the cloud.
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