Five steps to a cloud strategy


    Are you taking a strategic approach to the cloud? Not all companies are being pushed into the new computing paradigm by the drumbeat of the hype machine. But if your cloud journey is to be a success, you’ve got to have a plan.

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    In part two of an ITWC webinar hosted by CIO Jim Love and sponsored by Rogers Communiations – Managing Cloud Strategically – attendees heard how realizing the benefits of cloud computing requires a deliberate approach.

    While it’s always his preference, not many companies are going to take a “cloud first” approach to their IT infrastructure said Paul Monaghan, director of cloud and managed services, solutions development with Rogers. When it comes to both net new and replacing existing IT functionalities, IDC research shows “cloud also” is the most popular option, followed by “cloud first” with not many companies taking a “cloud last” approach.

    Monaghan said this data isn’t surprising – most companies have legacy IT infrastructure and solutions that won’t port well to the cloud. It’s hard to move all applications to the cloud – some work better than others.

    “Always look at the best solution for the task,” advised Monaghan.

    The challenge for many organizations though is that their legacy infrastructure is holding them back. Born in the cloud companies like Uber and Air BNB are leveraging the agility of their cloud-first infrastructure to rapidly scale on demand and disrupt the traditional paradigms in their respective fields of business. For most companies though, it’s hard to innovate when 80 per cent of your IT budget is dedicated to keeping the lights on – just 20 per cent, if you’re lucky, is left for innovation.

    You’ve got to find a way to innovate though because your competitors will. More than half of the companies that were on the Fortune 500 list in 2000 aren’t on the list today – it truly is innovate or perish. And Monaghan said cloud can give businesses the time for innovation they sorely need.

    Three-quarters of businesses surveyed by Harvard Business Review said cloud had given them a competitive advantage, including getting to market faster, becoming more responsive to change, realizing operational efficiencies and cost savings, and being able to redirect resources to fuel more innovation.

    Monaghan shared five steps that should be part of your cloud strategy.

    1. Identify your strategic vision: What’s the reason you’re going to the cloud? When you have that clearly in mind, then identify your motivations. Common ones include accelerating application agility to gain competitive advantage, improving IT efficiency of staff and infrastructure, and reducing risk with continuity of critical applications.
    2. Assess where you are on your cloud journey: You may have a few applications up and running on the cloud and be wondering the next steps. You want to start by determining your cloud maturity. As your maturity increases, so do the benefits. At the bottom of the scale is a cloud watcher; this company is still defining their strategy and launching their first proof of concepts. On the top end is a cloud-focused company; they have a cloud first strategy, are brokering cloud services and have implemented DevOps. Most businesses today are in the middle.
    3. Prioritize your cloud projects: Look at the best workloads to move into the cloud, focusing first on projects that deliver real bottom-line benefits you can quantify while offering a minimal security risk.
    4. Overcome the four common cloud challenges: “Developing a cloud culture is a big one for me. And it’s not just the IT department that needs to think cloud; it’s the line of business as well,” said Monaghan. Other challenges include getting the security right, ensuring a reliable service is delivered, and optimizing your costs.
    5. Choose your cloud adoption pattern: There are three cloud adoption patterns. With “cloud first” cloud is the default choice whenever feasible. With “targeted” specific apps or types of apps go to the cloud. And with “grass roots” developers are enticed to use the cloud for their apps. “Whenever feasible you want to go cloud out of the gate, but you need to start somewhere and targeted is also a very common approach,” said Monaghan. “Find those apps that make sense and move those first.”
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    Jeff Jedras
    Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.