By Howard Friedman
ASCENT SOLUTIONS
Vice President, Business Innovation

 

At Ascent, we work closely with our partner Armor, who highlights an important aspect of your cloud transformation that is often swept under the rug – “Moving Sucks.” That sounds provocative and it really is. But it shouldn’t be scary, and I’ll highlight where our experiences have shown that handling a few of the typical potential issues will prepare you to make your cloud journey different. We’ll help you quickly and fully take advantage of the vast opportunities cloud computing provides.

Consider all moves you’ve made in your life and then consider the good and bad that came along with them. Maybe you were moving houses or cities, moving offices, or even getting a new car. In most instances, there’s a desire to get something better, but there are challenges along the way. In every instance, putting an appropriate amount of thought and planning into a move diminishes the difficult aspect, allowing for a faster realization of the benefits.

In this case, let’s start with where you are in your cloud journey. Unlike a startup, if you’re in an established company you have existing computing workloads. Our experience tells us that you are in one of four cloud camps:

  1. Not interested and don’t see the benefit: If this is you, then we probably need to have an entirely different conversation. And by the way, there was a company that was the last to install a telephone in their offices too!
  2. Very, very cautious: Either because you’re afraid or your feel you have regulatory/legal issues, you either haven’t started your journey or are exploring how to start.
  3. Selecting workloads: You get it and you’re moving. But you’re very selective about what you’re moving and when.
  4. Full speed ahead: Just like there was a last company to install a telephone, there was a first one as well. You understand that cloud computing will transform your business and technology capabilities and you’re already beginning to reap the benefits of it.

I’m going to look beyond the first camp in this post. As I said, that’s for a different conversation. Instead, let’s explore a few topics that are important to the subsequent camps when transitioning to the cloud. We recommend you evaluate how you’re doing based on your unique journey.

Topic 1: Shared Responsibility Model for Security

If you don’t deeply understand what this is, then you’re heading for trouble. Most cloud vendors discuss the topic, but not to the depth that is required. We’ve seen a number of companies just tell us that they don’t have to worry about security, the cloud handles that. Um…no.

The Shared Responsibility model means that your cloud vendor will provide security OF the cloud, but you’re still required to provide security of your workload IN the cloud. You wouldn’t put in a great security system in your house and keep the front door open, would you? I just heard from a company the other day that they were moving to the cloud because then they don’t have to think about security. As you can probably guess, they weren’t familiar with the Shared Responsibility Model.

Topic 2: IT Organizational Change

We’ve seen companies moving at various speeds, from cautious to full speed ahead, fail to address organizational change. If you have people who have built a living on racking and stacking servers and monitoring blinking lights, this is a huge change for them personally. Without a vision for their future, they will take cloud computing as a personal threat to their livelihood. Make sure your people know what they’ll be doing along the migration journey. As a reference, we have a customer in the financial services industry whose CIO and IT leadership made the strategic decision to move a key processing workload to Azure. Unfortunately, the internal IT team that was responsible for implementation of the project wasn’t onboard. The customer (and specifically project sponsor) and Ascent spent unnecessary cycles to get alignment – something that should have been clearly communicated BEFORE the project was initiated. Consider this impact before your migration, especially for camps three and four. Not everyone is ready for the shift and you may need help achieving alignment.

Topic 3: Finance

You’re shifting from CapEx to OpEx if you haven’t already. You’re spinning up and down services. You may have spikes in your business. Make sure that your company has the right finance “shock absorbers” to deal with this change until you can get to steady state. When I worked in IT, I had crafted a charge back model so my business customers could control their own spend, but using my secure technologies. That allowed for their flexibility within my security parameters. No more saying, “no,” but rather, “sure, and here’s the cost to do this securely.” In the near future, I’ll develop a post on this topic with more detail as it can apply to cloud services…business flexibility with security.

Topic 4: Business Technology Relationships

As technology moved from mainframe to client/server, and programs like Access replaced databases and Excel replaced reporting, power moved from IT to the user. No longer did users need to contact IT to create technology solutions. Cloud computing moves the power even further from IT to the business. If marketing can spin up an AWS or Azure instance with a credit card, what value does IT provide? IT still provides value, but that value has changed. If you’re in IT, make sure that your company is intelligently crafting what that next relationship looks like.

A great example is the forward-thinking of the CIO of one of our architectural and engineering customers. They’re building the path and logistics to cloud services as a first step in their IT strategy change to use secure cloud connections as a way to provide flexibility to their business that didn’t exist before. They see themselves as a “flexibility-enablers” with the cloud as the backbone. As a side bonus, while we were working on this project, we connected them with another one of our customers (also in their industry) to do business together. That connection could only occur because both of them had this cloud flexibility. Almost like an immediate Joint Venture (JV) connection without any of the technical red-tape. (If you’ve ever been part of a JV set up, you understand how difficult it was to create secure collaboration and messaging environments pre-cloud).

Yes, moving sucks. Yes, there will be change, and yes, you will have growing pains. But on the other side of the move is a new world where you have a closer relationship in your business and with your customers and partners. It’s a world full of possibilities that are not feasible in your current environment. And if you don’t do it, someone else will. Just ask anyone who worked at Borders or Blockbuster…if you don’t innovate, you don’t exist.