Back to blog The Building Blocks of a Brilliant Cloud Strategy

As we move into a new decade, most companies have already adopted cloud computing into the core of their IT. Some companies are taking a cloud-first approach and others are being more cautious, deploying cloud solutions for new projects while maintaining an in-house infrastructure. As the cloud cements itself into your business, it is time that you adopt a formal cloud strategy.

Purpose of a Cloud Strategy

The purpose of your cloud strategy is to set the tone and direction of technology adoption and management for your entire organisation. Your use of cloud technology touches all parts of a business, and it makes the IT department pivotal to the success of the company. This brings with it increased scrutiny from the board, which is where your cloud strategy comes to the fore. Aligning business objectives, highlighting risk and considering governance while reporting back to the c-suite to ensure their support.

Currently, few companies have created a formal cloud strategy but Gartner predicts that by 2022 over two thirds of companies will have one in place and we believe that it is something that you should be working on, or at least thinking about, right now. In this blog, we take a look at what you should consider when creating your cloud strategy, looking at sections to include, how to communicate with a broad audience and more.

The Executive Summary

As we said at the start of this post, cloud deployments touch all areas of a business. The cloud is central to digital transformation and as such its benefits are felt by every member of staff. This means that your cloud strategy isn't just for the IT department. When you write a strategy document, you should consider your audience and the impact of the strategy on all areas of the business.

If you want to ensure c-suite buy-in then it needs to be more than a technical overview – it should have input and comment from senior managers from across the business. This can be used to create an executive summary that considers all stakeholders rather than just a narrow, departmental technical perspective.

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Keep Away From the Jargon

The ever-changing nature of the cloud means that people’s understanding of the terms used to describe it varies. The cloud strategy will be a living document that will evolve with the businesses needs, but it should be very clear in the terminology and definitions within it.

Unless the definitions used with the cloud strategy document are explicitly defined, there will be confusion. Don’t assume everybody reading the document knows this world as well as you – remember, your organisation employ your team to know more about IT and the cloud than them, so ensure the document is inclusive and well-explained.

Vendors are guilty of creating their own very specific versions of more widely accepted terminology to apply to their own products. An example is the acronym DaaS, it has been widely used for nearly a decade to mean Desktop as a Service, but it has also been used to mean data as a service (IBM) and device as a service (HP). Where you use abbreviations, make sure they are explained or grouped together in a table so the explanations can be found easily.

Align the Strategy with Business Objectives

IT no longer lives in isolation, in the basement, only called on when a user needs something fixed. IT drives the business and without it the business won't function. That means that the cloud strategy needs to be completely aligned with the business objectives and should demonstrate how using the cloud will help the company achieve them.

The cloud strategy should consider compliance requirements, such as GDPR, and ensure that the company is meeting it required industry regulatory standards. The cloud strategy document should look at the risks and opportunities that come from your use of the cloud.

Which Services to Adopt?

Your cloud strategy should define what type of cloud service you will be adopting and the ones you already utilise. Are you going for a cloud first approach where the cloud is your default or will you be taking a hybrid cloud approach? Will you be using Azure, AWS or both? To make this easier and more consistent in future, you should create a framework to use when making decisions about platform adoption.

Finance

The cloud brings a change to IT spending, from Capex to Opex, which has been a key part of its success in adoption so widely. But it's this ease of adoption that can lead to uncontrolled spending, as departments within the company spin up resource and adopt Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud based products outside of IT’s control. Your cloud strategy should be developed in conjunction with your company's finance leaders to understand predictability of cost, budget and visibility. Finding a way to work effectively with the CFO, keeping them in the loop and ensuring they’re onboard with the strategy, goes a long way.

Cloud Principles

Within your cloud strategy should be a definition of your cloud principles. These principles will guide your decision making. If, for example, you decide that you will be cloud-first for all new deployments, this will be one of your guiding principles, as would defining a default preference for public cloud over private cloud deployments.

Most companies have to work around legacy applications or compliance regulations and so these principles need to be included within your cloud strategy.

Deciding your Cloud Candidates

The cloud strategy should then be applied to each workload. Deciding which workload is best suited for migration to the cloud will include accessing its business impact and its performance characteristics. An inventory can be drawn up, noting the application name, vendor and basic characteristics.

An existing application with a lot of integration into other systems may be better left in your data centre for the time being, where as a website would make a perfect candidate for early migration. Some applications may need an interim step before making them cloud-native. If this applies to your organisation, you should check out our recent blog on replatforming vs rebuilding applications.

Security Baseline

The primary purpose of creating a security baseline is to identify security-related business risks and provide risk mitigation guidance to the staff responsible for security infrastructure. It does not replace the existing processes and procedures that your organisation uses to secure cloud-deployed resources, it has a wider remit also bringing in governance and compliance.

Cloud vendors will take responsibility for much of the security defined in the cloud strategy, however, it remains the company's responsibility to ensure the continued security of applications and data. While pulling together a cloud strategy, it can be a good time to revisit where responsibilities lie in the cloud as a refresher, with an overview of this potentially making it into the strategy itself.

Your Existing Company Environment

The cloud strategy has to be created within the reality of existing business operations. You will not be starting with a blank sheet of paper: you will have to consider what is going on with the company, its culture and your existing IT estate.

Moving to a cloud-first strategy may enable remote working to address staffing issues but it may also have an impact on your existing IT team. Their roles will need to change from managing servers to managing vendors and SLA's and accessing new technology. This may require upskilling, changes in team structure and more, which may take time to implement. The strategy should factor this in.

Moving Clouds

The evolving nature of cloud services means your cloud strategy should include considerations regarding terminations and moving services to other providers. Amazon's AWS was the dominant player within the cloud space, and you may well have deployed services on the platform already. Now Microsoft Azure has matured, it may well be the best place for some workloads. This wave and development of cloud services will continue to offer new opportunities for consumption from different platforms.

Contractually, cloud services normally make this fairly easy but there are other things to consider including

  • Who owns the data
  • Backup and DR
  • Vendor lock-in
  • Dependencies on other applications
  • Interoperability
  • Whether you have the skills and resource in-house to manage a new environment.

By developing a formal cloud strategy, your company will be positioning itself for the next decade of technology developments, ensuring that your business continues to take full advantage of the technological advancements that cloud computing brings. It’s not about planning out every move for the future but setting guidelines on how your organisation moves forward.

Our consultancy engagements help companies of all sizes at all stages of their cloud journey. If you need help figuring out your next steps, we’re always ready to have a chat. From physical to virtual migrations through to mapping out a move to containers, we’re here to help. Check out our Cloud Consulting Services to learn more.

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Posted in Cloud Consulting, Cloud Development, Managed Cloud on Nov 21, 2019