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5 keys to planning a successful cloud implementation

Whether businesses rely on the cloud for backup and disaster recovery, inexpensive storage, or near limitless scalability for their applications, there’s no doubt that adopting this technology offers myriad benefits. Now, your organization is ready to make the shift, but that doesn’t mean you can start moving files and applications and assume that’s all you need to do. Instead, you need a sound strategy to ensure you’re maximizing the benefits the cloud offers and are set up to meet your goals. To help you get started, we’re sharing the five keys to planning a successful cloud implementation. 

1. Have a vision

The first key to any successful cloud implementation is understanding the business need and use case. This may seem obvious, but too often, businesses implement new technology for the sake of technology – they see their competitors turning to the latest shiny object and want to follow suit. However, “tech for tech’s sake” goes against the mission of your IT department, which is to leverage technology to operate more efficiently, effectively, and profitably.   

That’s not to say that the cloud is the latest shiny object. Businesses ranging from sole proprietorships to enterprise-level organizations use it to improve operations, increase agility, reduce costs, and/or increase security. So, your first step is knowing exactly what you want to get out of implementing cloud solutions and making sure those benefits are agreed upon by corporate officers. Having the business use case clearly defined will form the vision for how cloud computing is used within the corporation.  

2. Develop a sound strategy

Once your company has clarity into the business needs, document them in a strategic plan that will become the guiding vision and mission of the project for your organization. State the objective in plain, clear language how cloud implementation will help the business become more efficient, effective, and profitable and achieve the overall goals and vision of the company.  

With your project’s mission statement clearly defined, the next step is to perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis regarding your cloud implementation. This will help you and your team understand your organization’s cloud readiness and the challenges or blocks that may prevent the implementation from achieving the stated objectives.  

Example SWOT Analysis 

  • Significant virtualization experience 
  • IT systems management and governance 
  • Strong, trusted offshore partner 
  • Strong, collaborative, supportive leadership 
  • Cloud expertise is lacking overall, skills retooling required 
  • Network connectivity at satellite locations 
  • Leverage cloud to reduce corporate costs, especially SaaS and PaaS solutions 
  • Leverage cloud to increase responsiveness to the business 
  • Offload compliance and auditing burden 
  • Foster innovation 
  • Increasingly competitive industry 
  • External regulators are introducing new revisions to their compliance requirements in the next two quarters 
  • Recently lost our primary enterprise architect 
Using the SWOT analysis, you and your team can develop a strategic plan that contains specific, measurable goals and the actions you need to take to achieve them and spans a one-year, two-year, and three-year roadmap. This will act as a guide for moving your company down the path of cloud implementation, making progress toward, and achieving the stated goals and objectives. The roadmap should list projects (broken down into steps if needed), training needs, strategic hires, and show how it is making a measurable impact on your strategic goals.  

3. Establish governance now

We can’t talk about implementing cloud solutions without talking about establishing governance. Virtually every new technology requires a conversation about governance, and this is especially true with cloud implementation. But why? 

The cloud makes buying and deploying technology cheaper and easier than ever before. Business units that control their own budgets can purchase cloud technology, sometimes with just a company credit card, and set it up themselves, bypassing IT completely.  In general, allowing business units this much leeway in technology buying decisions rarely works out well, providing short-term benefits to that business unit, but adversely affecting the entire organization over time. 

As a foundation, start by integrating cloud governance into existing technology steering committees or enterprise architecture groups to provide ongoing governance in the workloads that make sense for the technology. With this in place, you can take a holistic approach to establishing governance.  

We also recommend minimizing the risk of business unit implementation by engaging the finance department to monitor business expenses and departmental expenditures for rogue cloud activity. Also, consider modifying bonus structures so that a portion of management bonuses are based on making decisions that benefit the organization, rather than just a manager's particular business unit.  

4. Manage organizational change

Forbes has tagged the cloud as potentially “the most disruptive technology ever,” and this includes the internet. That kind of disruption does not come without impacts to an organization and it’s important to not underestimate those impacts.  

Your team needs to learn new skills and adopt new ways of thinking, and new groups must be organized. However, the biggest impact is the fear that comes with big change, whether that's fear of the unknown, of being replaced, not being able to keep up with the new tech. And this fear will lie at the root of your organization’s resistance to adopting the new technology.  

So, with something as transformative as cloud implementation, it’s also essential that you manage the people side of the change and get your employees on board. That’s where organizational change management comes in. OCM defines the steps, processes, and cultural changes necessary for your employees to embrace the technological and cultural changes that are planned. It doesn’t matter how much time, money, and effort you have invested into the technology; if the people in your organization fail to adopt it, the project is doomed to fail.  

5. Innovate

Of all the benefits the cloud brings to businesses, the ability to facilitate innovation is perhaps the most overlooked. The cloud provides a “fail-fast, succeed-fast” environment that gives businesses the opportunity to experiment with new technologies and new ways of doing things at a lower price point than ever before.  

Before implementing a cloud solution, your company should set the stage for success by forming a cloud innovation group that experiments with ways of leveraging the cloud to make the business more efficient, effective, and profitable. Small investments in cloud innovation can bring big rewards for companies that are not afraid to adapt to the new reality of cloud computing. This ensures that your organization won’t implement the cloud for one use case, then stop there without maximizing your opportunities and seeing added benefits.  

Take the Next Step of Cloud Implementation 

As with any complex technology, implementing cloud solutions requires your team to invest time and care in crafting a clear vision and strategy to provide the greatest return on investment and avoid the pitfalls of increased overhead, rogue IT, and duplicated systems. 

Making this investment and avoiding the common pitfalls of cloud adoption will ensure that the cloud helps make your organization more efficient, effective, and profitable. 

Interested in learning more? Take five minutes to find out how cloud can be a profit center. Another quick read explains which public cloud offering is right for you. 

About the author

Greg Deckler

Greg Deckler is New Era's VP of Cloud Services and has over 20 years of experience in the industry. He excels at assisting Fortune 500 firms with global systems by delivering professional services related to data and business intelligence, enterprise collaboration, web architecture and design, business process improvement/automation, enterprise architecture, identity management, application development, core infrastructure design/optimization, and project management. Greg has also been published in numerous trade journals on business and technical subjects and is the author of the book “Achieving Process Profitability, Building the IT Profit Center. 

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