Technology leaders across the globe are seeking to leverage Cloud Computing services in their organisations. However, if long term strategic goals are not taken into account during planning, a business will struggle to achieve the benefits initially promised by a move to the Cloud. Gartner ranks Cloud Computing as the top priority for the CIO as is evidenced by the large number of organisations we already see transitioning to a Cloud environment.
Cloud Computing enhances employee accessibility globally, as well as improves the agility of IT departments and organisations that take advantage of increased connectivity and flexibility that these services bring. Businesses are reaping the rewards that come with a level of IT service growth, aligned to the ever changing business environment.
Gartner predicted at least 43 percent of worldwide enterprises will have migrated to Cloud Computing and visualization platforms translating to US$16.7 billion revenue.
Some of the benefits that come with these technologies include:
- On-demand: Readily available server service for both clients and employees.
- Scalable: Any enterprise is able to customize these technologies to fit their market and competition.
- Measurable: Enterprises strike a balance between investment costs and resource productivity.
However, mass transitioning of data and applications into Cloud environments can have pitfalls. Some of these include:
- Buy in: From senior leadership, support teams and staff.
- Risks: Understanding all the risks involved with transitioning from a well-tested environment to a new frontier.
- Processes: Implementing new processes and working with processes developed and managed by vendors.
- Governance: Establishing and maintaining governance across multiple organisations.
- Data Security & Recovery: Implementing and maintaining data security as well as business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
Challenges of Implementing Cloud Computing (Also Known As – Not All Clouds Are Friendly)
The cloud also comes with a dark side. Not all Clouds are created equal, and there are many hidden challenges in taking on a cloud solution. How one solution fits within one organization, may not be the right fit for another. With this in mind, it is essential that strong leadership and communication is used to move beyond the excitement of new cloud frontiers to realize full financial and strategic benefits of a transition to the Cloud.
- A strategic vision of the financial, agility and technical benefits the organisation is expecting to gain.
- An experienced Project Manager with experience in Cloud Computing is essential to help navigate the pitfalls and keep the team focused.
- Selection and prioritization of the right projects to move into the Cloud, with a focus on delivering low risk “Low hanging fruit” to allow for a realization of benefits and maintain organisational support as early as possible.
- An implementation plan that tests the process before embarking on the migration. This allows the project leader to create strategies that will enable a controlled transition.
- Ensure data backup and recovery plan is in place prior to starting the transition.
- A change management and communications plan that will serve as a platform to train and communicate the operations of the new system to both end users and support teams. It is important that communication be consistent and regular to allow all parties to understand expected impacts and benefits.
- An established risk management plan that categorizes different access levels for end users and support teams as well as regulatory issues.
- A vendor selection process that selects vendors based on:
- Data security management
- IT processes
- Customer satisfaction
- Interface usability
- Backup strategies
- Regulatory compliance.
- An effective and efficient governance system that assesses security and evaluates the quality and access of Cloud tools and applications.
- Formalized ROI metrics to allow the business to understand the success of the project.
For a project to be successful the benefits of the project first need to be understood and communicated to organisational leadership for “Buy in”. It is also important to involve key stakeholders during pre and post-transition periods to assist in honing strategic benefits and establishment of the “new vision” as well as take part in the development of the transition road map. These initial steps are critical as they form the basis of future initiatives, limit potential risks and gain the confidence of the organisation.
To further increase organisational “buy in”, the first project to transition into the Cloud should be something low risk but significant in size, so that its benefits can be identified and measured. Items to consider are those that do not need to be visualized or rewritten. Multi-generational or platform environments at the beginning of their lifecycle should be avoided as these will not be cost effective. Without adequate levels of pre-planning the transition project will face significant delays and create the risk of tarnishing the remainder of the project as well as losing continuing support. With this in mind, it is critical that the project prioritizes the analysis of all environments to gain an understanding of which are ready for Cloud implementation.
Winning the communications battle
For most end users, Cloud Computing is initially an unknown quantity; however this will change once they understand what it brings to the table. Once the benefits are understood, Cloud Computing is more likely to be seen as an opportunity than a threat. Having the benefits fully understood requires that a solid change management process be in place. Communication should make it clear that the concerns of the organisation are understood and being addressed.
One common concern with stakeholders lies with the security and regulatory processes. An example is Kaspersky Labs that found 62 percent of its IT managers were worried about Cloud security, and 60 percent of their stakeholders had fears about data protection which prevented the company from transitioning the mission-critical data to Cloud environments. With items that provide such a significant concern to an organisation it is worth utilizing industry professionals who are well versed in the area to speak to stakeholders.
It is also in the interest of project leaders to identify areas of high risk and concern, during and after the migration. This is achieved by the development and use of a detailed contingency plan which is understood by key stakeholders. This will go a long way in ensuring the organisation has the confidence in the project and project team.
The most common mistake with organisations transitioning to Cloud services is not fully understanding the importance of governance. The transition process needs to include a “Point Person” as well as a technical team on either side. This not only aids in transition planning, but identifies contact points for both teams when an issue occurs. This is particularly critical during the first months of the migration as project leaders are required to have a tight grip on end user feedback and an understanding of the potential for issues to occur.
Another critical aspect of the transition phase is the collection of data (including user data), concerns and issues from end users and support teams, along with systems usage peaks so that the transition teams can better understand potential productivity and capacity issues. Using the data collected from this process to chart time, cost, and improved performance will continue to ensure organisational buy in and support, both of which are critical to the success of any project. Paying special attention to the first project to transition is particularly important for the remainder of the transition, as it is the first that will set the time for the remainder of the projects.
Cloud technology holds promise for the future of many businesses and embracing it is a significant step towards improving the alignment of the business and technical goals of an organisation.
The benefits of Cloud projects are defined by achieving strategic goals, addressing potential risks, adequately monitoring and supporting the migration process and the Cloud services during the first several months. It is only through clearly defined management processes that a positive ROI can be realized with Cloud Computing. This calls for specialized management skills and competencies without which an organization risks failure. Transitioning to a system that does not function adequately is not only stressful to the employees but demoralizing to stakeholders, and it would take more than a conversation to get them on board again.
Investing in adequate resources and time for the first project is critical as its success not only builds on the confidence of the management, but also gives a preview to what is expected by the stakeholders. Every project should have a seasoned leader with experience in project management Cloud Computing systems. If efficiently managed, Cloud Computing services come with reduced costs and increased productivity. It is therefore important to consider commitment and consistency when looking for project leaders as well as Cloud vendors.
Organisations that attempt to move to the Cloud without following these best practices risk falling behind as the IT landscape changes.