8 steps to help your organization enter the cloud

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Enter the cloudSay you’re a CIO or CTO who wants to make a fundamental shift in how digital technology can drive your enterprise to innovate and produce transformational business outcomes. Say you know how it can change not just the operations of your business, but its culture as well.

In essence, you’re ready to enter the cloud.

As I talk to clients who are at this stage of their cloud journey, the big question then becomes, “How?”

Certainly cloud architecture, process and functionality are important ingredients for success, but consider stepping back and looking at the big picture. After all, you’re making a fundamental shift in your enterprise. You want to ensure that cloud can support your business mission and one way to ensure that is to develop a cloud implementation strategy.

How do you form that strategy? At IBM, we’re fond of the word “think,” and through our work with the research analysis firm Frost and Sullivan, we’ve come up with some ways to help think through and plan your cloud journey:

1. Educate your IT team.

Make sure your team understands that moving to cloud technology is not outsourcing or a way to cut jobs, but rather an opportunity. By shifting the “grunt work” of infrastructure deployment and maintenance to a cloud provider, it will free up IT professionals to participate in more strategic work.

2. Make it “cloud first” for any new projects.

This simply means that when your business needs a new application, start by considering cloud-based solutions. With a “cloud first” policy, corporate developers become champions of strategy and heroes to their line of business colleagues.

3. Move test and development to the public cloud.

On-demand access to scalable resources and pay-as-you-go pricing enable developers to test, replicate, tweak, and test again in an environment that replicates the production environment. This simple move will free up hundreds of hours of IT operational resources to work on the cloud or other strategic projects.

4.  Review your IT maintenance schedule.

Check for planned hardware and software upgrades and refreshes. Major upgrades can be disruptive to users, as well as costly and time-consuming to implement. Where possible, you should synchronize planned upgrades with your cloud project. In some cases, you may decide that certain workloads should remain in your on-premises data center for the time being.

5. Organize a cross-functional project planning team.

Identify workloads to migrate. This is your opportunity to gain the trust of line-of-business managers who, in many companies, consider IT a roadblock. The term “fast solutions” will play very well to this audience.

6. Hire an expert provider to spearhead the project.

In setting out to build their cloud strategies, most businesses face two handicaps: a lack of expertise and few resources to spare. An outside expert can assist with tasks from risk assessment, to strategy development, to project planning, to management of the migration project. But remember, your provider should focus on a successful business outcome, not just a “tech flash-cut.”

7. Plan your ongoing cloud support needs.

The time to consider how you will manage your cloud is now, before you start moving strategic workloads. While you may be at the beginning of your cloud journey, you should look ahead to the inevitable time when the majority of workloads will be cloud-delivered. You may want to consider one of the few cloud service providers to offer a managed-service option.

8. Build your migration and integration project plan.

This is the essential on-ramp to your company’s cloud journey. Work with your experts and cross-functional team to identify two or three simple, low-risk workloads to move to the cloud. For most enterprises, the best bets are web-enabled workloads that are neither critical, nor strategic to the running of the business, and that require limited interaction with external data sources.

Those are the essentials. Use them to achieve your “digital revolution.”

To learn more, read “Stepping into the Cloud: A Practical Guide to Creating and Implementing a Successful Cloud Strategy.”

Image via Calsbeek

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