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Signs that your cloud strategy is in need of a makeover

Regardless of cloud experience, every business should be regularly reviewing its cloud approach

storm clouds and a dark sky

Moving any aspect of an organisation's work to the cloud is a serious undertaking. It takes time, it costs money, it needs to be justified to the big bosses and justified to the coalface workers. Workflows, roles and day-to-day activity will change. It can take many months to get everything organised, in place and working well.

The work does not stop once the job is done, either. Managing cloud, like managing any other aspect of IT, is an ongoing commitment. This is about more than just tinkering around - it's about ensuring your cloud strategy remains fit for purpose and keeps pace with the needs of your business. In order to do that, your strategy will need the occasional makeover.

But how do you know when that time has come?

Strategy? What strategy?

We're beginning with the assumption that your organisation has a good cloud strategy in the first place, yet this isn't always the case.

A strong cloud strategy is built on solid principles. It isn't about the detail of specific business processes or workflows - it's about why you use cloud, what you expect it to bring to the business, how you evaluate its delivery on those expectations and how you will ensure cloud implementation meets your data governance and security requirements.

If parts of your organisation's workload are in the cloud and you don't have a cloud strategy that does these things, then Step 1 is to revise what you have and get a good strategy in place.

Be wary of technology-leads

Assuming there is a sound strategy in place, then "any pragmatic strategy should be able to incorporate additions, modifications or removal of services or business processes," according to Tony Lock, distinguished analyst at Freeform Dynamics.

One sign that your cloud strategy may be faltering is if it is almost entirely technology driven. A move to the cloud can't just be dictated by the organisation's technology, as it will ultimately fail to take key parts of the business into consideration. After months of implementation, you might find you have a superbly well-functioning and well-specified platform, but an enormous hole in your people skills. The longer this goes on, the harder that hole will be to fill.

Leaving the tech too late

Conversely, cloud strategies can flounder if the technology element gets left behind. While a strategy needs to be based on the whole business, including its workflows and business processes, it is, of course, imperative that the technology element is specified, planned and delivered in a timely way.

Jason Stewart-Clark, managing director of Cloud Native Architecture at Accenture, told us that it's common for an organisation to overly focus on building out its staff skillsets and embed the idea of cloud into the business, but will have failed to build the "technical foundations, perhaps expecting the 'next big project' that comes along to build them out". He says "this is normally sub-optimal."

Worry about replication

A third potential problem that can occur is if an organisation has been too conservative in planning its first workload transition.

"A big mistake is trying to replicate existing datacentre approaches on the cloud," explains Stewart-Clark. "Not only will this not allow you to realise the business agility and delivery pace benefits of cloud, it will almost always mean you end up spending a lot more money than you need to."

Review, review, review

It's important to remember that these signs of a faltering cloud strategy may only surface when an organisation is already deeply committed to delivering its first cloud implementation, or perhaps even when cloud has been in place for a while. The trick is to avoid serious issues like these surfacing. They will take time to put right, cost more money, and could well result in a loss of faith in the cloud concept throughout the organisation.

A strategy review is therefore essential. This isn't just about regular, scheduled reviews as part of the board's risk management agenda - something which should happen as a matter of course. This refers to what Accenture's Stewart-Clark called "regular light-touch reviews", which "take into account changes in each of the domains as well as the interconnects between them".

Your cloud strategy will almost certainly need a makeover if a new business unit is created or acquired, or if one is divested, if there is regulatory or compliance change, and if the organisation considers new business alliances or a move into new territories. It's also worth keeping an eye on developments in cloud technology and service offers and considering key developments as part of the review process.

'No action' is a valid outcome

Importantly, regular, light touch reviews might frequently result in no action being taken at all. If everything is functioning as required and the horizon looks smooth and untroubled, then the appropriate response could well be 'no action necessary at this time'. This is no different to any other business review that the organisation's board will undertake as a regular part of its work.

The goal is avoiding serious issues like the three signs of a faltering cloud strategy. Regular review with an eye on the horizon is the way to a smoothly developing cloud strategy rather than coming up against the need for a radical makeover.

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