4 Essential Principles for Successful Cloud Strategy

A lot of companies introduce Cloud without even thinking about WHY should they do that and WHAT do they want to achieve by doing so. The consequences of such behavior can be measured in the amount of wasted time and money.

But there is another way. A wiser one.

In today’s article, I’m going to present you 4 essential principles that you need to follow before even spending a penny for a cloud.

In one of my previous articles, I shared my thoughts on where and how to start with the cloud in your organization. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure to check it later:  Considering Cloud – 7 Things To Know Before Migrating.

Those were tactical pieces of advice on how to get cloud going in your company – the instruction that prevents throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Before you implement tactics from the article above maybe you want to get one step back and think – do I need to go to the cloud? Even if the answer is yes, the next question appears: what kind of cloud solution is right for us?

Maybe you need a cloud strategy?

You can ask us to create one for you! Of course, we can! We are experts and consultants!

Let me spoil a plot a bit here. there is no cloud strategy! If someone starts a discussion with creating one for you, you might re-consider your consultant choice. (tweet that text)

You should take a look at the value you deliver to your customers (internal or external) and technology supporting it. Starting the discussion about cloud strategy focused on technology approach in the first place is a wrong tactic. Technology might not be what drives your business.

 

#1 Start with your users and value you want to offer them – Later, draw from it

Before jumping into any form of planning tactical moves and directions around cloud approach, make sure you understand your “landscape”. In addition, check out where your company builds value for your users and customers.

always search for value

There might be a different kind of users in your organization, and your job is to support them all. You might have to take into consideration different points of view to promote the process of delivering value in an efficient way.

Now, let’s look at a few different questions:

  • Is it more appropriate to use the SaaS or custom solution?
  • Will you invest into building a solution or you decide to buy one?
  • What skills you should keep on-board and what should you buy on the market?

You can answer those questions only if you understand a few things:

  • You know where you contribute in your organization when it comes to value creation,
  • The trends on the market which will help you to deliver it (or will try to stop you) aren’t a mystery for you.
  • You know where the trends are heading.

It is not technology what drives value to be delivered to users. It is a process of providing value for users what drive technology choices.

Remember it! It is a key to success in the long term.

Now when we set the stage, let’s debunk some myths around cloud strategy choices!

 

#2 Measurements and goals setting – this is how you will know you are successful

Before jumping into technical details of your approach and all the choices around nuts think about this:

HOW will it benefit value for your users and your organization?

There might be multiple benefits, and not all of them comes in direct monetary value. It might be:

  • Reduced time to market.
  • Easier compliance and auditing.
  • A switch to monthly costs.
  • An easy way to scale up and down as needed.

You will find plenty of examples and arguments on how the cloud can benefit organizations. It is important to see those that apply to yours and what – thanks to them – you deliver to your users.

It doesn’t matter that cloud provides excellent scalability if you don’t need thousands of servers – are you okay with ten you already have?

Pick your reasons to adopt and use a cloud! Make sure to weigh in opinion from different places across your value creation chain. Probably their ideas will be different than you think and you should weigh them in!

setting goals when building a cloud strategy

Once you have those your next important step is:

Set clear and measurable goals to meet and way to measure them!

It is the same as with losing-your-weight-goal – if you do not measure it, you will not know if you are progressing and you will not get there as a consequence.

You have to declare a common definition of what goals you will meet. Moreover, you need to define the way you measure them across the organization. It will let you control whether you make progress in the direction you set in the first place.

 

#3 We all shout loud: “vendor lock-in, multi-cloud for rescue!”

vendor lock-in and multi-cloud

All that you can hear and read from all sides of the Internet. Vendor lock-in is a new kind of method that is used to scare people off.

SOLUTION: Multi-cloud approach! And here the dragons come!

Adopting multiple cloud providers rises your costs regarding the learning curve and time, time to deploy the solutions, interoperability between them. Suddenly you need to decide where to put which solution and how to manage them and operate productively.

You can take the approach of abstracting the solution from the cloud providers through an additional layer of APIs or interfaces which will make your solution vendor independent. Usually, this means you waste potential gains from cloud solution – in time and cost of work to maintain it – to implement this “intermediate” layer. And you will always be behind.

Does it have to be this way? Not necessarily

If you invest wisely in your solutions approach and your team’s knowledge, there is nothing like vendor lock-in. It is another term to fuel always a spinning circle of IT projects and spending.

Most likely you will use multiple cloud providers! It is a reality. The difference comes from WHY you do this and HOW you approach this decision!

The fear of vendor lock-in should not drive it. The value should push it. The things that you are getting out of it. Take into account the following factors:

  • Services delivered to your user and their quality.
  • The time that is needed in order to provide this value for the market.
  • Cost of delivery and return on it.
  • Any other factors you have identified as crucial to your value delivery (see #1).

To avoid vendor lock follow what comes from your skills and architecture, not the state of technology:

  • Invest in your teams and their knowledge around a cloud. Be always able to choose what’s best in the current situation.
  • Think about your solution architecture – that’s the moment where usually you can be locked to a single solution or product.
  • Invest in Automation for integration and deployments around it. Once your solution is deployed in a fully automated way, it might be just a matter of adjusting this deployment method and some solutions elements to be able to move to another cloud provider.

If you have to switch cloud provider there will be costs around it. However, with the right architecture, knowledge and deployment processes around your solution, it should be bearable and still will be less than building things from scratch.

It is us who create solutions which create vendor lock-in. Rarely vendor itself.

 

#4 One container does not fit them all!

There is always new darling on the market and in this industry. It might be containers, functions or micro-services.

A s a result, when it shows up, you will be informed quickly. Your architects will talk about it. Your developers will talk about it. It will pop-up in every design discussion like: “Why not to use …” and it will be everywhere in business analysts articles.

There is always technology war to fight, and one option is trying to get an advantage over something different (like Kubernets vs. Docker and similar. If you are old enough you should remember Commodore vs. Atari which was the same situation, just more on-premises).

And there will always be the winner in such battle.

But you know what?

Almost certainly, there will be still the next battle, just waiting around the corner.

If entire industry shouts “containers” it is good to investigate it and look for the value that it gives to you. However, this is not a strategy choice.

Your strategy definitely shouldn’t sound like: “we will now use containers for everything as it is the best and finest technology and it prevents vendor lock-in.”

It is bad. It doesn’t have any reference to your value chain, it doesn’t set the goal, and it is not providing anything to measure this goal against.

Do you want to make sure that you take advantage of new technologies? Adjust your strategy to cloud usage:

  • Implement constant learning within the organization as a process. Get the hang of what is changing and see how that thing can benefit your goals.
  • Experiment: allow people to experiment with new technologies. Every such undertaking provides some knowledge and changes the way in which you are doing things.
  • Evaluate and measure outcome: if there is new technology available, evaluate and measure it against your goals. Similarly, if it improves your outcome and benefits from cloud adoption then weight the result against your overall cost of implementing it.

Learning, Experimentation, and Evaluation will allow you to make the right choices for individual technologies within your cloud strategy.

 

How to formulate a good cloud strategy for your organization?

And here we are. As you read, we have not spoken about the tough choice between IaaS and PaaS. We have not discussed using SaaS vs. custom built solution or using hosts vs. serverless services.

All those considerations when it comes to choosing between these technologies – this is where we as technology experts can always jump and express our preferences – are in the end the pros and cons for particular options.

The choices you make in terms of technology approach are not a strategy! Truth is, you will most likely use all of them at the same time. The only difference is how much you use each of them at various stages.

What questions should be answered when creating your cloud adoption strategy? Read carefully:

  • What is your organization value that you deliver to customers and how technology supports its creation and delivery?
  • Which benefits and outcome are expected to be achieved along with the adoption of cloud technology (regardless of specific technology choices)?
  • What are the goals and how you will measure them to know that you are progressing towards the goals?
  • How are you going to approach the architecture choices and build solutions to ensure flexibility in provider choices for the future?
  • What is the process for learning, and evaluation of new technology options to ensure you are delivering the right outcome aligned with your goals?

What next?

If you have those 5 crucial elements covered, you will be ready to make the right technology choices for specific solutions.

For every organization, it is essential to answer three central questions about its action:

  • What is it doing?
  • How is it doing it?
  • Why is it doing what it does?

Your cloud strategy has to answer questions about WHY and WHAT in the first place! HOW will change probably very often, but you will have straight guidelines on how to improve it.

If you have it formulated it is time to think about building your Cloud Center of Excellence and your Enterprise Cloud program.

How should you approach it? Stay tuned. I will cover it in upcoming blog posts.

Key takeaways
  1. Cloud strategy should answer the following questions – WHY you use it and WHAT do you want to achieve? On the other hand, it doesn’t provide an answer for a specific technology that you need to choose.
  2. Build your cloud strategy with the process in order to adopt new technologies as a consequence of its growth – It will change very often in your cloud journey, so it doesn’t make sense to do the opposite!
  3. Vendor lock-in is usually created by our choices, not by vendors. Think about your architecture and delivery processes instead of how to avoid specific vendors!

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