How to effectively migrate to the cloud
Overcoming bumps on the path to cloud migration
The need to accelerate digital-enabled business transformation is driving organisations to migrate their data and business applications to the cloud.
The value of migrating to the cloud can be enormous for organisations, providing savings, improved business agility, and enhanced security. However, when poorly planned and executed, the cost can be huge with McKinsey estimating that approximately $100 billion of wasted migration spend is expected over the next three years.
Many organisations have probably implemented data migration in some form or other, usually to transfer data between storage systems, new or upgraded IT systems and servers, or to different data formats. While moving to the cloud is potentially transformative for businesses, the reality is that cloud migration is a gradual process. For one thing, not all data is cloud-ready. The successful outcome will be down to the preparation, identifying the risks and preparing for them and gaining buy-in, especially from finance teams.
What exactly can cloud migration enable your organisation to achieve?
Identify what it is you want to achieve from migrating to the cloud. It’s quite likely an aspect of your company’s IT system or digital workload is already cloud-based, or cloud-enabled, such as through a common cloud computing application like Google Docs.
Dipping a toe in the water is quite different to diving in at the deep end, so first articulate what it is you want to achieve that cloud migration can enable or bring about. It might be the ability to scale faster, optimise workflows, simplify onboarding, enable more collaborative working (particularly as remote working becomes more entrenched), enhance security or reduce costs, or a myriad of other reasons. The more benefits that can be identified creates a stronger case for cloud migration.
How to reduce complexity
Determine which data, software applications, services, and so on, you intend to migrate. You will also need to work out the cloud-readiness of your various data, as in “cloud-ready, cloud-friendly and cloud laggards” (Gartner). Undertaking this exercise may reveal that some applications or data cannot be migrated, due to regulatory constraints, so they have to be retained within on-site servers, but there may have to be a way of ensuring they integrate seamlessly with cloud-based operations, in a hybrid approach.
If you embark on this as a process of discovery, you might find some applications, data resources or services are potentially redundant. Moving house or moving premises requires sifting and sorting belongings, items, appliances, and stuff in general, before packing the boxes, so you aren’t moving what you don’t use, need or have an attachment to. Cloud migration is a process akin to moving so it is beneficial for the business to go through and refine what needs to be packed up and transported.
Start record-keeping the data migration process, preferably in a centralised, living document that all stakeholders can update. It can include an overview or main plan that stakeholders update as they action their own items or complete their own “to-do” list required for the migration.
Cloud migration cannot occur without some disruption to the business’s operations, so the aim is to keep it to a minimum. Where it is unavoidable that some aspects of the business will be disrupted, can it be quantified in terms of time, cost or loss of revenue?
During this stage you may have to factor in a period of operating two different infrastructures – onsite and cloud – concurrently for a period of time.
Other risks are security-related, so will you need to formulate a strategy?
How equipped and skilled are your staff in terms of undertaking the migration? Do you have a chief data officer or someone with the skills and experience required to lead the migration?
A big draw of cloud migration is that businesses see benefits in transforming IT expenditure into an operational expenditure (OpEx) cost, which can be more flexible and transparent: basically, you can see what you are paying for as you go. IT investments have always been heavy on the capital expenditure (CapEx), sometimes involving investments that can take several years, or more, to pay back.
Cloud migration cost has to be factored in, otherwise there is no way of showing true value for money. Cloud migration requires a budget, for the transition and for the ongoing expense. Facilitating strong communication between finance and data teams is essential. The chances of a cloud migration project going ahead is more likely if the CTO or a senior finance executive is sponsoring or backing it. This requires honesty and transparency too. It is much better to manage expectations rather than oversell the project.
This is just advice but once you begin addressing these steps you can generate buy-in. Cloud migration is a journey. It requires examining how aspects of the business work today to be able to show how cloud migration can improve and enhance business performance, simplify current processes, reduce overheads and costs, or bring about other tangible benefits, so that heads of departments and stakeholders will be convinced to get on board.
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