How do you make your organisation cloud ready?

Mohammad Mithani, Cloud Practice Principal at Ricoh IT Services, discusses the importance of organisational cloud readiness and the critical challenges companies must overcome before they reap the benefits of cloud computing.

Organisations are under pressure to lower recurring IT Operating Expenses (OpEx), improve their service levels and use available technologies to better respond to business needs in a near-real time manner. Many organisations expect cloud based IT service delivery to assist them in achieving these goals.

The truth of the matter is that the cloud computing, by itself, will not make this difference in isolation. The difference comes from an organisation’s willingness to review the maturity and readiness of their IT service delivery to embrace the cloud computing. A realistic cloud migration strategy can only be developed once an organisation has clearly understood their own capacity to adopt cloud services.

Every cloud service migration must be aligned to an organisation’s business objectives, where business drives the cloud adoption strategy and the technology is a mere enabler.

An enterprise cloud adoption strategy and road map is critical for success

A lack of preparation and readiness to embrace a cloud-centric service delivery may severely affect the success of the cloud based projects.

In their enthusiasm to exploit the benefits of the cloud computing, too many organisations embark on poorly conceived cloud projects. These projects can suffer a range of issues from rushing to use the new technologies, non-compliance with their core business services to an overly optimistic cost/benefit analysis detailing greater business benefits than the project can deliver.

An important first step towards an organisation-wide cloud adoption strategy is to review the readiness of people, processes and business services in the context of a cloud based service model.

Cloud computing is sometimes confused with “Outsourcing 2.0”, but cloud computing imposes a substantial change on an organisation that will now consume IT services delivered by one or more cloud service provider(s).

Cloud based consumption models are primarily PAYG with on-demand and elastic resource availability with no upfront capital expenses (CapEx) or long-term commitment.

An organisation must consider three factors when evaluating the cloud based service delivery model.

  1. Identify the most suitable business workloads to migrate to cloud based environment.
  2. Choose the most suitable Cloud Service Provider (CSP) and platform that meets the technical pre-requisites and business needs to host these workloads.
  3. Consider the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of embracing a cloud based IT service delivery and support model.

An organisation may end up wasting significant time and money attempting the migration of non-cloud amenable workloads to a cloud environment on the basis of a CBA alone. Ignoring business needs and technical requirements but taking the decision of cloud adoption on the basis of a CBA is one of the prominent reasons behind the failure of most of the cloud-centric transformation projects.

Classification of business data and the business criticality of the workloads significantly influences the selection of a target cloud deployment model (private, public or hybrid cloud) as well as the identification of the most suitable CSP.

For example, a business service catalogue and a workflow process for a retailer and for a bank may use the same backend technologies and hosting platform, but their constraints around data protection and information security, regulatory compliance and end-user SLAs would be different.

A holistic and congruent enterprise cloud adoption strategy based on business need, industry constraints, an organisation’s technical and process maturity level is critical to an organisation achieving success with a cloud migration.

Be prepared to evolve your IT service delivery

A cultural shift is occurring in IT Service Delivery, arising from an increased focus on consuming cloud based services rather than the purchase, design and build of customer owned data centres.

Over the years, internal IT operations and service delivery teams have adapted to meet the needs of business users by evolving the infrastructure landscape to meet their expectations.

From supporting mainframes to virtualised x86 servers, from follow-the-sun model of global service desks to work-from-home call centres, from in-house operations to a fully outsourced model – the delivery of IT services has not stood still but they have always been reactive in nature. Implementing cloud-based IT service consumption is an evolution of corporate IT Service Delivery teams, transforming them from a reactive to a proactive mode of service.

Companies should not underestimate the additional service management overhead during the transition of IT service delivery to a cloud service provider. Service delivery teams will develop close working relationships with cloud service providers and integrate the working practices of the service providers alongside those of the in-house service delivery team.

Consider the impact on your service delivery teams before, not after, the embracing cloud based IT service delivery and support.

Don’t underestimate the complexity of cloud

A selling point of some cloud-based solutions is a reduction in complexity and number of diverse environments to manage. For instance, with single- or multi-tenant cloud environments, the service provider takes the sole responsibility for the hosting infrastructure management, data backups, infrastructure and software upgrades, and patching etc. The technical overhead of managing the hosting environment and support is substantially reduced for the customer.

However, there is more to cloud computing than just moving business services or consuming SaaS based offerings. Consider the following factors:

  • Multi-cloud workload management: Managing your distributed business workloads in private, public and hybrid clouds could be a steep learning experience for many organisations. A cloud integration service provider can help you accelerate your learning process by bringing their industry wide experience, best practices and approach to your teams so that you don’t need to ‘reinvent the wheel’.
  • CSP management: Delivery of services from third-party suppliers can free up your IT team from day-to-day management and IT operations. You may now have an opportunity to allocate some of your team members focus on business-centric innovation, process improvement and expanding your market share. Your cloud integration service provider could help you effectively optimise your valuable human resource skills to improve the quality of service for your end users and customers by effectively managing your cloud service contracts, SLAs and by providing a consolidated OpEx billing from multiple CSPs.
  • Unified CxO dashboard: A unified smart dashboard can deliver near-real time status of your business services along with a valuable insight into your current and forecast IT spending by aggregating multi-cloud subscriptions, resource utilisation and overall business service availability for your leadership team. Cloud integration service providers can help you design and deploy a customised CxO dashboard for your key stakeholders.
  • Latest and greatest technology at no cost: Review your organisation’s readiness to consume new technologies by embracing the cloud-based delivery of your IT services for your core business at no additional cost.
  • No CapEx, lower OpEx: The cloud based approach of IT service consumption is CapEx-free, but, with accurate planning and design, can also reduce OpEx for subscribers.

Cloud based IT service consumption is a new paradigm and organisations must consider multiple factors to host the appropriate business services in the most suitable cloud environment at a justifiable cost.

Cloud computing promises much; however, only those organisations that choose to analyse their readiness and define a clear, organisation-wide strategy for cloud adoption are likely to reap the real benefits on offer.

About the Author

Mohammad Mithani is an IT veteran who has worked around the world for the Fortune 500 companies as a trusted IT and cloud evangelist, leading enterprise-wide IT Transformation and advising C-level executives on their enterprise cloud adoption strategies. He is a cloud researcher and has developed three patent pending analytics in the area of business workload placement in the multi-cloud environment specialises in the development of cloud analytics.