Cloud Strategy How To Create A Successful Cloud Adoption Plan? The 4 Principles

Many companies introduce the cloud without even thinking about WHY they should do it and WHAT do they want to achieve by doing so. The consequences can be measured in the amount of wasted time and money.

But there is another way. A wiser one.

Let me present you with 4 essential principles that you need to follow before even spending a penny on the cloud.

  1. What are the crucial elements of a cloud adoption plan?
  2. Why should you focus on the business outcome rather than specific technologies?
  3. How to formulate your cloud strategy to make it last?

This post has originally been published on Aug 30, 2018. It has since been updated for better readability.

Before you even begin your cloud journey

In one of my previous articles, I shared my thoughts on how and where to start with the cloud in your organization. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure to check it out: Considering The Cloud? Think Of These 7 Things First.

Those were the tactical pieces of advice on how to get digital transformation going at your company – an instruction which should prevent throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

But before you implement the tactics from that article, maybe you want to take a step back and think: Do I need to move to the cloud?

Even if the answer is yes, it leads to the next question: what kind of cloud solution is right for me? Maybe I need a cloud strategy?

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

Let me spoil the plot a bit here.

There is no such thing as a cloud strategy!

If someone starts a discussion about creating one for you, you might want to reconsider your consultant choice.

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

#1 Know your value offering

Don’t start planning any tactical moves or directions around your cloud approach until you make sure you understand your “landscape”. Find out where your company builds value for your users and customers.

There might be different kinds 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 efficiently promote the process of delivering value.

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

  • Is it more appropriate to use SaaS or a custom solution?
  • Will you invest into building a solution or will you decide to buy one?
  • What skills should you 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 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 headed.
keynote presentation at industry events. knowing the trends is important for developing your cloud adoption plan

Knowing the industry trends is key to informing your value proposition and choices you’ll make for your cloud adoption plan

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

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

Now we’ve set the stage, let’s debunk some myths around developing a cloud strategy!

#2 Set and measure your goals

Before considering the technical details of your approach and all the choices you need to make for your cloud adoption plan, think about this:

How will it bring value to your users and your organization?

There might be multiple benefits, and not all of them come in direct monetary value. Instead, they might involve:

  • 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 investigate which ones will apply to yours and what – as a result – you will be able to 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 the ten you already have?

Pick your reasons to adopt and use the cloud! Make sure to gather opinions from different places across your value creation chain. Their ideas will likely be different to yours and you should consider them!

How will you know if you’re achieving your aims?

Here, you’ll need to take the next important step which is:

Define clear and measurable goals and a way to measure them!

It is the same as when you want to lose weight – if you don’t measure it regularly, you will not know if you are progressing and as a consequence, you won’t get there.

You have to define the goals you want to meet. Moreover, you need to establish a way of measuring them across the organization. It will enable you to monitor the progress in your desired direction.

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#3 Vendor lock-in doesn’t have to be an issue

It’s all that we can see all over the Internet. Vendor lock-in is the new method of scaring people off.

The solution? The multi-cloud approach!

And here come the dragons!

Turning to multiple cloud providers raises your costs in terms of the learning curve, the time to deploy the solutions, and interoperability between them. Suddenly, you need to decide where to put which solution, how to manage them all 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 it vendor-independent. Usually, this means you waste the potential gains of the service – in terms of time and the cost of work to maintain it – to implement this “intermediate” layer. And you will always be behind.

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Is there another way to stay vendor-independent?

If you invest wisely in your solutions approach and your team’s knowledge, there is no such thing as vendor lock-in. It is really just another term to fuel the never-ending cycle of IT projects and spending.

Most likely, you will use multiple cloud providers. This is the reality. The difference is in WHY you’ll do it and HOW you will approach this decision!

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

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

What else can you do to avoid vendor lock-in?

Follow what comes from your skills and architecture, not the state of technology:

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

If you have to switch cloud vendors, there will be costs to incur. However, with the right architecture, knowledge and deployment processes, they should be bearable and will still be lower than if building things from scratch.

It is us who build the solutions which create vendor lock-in. Rarely the vendor themselves.

#4 One container does not fit them all!

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

As 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 use…” and it will be all over the business analysts’ articles.

There is always a technology war to fight, and one option will always try to get an advantage over another (like Kubernetes 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 a winner. But you know what? Almost certainly, the next battle is waiting just around the corner.

And while we’re on the subject: what are containers? Find out from this short video!

Learn, experiment, evaluate

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

Your cloud adoption plan 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.”

This is bad. Such an approach doesn’t have any relation to your value chain, it doesn’t set a goal, and it is not providing anything to measure that goal against.

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

  • Implement constant learning as a process. Get the hang of what is changing and see how it can benefit your goals.
  • Experiment: allow people to try out new technologies. Every such undertaking provides some knowledge and changes the way in which you are doing things.
  • If there is new technology available, evaluate and measure it against your goals. Similarly, if it improves your outcomes and benefits of cloud adoption, then weigh 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 create a good cloud adoption plan?

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

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

Your choices in terms of your organization’s technology approach are not a strategy! And the 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 do you need to answer to create your strategy?

There are several issues for your organization to consider. Read carefully:

  • How do you define the value that you deliver to customers, and how does technology aid in its creation and delivery?
  • What benefits and outcome do you expect to achieve with the adoption of the cloud (regardless of specific technology choices)?
  • What are the goals and how will you measure them to know that you are progressing?
  • How are you going to approach the architecture choices and build solutions to ensure flexibility in the choice of providers for the future?
  • What is the process for learning and evaluation of new technology options to make sure you are delivering the right outcome, aligned with your goals?

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

Know what your business is about

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

  • 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! The HOW will probably change very often, but you will have straight guidelines on how to improve it.

If you have it formulated your cloud migration plan, 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 the upcoming blog posts.

Key takeaways
  1. Your cloud migration plan should answer the following questions – WHY do you use it and WHAT do you want to achieve? It doesn’t focus on a specific technology.
  2. Define the goals of your cloud adoption plan and have a way of tracking your progress.
  3. Vendor lock-in is usually created by our choices, not vendors. Think about your architecture and delivery processes instead of how to avoid being tied to one provider.
  4. Don’t jump on the latest solution just because everyone’s talking about it. Learn, experiment, evaluate.
  5. Focus on your business outcomes rather than technologies – solutions will change very often along your cloud journey, so it doesn’t make sense to do the opposite!
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