Is Your Cloud Strategy Really a Strategy?

For any organisation moving to the cloud, whether they have existing on-premises assets or are ‘born in the cloud’, having a clearly defined strategy is crucial but sometimes overlooked. 

I feel the word ‘strategy’ has become one of those overused business-speak words. In fact, so many ‘strategies’, especially in cloud and IT, are, in fact, not strategies at all. 

Any strategy should help answer questions when a fork in the road appears so that whoever is dealing with the decision is armed with the knowledge they need to make the right choice. 

Cloud first 

A cloud strategy is a great example of where this sometimes goes awry. For example, I have heard many organisations state that their IT strategy is ‘cloud first’. This seems descriptive enough, but on its own, all it really helps to answer is ‘should this application be built on-premises or in the cloud?’. 

This statement is actually a goal – that all apps should be hosted in the cloud. However, it doesn’t always make sense to follow this route, sometimes the better option is to stay on-premises. It all depends on a business’s specific circumstances around things like budget, the forecasted lifespan of the application, local regulations and customer contracts. 

I’m often reminded of an old IBM advert, two executives reading newspapers, and the first exec says to the second “says here we need to be on the internet’. 

The second exec nods wisely then asks “why?”. 

“Doesn’t say”, responds the first. 

A strategy defines not just a blanket goal, but a why and a how 

To answer the question that will continually crop up, we need to understand the business drivers and how an organisation wants to achieve those goals, including any trade-offs they are prepared to make. 

As another example, a business may state that they want to move to the cloud to save costs – but again, this isn’t detailed enough. There are a number of ways this can be achieved. A business may have a datacenter contract coming to an end and, rather than sign for a further three years, migrating to cloud could be cheaper. Alternatively, it may be that there are a number of systems with hardware due for replacement over the coming years. 

Understanding which of these scenarios is relevant will help an organisation decide on trade-offs. If time is of the essence, you may be prepared to accept a few more perceived risks with the view to mopping them up after the deadline. If you are moving apps off legacy hardware, you can potentially migrate an application at a time and, therefore, spend longer periods planning. 

IT strategies must be understood by the whole business, not just the IT functions 

The CISO function will most definitely need to be onboard. Quite often decisions around risk and security need to be made, and again, sometimes short-term trade-offs need to be made for financial or deadline reasons (with mitigating controls of course). Therefore the InfoSec teams need to know about the goal and actively work towards it. Similarly, the internal consumers need to know if solutions must be built in a particular way or understand why certain limitations might be imposed on them. 

To aid a wider understanding, implementing a Cloud Centre of Excellence (CCoE) – a virtual, cross functional team to continually agree, define and document best practices – provides well defined routes for communicating the strategy, as well as ensuring everyone is on board. A CCoE also lowers costs, reduces security threats, and matures service faster, as well as promoting business-wide adoption. 

Is your cloud strategy really a goal? 

GoalStrategy
Defines an outcome Defines how an organisation will achieve an outcome 
Is high level and broad States why an organisation wants to move 
Defined by one or a few closely related departments Encompasses (and is agreed by) the whole business 
Details potential challenges and the necessary answers 

Do you feel your strategy could be more defined? Would you like some guidance on turning your goals into strategies? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at brett.hargreaves@ir77.co.uk and let us help you to achieve success on your cloud journey.