In this blog transformation consulting experts, Jasper Lindenhovious and Brian King discuss how to build a cloud strategy.

Cloud has become a ubiquitous term in the current day Technology landscape. Most organisations consume some form of Cloud Service ranging from SaaS, through IaaS, PaaS, Serverless to Micro-services. For many companies, the ability to leverage core cloud capability and enable this within the organisation has become overshadowed by the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotics Process Automation (RPA).

The lack of a coherent strategy is resulting for many in inconsistent architectures within and outside various Cloud(s), a patchwork of security controls & -posture with no overarching design. Hindering the ability to provide true scalability and an ability to leverage orchestration & automation capabilities. And there, ultimately, is where you’ll find the real & tangible value.

A number of surveys by market leading research firms of Enterprise & SME organisations have identified challenges to building a strong Cloud Strategy. Included are challenges around how we:

  • Effectively manage multi-cloud solutions (including on-premise infrastructure)
  • Determine appropriate management of cloud services (centralised vs de-centralised)
  • Measurably improve security posture
  • Manage cloud spend (incl. managing Bring Your Own Licences “BYOL”)
  • Apply an appropriate governance model
  • Secure sufficient in-house organisational expertise
  • Leverage micro-services & Container Orchestration
  • Build appropriate Cloud Config. & Management tools (i.e. Infrastructure as a Code)
  • Adopt a successful partnership strategy with Cloud Service Providers “CSPs”

These challenges – and not being able to address them effectively – has led to approx. 30% of all Cloud spend wasted.[i]

HOW DO YOU BUILD A CLOUD STRATEGY FROM THE GROUND UP TO ADDRESS THE ABOVE CHALLENGES?

Firstly, there needs to be an honest discussion about what a “Cloud Strategy” is. A lot of organisations state that they have a “Cloud First” strategy. THIS IS NOT A STRATEGY. It is a statement, a tagline. A well developed and thought out Cloud Strategy needs to flow from the overall Business and be embedded in Technology strategy documents. Targeted benefits need to be distinguished to support the overall business ones.

WHAT HIGH-LEVEL STEPS CAN YOU DISTINGUISH TO BUILD A CLOUD STRATEGY?

Step 1: You need to conduct an AS-IS assessment of where your organisation is.

This exercise does not need to be exhaustive and take months/years. Unfortunately, no organisation has that luxury anymore and time is the scarcest resource. Important to note though is that higher quality and extensive information will typically lead to a better decision-making process. At the very least, you will need cover the following headline areas in any assessment:

Step 2 : Determine & document your “TO-BE” State

The TO-BE state will be built on the output of your AS-IS assessment. There may well be a phased approach to reach your proposed objectives and end state (if there ever is an end state). In all probability your current AS-IS environment(s) will place restrictions on your ability to migrate to the TO-BE state. All this needs to be incorporated in the documentation.

Key areas to cover are:

  • TO-BE architectural blueprint for future Cloud Technology Platform – end to end cloud architecture within each CSPs utilised
  • Application Strategy – the 5 R’s are a good basis to work from (Re-Host – Lift and Shift to IaaS, Re-Platform – IaaS (+ PaaS), Re-Architect (PaaS), Re-Purchase (SaaS), Retire (Remove)
  • Network provisioning for each Cloud centric environment – consider what PoPs are required geographically. Incorporate Interconnect capabilities with current MPLS or other legacy network services. And include QoS, intelligent routing utilising CSP backhaul, IP addressing and ranges, SD-WAN consideration, CASB and Secure Access Service Edge convergence[ii]
  • Shared Service dependencies – IDAM, Active Directory, DNS, API layer connectivity, Print cluster, EUC connectivity
  • Security Posture – how to leverage CSP Security capabilities to enhance existing posture
  • ITSM & Service Desk integration – integration into an automated CMDB is a pre-requisite to be able scale Cloud operations
  • Orchestration and Automation – how to incorporate and embed these capabilities in your Ways of Working in order to realise the full benefit of Cloud capability.

Step 3: Build the business case including: proposed target state, targeted benefits, ROI and a migration plan.

The Business case will be crucial in securing sponsorship, support and funding for the Cloud Strategy. It will also be pivotal to sign-off and greenlight a follow-up Cloud Enablement programme. A number of standard elements should be addressed:

  • Executive Summary – Including a concise problem statement, a call to action, a proposed solution, measurable business value, Return on Investment and proposed next steps . Boil this down to 1-2 pages maximum.
  • Current Situation and Problem statement – try to concisely explain what the key issues are in business speak. Quantify and qualify where relevant.
  • Summary of the Proposed Solution – don’t get too technical. Think of the audience who will read this and structure your wording accordingly.
  • Business Benefits – whether these are hard cost savings or ROI over a longer period of time. Make sure to include softer benefits even if these are difficult to quantify. Use tools to map out, break down and illustrate measurable benefits. Below is a template matrix detailing the Cloud Computing “ilities” of Scalability, Flexibility, Elasticity, Availability, Agility & Reliability across various business benefits and proposed objective metrics.

  • Programme Cost – The organisation’s finance policies will guide you here on the in-life run costs (OPEX) that need to be covered and the various Capitalisation rules (CAPEX) that need to be applied. However, the ROI will be difficult to justify especially within organisations whose amortisation is over an extended period (i.e. 5 years). These policies lead to a significant technical debt and hence the need for these type of transformation programmes.
  • Implementation Plan and Mobilisation – Visualise at a high level the phased implementation. Provide alternative options with pros & cons for each. Lean on the AS-IS and TO-BE analysis where relevant. Provide a risk assessment, an overview of dependencies and be clear about the challenges that the programme faces. In highlighting the risks, it is wise for the implementation plan to include a recommended Pilot Phase. This allows you to test your “TO-BE” architectural decisions in a live environment and obtain objective feedback for refinement of your end state target. It also allows you to demonstrate value to the business upfront and early on in the programme with is critical to managing business stakeholders. Most common challenges are listed below.
  • Operational Support and Model – set out the Operational Support Model that will be embedded with the new service stack. It is important to articulate the service provision that will be managed by the CSP and the elements that will be managed within your organisation and by whom. Alignment with ITIL v3 service framework is a proven methodology to ensure that there is a coherent approach. A ‘RACI Model by Activity’ will also help clearly set out the various responsibilities.
  • Conclusion & Suggested Next steps – as with the Executive summary use this to re-enforce your key messages on how you propose to address the challenges and deliver the business benefit. And what the required next steps are to move forward.

A strong Cloud Strategy is built by first getting in place the essential building blocks. Get it wrong and it can become a very costly, disjointed and siloed affair. When done right, however, the strategy will be well founded, tie into wider corporate strategy and be fully adopted. Executive mandate, sponsorship and funding for strategy execution will follow and your organisation will unlock the benefits of cloud capability and the significant value associated around AI, ML & RPA.

[i] Flexera State of the cloud report 2020

[ii] The Future of Network Security is in the Cloud by Gartner, Published 30th August 2019

Authors : Jasper Lindenhovious & Brian King have a combined experience of 40 years in the IT Consulting space, supporting senior IT leaders with IT transformation & Turnaround.

If you need help creating a bespoke Cloud Strategy or Programme inception for Cloud Enablement, feel free to reach out for an exploratory chat. Links to their LinkedIn profiles are above.