Clouded vision? 5 steps to a successful cloud transition

Representational image of cloud computing.
Image Credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock)

Organizations are adopting cloud technologies at an exponential rate, however with insufficient planning and the lack of clear a digital strategy, cloud adoption can quickly become a severe business headache. Back in the days of paper, filing systems were clear, businesses had dedicated people and processes to manage the effective filing and access of documents. Being material, when the filing room was full this was visually obvious, and processes were in place to discard items no longer relevant to make room for fresh information to be filed away and sourced as required.

Cloud has turned this system on its head. Employees view the cloud as ‘limitless’ storage, and they fail to understand that new capacity means increasing costs. The cloud’s pay-as-you-go model means that as IT departments increase capacity, with the potential for endless additional storage comes the potential for endless cloud fee increases. This is financially unsustainable, inefficient, and results in more complex processes for accessing information with a by-product of reduced security.

Optimizing the cloud and implementing clear digital processes can result in vast improvements across the organization and allow departments to use this transformational technology to its full advantage. Business leaders should consider five key strategic moves to achieve a successful cloud transition.

Karl Chan

CEO at Laserfiche.

1. Take things one step at a time, slow and steady wins the race

Though the mantra of the day seems to be, "the cloud solves everything," it's not really a be all end all solution. Before signing a cloud contract, leaders should ask themselves, "Do we really need to move to the cloud?"

If an organization has recently invested in new on-premises servers that are running smoothly, and storage and networks that have been set up effectively on current IT infrastructure, it may not make sense to transition to the cloud right away. On the other hand, organizations that have aging hardware infrastructure, anticipate software system or server upgrades, or need additional storage may want to consider new or additional cloud capacity.

If you've determined that now is the right time for your organization to move to the cloud, start small. Create internal pilot programs for cloud migration, conduct feedback sessions throughout the life of the pilot. This way, any snags or mistakes (and there are always bound to be a few) won't have a major impact, and you can effectively apply any learnings to the next system or process you migrate to cloud.

2. Ask why you need cloud, what you are looking to achieve?

Finding the right cloud application to meet an organization's needs and budget is key to extracting the best return from cloud investments. Start by clearly defining why you are migrating to cloud, and only then start evaluating the systems you'll use to get there.

Organizations that do not conduct proper due diligence on the best options for their needs may end up with a solution that doesn't help them achieve their business goals. That solution will only add to the final cloud bill and bog down the company in unnecessary costs, which can quickly spiral out of control.

Decision makers may want to approach this research with an outcomes-based orientation. Grounding research in the desired business outcomes can help translate technical implementation, such as cloud computing or bandwidth, to specific goals. To help reduce the cost burden, leadership can research cloud applications that provide specific solutions, such as digital file management, rather than bare-bones infrastructure, like AWS.

Don't spend time migrating systems that will become obsolete in the next few years. If you spend precious time and money migrating systems to cloud that you're just going to sunset, that will cut into the ultimate success of your program.

Additionally, before you start your migration, answer the question: We're moving to the cloud, and then what? What is that step 2 after moving to the cloud? Even a successful migration can fall short when the outcomes aren't defined prior to implementation.

3. Examine SLAs closely before signing the dotted line

Cloud service providers and clients sign service-level agreements (SLAs) that establish operating thresholds, performance metrics, and other details about the cloud infrastructure or solution in question. It's easy to gloss over these contracts and accept them as the cost of doing business.

However, organizations should examine SLAs closely so that they are never surprised when downtime or other operating concerns arise. Not every cloud service provider can or will offer five nines. Clients that understand ahead of time when and if their chosen solution may not be available to them are more likely to optimize their cloud deployments.

4. Train your workforce, these new tools can make life more comfortable for employees

Before buying cloud solutions, organizations must make sense of their workforce's ability to operate in the new environment. Not every company has existing in-house staff resources to support a new system or architecture. And a team with the know-how to handle the on-premises tools may not necessarily understand how to use cloud-based solutions.

To mitigate any incongruencies between new cloud architecture or solutions and the skillset of their employees, organizations can take a two-pronged approach. First, they can ensure that the solutions they decide to purchase seamlessly integrate legacy systems and software applications that the company may keep. Tight integration ensures teams can continue leveraging their ERP- or CRM-operating skills.

Leaders can also focus on (re)training their employees to use new cloud tools. Retraining can include workshops and hands-on demos that teach actual technical skills. Savvy leaders can also look at how new cloud operating environments may change the cultural makeup of their organization. Aligning siloed teams and workflows and enabling social relationships between co-workers can make the newly transformed digital workplace more accessible and comfortable.

The long story short is that, if leaders want their staff to support the transition, they need to support the staff.

5. Data are gold! Monitor and evaluate your strategy

If the cloud is left as an unchecked resource, companies will experience cost overruns no matter how well they align investments to their goals. Organizations should recognize a metric that affords a degree of comfort, such as number of invoices. By finding that predictable metric to measure cloud cost, companies can better forecast spending. Partners and cloud apps with built-in monitoring tools can help keep a close eye on relevant usage metrics.

Tightening oversight also enhances visibility. Strong oversight can help decision makers understand their business on a different and more granular level, allowing them to adjust more quickly and easily when necessary.

Careful consideration and insight are key to achieving your cloud goals

It’s easy to get wrapped up in concerns over return on investment (ROI) rather than focusing on what is important to a successful cloud transition. If you ensure your business focuses in on what it wants to achieve by transitioning to cloud and implements the carefully considered resources necessary, then ROI will naturally follow. Blindly replacing one legacy system with a cloud one will not result in success, and searching the balance sheet for returns will prove unfruitful. Careful consideration and focusing on business outcomes will allow your organization to digitally transform and propel to the next level.

We've featured the best cloud computing service.

This article was produced as part of TechRadarPro's Expert Insights channel where we feature the best and brightest minds in the technology industry today. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily those of TechRadarPro or Future plc. If you are interested in contributing find out more here:

Karl Chan is CEO at Laserfiche.