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The Cloud Journey: How to set a course to transform the enterprise

The cloud fortifies the enterprise and creates the agility and scalability needed to succeed long term.

skyscraper reflecting clouds

But if you don’t stop to ask the right questions in the beginning, the organisation won’t have the necessary foundation to execute the strategy.

Mapping A Journey Forward

To stay competitive, organisations are pressured to bring new and improved products to market faster than ever before. Yesterday, innovative design, rapid response and zero downtime were differentiators.

Today, that’s just the cost of entry. Your customers demand more. Fail to deliver, and your customer simply goes elsewhere. Companies obsess over the customer experience. They know that a cohesive customer journey elevates the entire brand experience. Organisations navigate increasingly complex business and technology ecosystems, pressured by users with higher expectations. That pressure can force companies to act – sometimes before they’re ready.

Acting to meet the demands of today’s customers often brings a startling realisation: Legacy technology systems are holding organisations back. Complex, monolithic systems just weren’t built to support the agility, flexibility and change required to compete in a modern digital landscape. To create agility for the enterprise, the IT department turns to cloud-native technologies to increase flexibility, drive down costs, improve automation and speed time to market. Cloud-native applications take advantage of open-source and microservices architecture to power the organisation’s digital transformation efforts. On the surface, that seems to be exactly what the company needs.

But that’s just the technology solution. While technology is certainly part of the equation, it doesn’t account for the business goals, or the people and processes that will ultimately determine success. Relying solely on cloud-native development just means the organisation built a technology strategy rather than a business strategy. When IT and the business fail to align and define the desired goals, the outcomes never deliver the expected value to the business. The company made a strategic decision to act without the necessary understanding of why it was important. They failed to consider their ability to sense and respond to their customer. They haven’t achieved the business agility necessary for the business to sense and respond to the market, or the development agility that enables IT to sense and respond to the business.

A critical first step is to envision the future of the business and ask critical questions about what the organisation is trying to achieve. How will this impact the business? What value are they trying to drive for the business? Adopting a cloud-native architecture might be the right approach – or it might not. Technologies like cloud-native applications can enable the transformation necessary to respond to the ever-changing demands of the market. The cloud fortifies the enterprise and creates the agility and scalability needed to succeed long term. But if you don’t stop to ask the right questions in the beginning, the organisation won’t have the necessary foundation to execute the strategy.

Organisations are right to focus on their customers’ journeys as they strive to build experiences that exceed buyer expectations. But what about their own journey? And make no mistake, the adoption of a cloud strategy IS a journey. These journeys are disruptive and can seem erratic. You may need to veer left or right along the journey, depending on what you’ve accomplished. Sometimes you need to go back and add polish to a step you previously completed or address an area that was overlooked. Building a plan outlining how you’re going to navigate unexpected detours on the journey will illuminate what is important so you can deliver the desired value back to the business. When companies define their strategy and activate their plan, they help make the journey successful and ensure they arrive at the desired destination.

Cloud transformations are fraught with obstacles:

  • Unanticipated costs
  • Data privacy and security challenges
  • Lack of skills and expertise
  • Underestimated change management
  • Ongoing cloud management (postmigration)

Building a Cloud Foundation

Every organisation is on some type of journey to transform and modernize the business. The most successful journeys strategically apply technology to enable their business goals and deliver value to their customers, but the paths these journeys take are different for every organisation. A company running workloads on Amazon Web Services may need to consider AWS Landing Zone. A Microsoft Azure shop might consider Azure Kubernetes Service. Google Cloud infrastructure users may need to anticipate how to drive DevOps automation across their Google Cloud tech stack. Regardless of the technology ecosystem, mapping out a plan for where you want to go is critical to success. The plan must be nimble and flexible, so you can adjust and course-correct along the way.

Take, for instance, the adoption of a cloud strategy as a journey. There are numerous considerations that must be addressed as part of the strategy. Navigating the journey and identifying what is important and critical to success often relies on extensive experience and a deep understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. The plan can act as a compass to ensure you meet key milestones and don’t miss crucial waypoints.

There are several key stages of a cloud journey to consider.

Business and technology foundations. Envisioning the future of the business and then identifying how technology can enable the delivery and flow of that value is a critical first step to a purposeful cloud journey.

Cloud foundations. First understand what and then how. An integral building block is defining, building and maturing a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) focused on the technology foundation. Creating a Center for Excellence (C4E) focused on skills development and cloud adoption is critical for the long-term viability of any cloud journey.

Build and migrate. Build the right secure cloud foundation, and then start small for big wins. Establishing a migration factory will drive speed, repeatability and quality across your migration.

Modernise (refactor). Some applications should be refactored to take advantage of the cloud or to bring new business capabilities.

Continuous improvement. A key focus of any cloud journey must be on keeping the cloud environment as efficient and cost-conscious as possible.

Cloud migrations are disruptive events in the enterprise. Not only are you moving your company’s infrastructure and applications to new technologies, but you are essentially lifting the business from traditional brick, mortar and metal to the cloud. This disruption must be addressed and accounted for. There are processes, skill sets and applications that all need to change. Organisations that embark on a cloud journey need to address all aspects of organisational change management, including and especially the human aspects of change.

Addressing the Cloud Skills Gap

The cloud is the greatest enabler for both business and delivery agility, but true transformation is driven by your people. As organisations move to the cloud, ensuring that the people and teams in your organisation are growing their skills is critical to the success of your adoption. The first step in ensuring your people have the right skills is to identify and assess the skill gaps. Often organisations address the skill gaps with a one-size-fits-all approach to training. Everyone in the organisation, regardless of skill level or experience, receives the same training curriculum. Besides being costly and terribly inefficient, it’s a poor experience for your employees. A better approach is to identify the skill gaps quickly and efficiently with data-driven tools, such as an AWS Training and Certification Learning Needs Analysis. The Learning Needs Analysis includes an adaptive survey that covers the critical cloud roles and the related functions. The simple self-assessment provides a holistic view of the skills and capabilities of your employees.

Once you’ve identified the skill gaps, the biggest challenge is time. The pace of work doesn’t slow down because you need to upskill the workforce. Companies must help find time for employees to complete the training as they advance across their learning and development journey. Human beings process information and learn through different modalities. It’s critical to meet employees where they are – determining what learning experiences will provide the most value and deliver the best results.

Clear communication is key as organisations progress along the journey building out their learning and development plans. Most employees aren’t fond of taking skills assessments without a clear understanding of why. Leaders must clearly articulate where they’re going and provide clarity on how these skills and certifications will enable the organisation to reach their destination.

Every company is on some type of journey, driven by demands to elevate the customer experience or the pursuit of competitive advantage. Those journeys are disruptive and almost never follow a straight and narrow path. Mapping out a plan so you always know exactly where you are on the journey is crucial to a well-executed strategy. Your journey map will ensure you reach your destination, but the journey doesn’t end there. Building agility and durability across the enterprise will ensure you’re ready for the next disruption coming around the bend.

TEKsystems’ Tips

Own your strategy: Off-the-shelf strategies rarely deliver the anticipated value because the organisation isn’t bought in. Get the right stakeholders in the room. Pinpoint the business problems you need to solve. Then develop your own roadmap.

Address change management: Organisational change management is a vital step toward successfully transforming the enterprise. It’s important to understand how employees will be affected and clearly and consistently communicating these effects to help drive user adoption.

Live for today, plan for tomorrow: Lean on partners to shore up gaps where you may not have the skills or capabilities, while thinking through how to build the long-term skills and capabilities in-house.

Avoid myopic thinking: Bring in the expertise you need to transform, but don’t allow the vision to remain with a select few. Articulate the vision and transfer knowledge to the teams who will manage the cloud long term.

Bridge the gaps: Cloud journeys often originate from the IT department. Don’t let the journey get siloed in IT. Engage business stakeholders early so they can articulate and define the business goals and objectives.