The Cloud offers companies numerous opportunities to save costs and move into new markets. However, the perception remains that it’s complicated to implement Cloud policies and new ecosystems into any business.
Before looking at the complexity involved, consider the reasons you might move some functions to the Cloud in the first place. Starting with efficiency, you can establish new computing resources and projects within hours in the Cloud, whereas it may take days or even weeks to do the same with physical equipment on-site. The Cloud also offers true pay-as-you-go models where you invest in just what you need, but when required you can quickly scale up to facilitate company growth. Similarly, it is easier to incorporate external data—such as Nielsen ratings or stock market figures—into your decision-making processes in the Cloud. What about data security? This has long been an objection but recently it’s been flipped to become an incentive: Cloud providers have been shown to use the latest security technologies and offer more straightforward audit policies compared to traditional computing. In a nutshell, security is about data accessibility rather than data location.
Complexities and challenges
Much has been written on different technical and organisational complexities companies face when moving business to the Cloud. Core challenges include the following:
- Identifying what the Cloud can do for you: if you don’t have a clear strategy for getting a return on your investment (ROI) in the Cloud, then the project will run into difficulties from the start.
- Locating the required expertise: do you have in-house personnel to manage the migration? If not, would it be a big overhead to recruit someone? What about the costs of getting a subcontractor for the task?
- Choosing a vendor: household names like Amazon and Google offer Cloud services but so do innumerable smaller providers – which will offer the best deal and be most aligned with your business?
- Negotiating service level agreements: like any other service your company might buy, you will need to formalise the Cloud service into a signed agreement. What are the criteria you need to agree on? What are the costs involved with different levels of service?
- Moving data to the Cloud: which data should you prioritise and move first? If employees and customers access company data (albeit different sets of data), what are the typical demand patterns? How much do you expect your data to grow?
There are lots of other questions and decision-points, but the typical examples above make it clear that moving to the Cloud can be a multi-layered transformation into a new domain.
Maintaining business focus
What may help is to remember that you are not a Cloud company – you are a company that uses the Cloud to help run your business. Companies can often lose focus on their core expertise and become distracted by the shininess and attractiveness of novel technologies such as the Cloud. For a more organised business, the Cloud is kept in its place and seen for what it is – a support for core business. Placing the Cloud at the centre of their business is rarely the main reason successful companies make the transition.
According to a recent report from IBM’s Institute for Business Value, there are three initial steps for companies to begin their Cloud journey:
- Establish a working group of your senior executives and IT management to lead and take responsibility for the project
- Analyse companies inside and outside your sector who have successfully transitioned to the Cloud – for example, are they disruptors, innovators, or optimisers?
- Decide whether your company is currently well-placed to take advantage of the Cloud’s benefits, in terms of your overall strategic plan, competitive position, in-house competencies, and existing work practices.
The most important action of all is to remain focused on running your company. If the Cloud offers potential to grow this business, then it merits further examination. If you decide to engage with Cloud services, then give this contemporary technology the effort it deserves. And just remember Albert Einstein’s old maxim, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”