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5 Critical Success Factors for the Journey to the Public Cloud

(This blog post originally appeared on Information Management.)

The pace of cloud adoption continues to accelerate due to its promise of speed, flexibility, and lower costs. And it’s not just tech departments vying for cloud adoption anymore. The C-suite also realizes the many positive effects of the cloud – from empowering frontline employees and decision makers, to accelerating business innovation, to attracting top talent.

But while enterprise cloud adoption sounds straightforward on paper, without the right plan and approach established at the beginning, adopters are likely to run into headaches in the forms of unforeseen costs, limited scale and availability, or security and compliance missteps.

Complicating matters is that while moving to the cloud, most organizations must continue to drive value from large, complex on-premises environments, resulting in a complex straddle of decisions and investments. As we like to say at AHEAD, enterprise realities can get in the way of cloud expectations.

Additionally, the cloud marketplace is filled with myriad tools, each with unique capabilities designed to address different needs. Evaluating these tools across the entire cloud ecosystem can be daunting for cloud teams who are already stretched thin and may even lack the proficiency to do so in the first place.

I encourage CIOs and cloud leaders, whether they’re new to the cloud or a couple of years in, to step back and reflect to make sure their use of cloud is set up for success. To aid in that process, I recommend five success factors:

1) Develop a set of guiding objectives, strategies, and principles. Before jumping into the cloud, you should spend time architecting what you want your end state to accomplish in business terms. This doesn’t need to be a 400-page document – it can be as simple as a 2-page summary that defines a hierarchy of the following: measurable business objectives for the cloud, the strategies and tactics that will be employed in support of those objectives, and ultimately the principles and priorities that will guide decision-making throughout the journey. If a key objective is speed and flexibility, then spell it out, but do so in measurable and defensible terms. Meanwhile, a guiding principle can be something like, “We will take every opportunity to eliminate manual tasks through automation.”

2) Maintain a prioritized, living backlog. As business units hungry for new capabilities begin to realize the benefits of cloud adoption, the cloud journey can easily be replaced by a runaway cloud train. When developing or revisiting your cloud plan, always maintain a prioritized backlog of work. And most importantly, make sure that backlog is communicated to and easily understood by all stakeholders. To that end, the priority list can’t be treated as static, but rather, a living list that’s updated frequently.

3) Automate and deploy Infrastructure as Code. Insist on leveraging automation and Infrastructure as Code (IaC) to manage the provisioning of applications and infrastructure. I’m always surprised at the number of organizations that are embarking on the cloud journey, but not utilizing IaC and automation. Manual deployments are not only time consuming, but also complicated and prone to errors. Automate all along your journey and stamp out as much as you can in code. The elimination of various manual tasks will make developers more productive and accretive to the business. This is not an overnight process; automated deployments take time to build but ultimately, they lead to improved efficiency and savings.

4) Get out ahead of the billing blindside. Surprises related to costs and compliance will inevitably arise during your cloud journey, so consider assembling the necessary monitoring and alerting tools to make your cloud operations more efficient and predictable. One of the fastest growing cloud offerings is in the area of cloud optimization and governance, including the integration of cloud monitoring and alerting into organizations’ enterprise service management platforms like ServiceNow.

5) Place as much emphasis on Day 2 Operations as you do on migration. It’s easy to focus on the journey to the cloud, but what about when you get there? The still lingering mindset that successful cloud deployments begin and end with a swipe of the credit card leads to results that don’t meet expectations. Of course, it’s critical to get up and running and demonstrate early cloud victories, but Day 2 Operations need to be planned for early on and managed closely. While most enterprises are well-acquainted with the cloud, executives don’t realize the needed maintenance burden once the adoption is complete: a challenge that isn’t discussed enough within the industry.

By following the tips outlined above, organizations can ensure successful cloud adoption, knowing that they have all the right security, governance, monitoring, performance and operational strategies in place for Day 2 Operations.

How do you optimize your cloud while clearing the hurdles of security and cost optimization? Check out our free AWS Security and Cost Optimization Guide to get started.

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