A Checklist for the Cloud

My original version of this article was published on Forbes, it proved to be very popular so I decided to also post it on my blog.

Let me be clear from the start: Cloud computing is no longer an IT priority—it’s a business priority.

The potential of cloud computing extends far beyond simple financial savings or ease of provisioning. Instead, cloud offers enormous opportunity for new innovation, and even the disruption of entire industries.

A comprehensive cloud strategy enables agility, increases efficiency, and improves decision making. These are all competitive advantages that directly affect your organization’s bottom line.

Because of these benefits, cloud projects shouldn’t be judged solely on technical merits, but rather on how much opportunity they unlock. This means it’s time to stop getting mired in technological challenges. Instead, it’s time to start figuring out how implementing cloud-based services can deliver tangible business value.
Far too many leaders—IT or otherwise—get stuck discussing budgets or technology, rather than clearly articulating the business contributions cloud services can make to their organization.

Let’s Change That!

Let’s evolve the conversation to include cloud’s potential to drive profitability and growth. Unfortunately, the transformative power of cloud computing isn’t always easy to understand, much less implement.
Here are 10 steps that business leaders can use to ensure cloud technology plays a strategic role in organizational success:

1. Work Out Your Cloud Options
Which cloud providers can you use? Which providers meet your security or data location requirements?
This issue is particularly important in Europe, which has strict data protection and location laws.

2. Establish Strong Links Into The Lines Of Business
Remember, cloud is about business enablement. Therefore, cloud can only offer true change when people realize what it can do for them.
Identify the influential groups within your business and show them what’s possible with cloud—where it can facilitate services, increase productivity, and drive innovation.

3. Build Excitement
Some people still fear cloud and will resist change if not constantly encouraged. Many people started in IT because they enjoy building things—like data centers or server farms—and feel comfortable surrounded by this physical technology.
Without excitement about what’s possible, you’ll likely face hesitancy and, worse still, resistance towards moving to a services-based model.

4. Identify Early Wins
Which IT services constitute “low-hanging fruit”? Consider moving on these quickly and decisively, working to optimize the current environment while incorporating new solutions.
Early wins create confidence and build momentum—two important ingredients to any successful change initiative.

5. Consider File-Sharing Services File sharing
People are probably already using Dropbox, Box or Google Drive, so this may be an easy “early win.” It’s amazing how many companies still do not offer any real file-sharing capability, especially one with mobile access.
But this capability affects everyone, regardless of their job or department, and will likely be seen as a genuine step forward by those throughout the organization.

6. Determine Your Management Platform
Orchestration and automation are critical to cloud success. These two elements directly affect application use and scalability.
That’s why so many businesses use comprehensive cloud providers like Amazon Web Services: They make it so easy to deploy applications and services.

7. Classify Applications For Cloud Migration
You should classify applications that can be moved to the cloud—based on cost reduction, security, and, most important, business value.
If an application you run could be delivered through cloud services without compromising security or endangering proprietary processes, then it’s a good candidate.

8. Investigate Changing To Cloud-Based Applications
Sometimes it’s better to start again rather than migrate. This can be a tough decision, as many organizations have invested a lot of time and money into creating their own, say, customer relationship management system.
But ask yourself: Has that made it a shackle? If so, rather than moving an existing application to the cloud, you should consider taking the plunge and adopting a proven application that’s already in the cloud, such as Salesforce.com.

9. Assess Complimentary Services
Even when you make the decision to keep applications, it’s still worth assessing whether many of the complimentary services like backup and disaster recovery could be better delivered through the cloud.
While these services are important, they’re somewhat commoditized and more efficiently delivered by specialized providers.

10. Embrace Hyperscalers
The flexibility, cost savings, and massive scale that the likes of Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure and IBM’s Softlayer offer can have huge advantages. From short term, low-cost “test and development” to high capacity, big-data analytics, this elastic, “pay per use” model is extremely compelling.
After all, these services have the ability to bring thousands of CPUs to bear on your data—at a much lower cost than smaller purveyors.

The Bottom Line Cloud computing is transforming the way business leaders and their organizations think about technology. But to take advantage of this trend, you’ll need to apply a deliberate approach to building cloud solutions—one that explicitly aligns with business goals.

This checklist is a start to developing just such an approach. Think of it as a roadmap to transforming change into opportunity and using cloud to catalyze business success.

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