7 Steps to a Successful Cloud Migration

Here are some of the key steps - from planning to partnerships to measurement - that are critical for optimizing your cloud migration.

Begin with a strategic plan based on business goals rather than IT functions.

Cloud migration is a complex process of moving data, applications, and other business components to a secure, scalable cloud computing environment. Depending upon the size and scope of the enterprise, organizations may spend up to two years managing their cloud migration initiative.

But unless they begin with a strategic vision that closely aligns with their business objectives, they could end up creating a costly data center in the cloud rather than the high-functioning competitive advantage they’d intended.

How do you ensure that you’re choosing the right path to a successful and highly productive cloud environment? First, you should tap into the knowledge that industry leaders have gained through real-world experiences. And then you can leverage that knowledge to create a cloud-based powerhouse that enhances performance metrics and expedites innovation.

Based on our experiences, here are some of the key steps we consider critical to achieving an optimized cloud migration.

1. Collaborate with line of business (LOB) managers to create a goals-based strategy.

Historically, organizations developed cloud strategies based on IT current capabilities and future needs. That approach isn’t going to work for you in today’s challenging business environment. Now you need to assess your competitive position, analyze your strengths and weaknesses, and determine exactly what it is you’re hoping to accomplish.

Are you concerned primarily with business agility? Are you trying to mitigate risk by bolstering security? Do you want to reduce reliance on legacy systems and transition to more modern and economical processes? Are you switching to a DevOps approach? Or converting CapEx to OpEx?

Before you take any further steps, you want to ensure that your strategy is business-focused and that it has been developed in collaboration with the appropriate stakeholders. Additionally, you should establish upfront what the expected outcomes are and how they will be measured. Often, it helps to bring in experts who can help you sift through your many priorities to determine which should be included in a comprehensive and crystal-clear strategic plan.

2. Accurately assess the total cost of implementation and future operations.

Cloud costs are often higher than anticipated. So, your job is to identify the hidden risk factors and address them before they break your budget.

It may turn out after performing your assessment that you’ve invested so much in hardware infrastructure and software licensing that it may not be worthwhile to migrate certain workloads. Or your existing applications will require refactoring or rearchitecting before they’re cloud-ready. Or perhaps the management processes needed to maintain your new cloud environment will require the hiring of additional IT staff.

To get the complete picture, you need to consider the total impact on your data center operating costs, network bandwidth costs, and even disaster recovery expenses. There are many useful tools available for estimating the cost of a cloud configuration, so be sure to use them to create detailed pricing estimates.

But be forewarned: don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will justify your cloud migration with the prospect of cost savings. It likely isn’t going to happen. Industry analysts such as Gartner have found that the business benefits of agility, scalability, and geographic distribution are far more compelling and realistic reasons to modernize to the cloud.

3. Determine what should be moved to the cloud, and why.

Despite its phenomenal – and continually expanding – range of capabilities, the cloud is not appropriate for everything your IT department manages. So, it’s important to prepare an inventory of your data and applications and assess each item individually to determine its viability on the cloud. For example, you won’t want to move stale or nonessential data that no longer has value to your organization. You also won’t want to move non-standardized applications that aren’t compatible with the environment or those that include a lot of features that are no longer used.

You want to take into account IT governance and foundation practices that may not adapt to the cloud, the size of the applications you want to move, and their dependencies. It is only after careful examination of every asset that you and your IT leaders will be able to identify and prioritize which IT capabilities will deliver the maximum benefits to business differentiation with minimal effort and migration costs. You’re well-advised to consult with experts on our team who can help you through this complex process of assessing your data and applications, and developing an appropriate cloud migration path for each individual asset.

4. Select the cloud configuration that is right for your organization.

After you’ve determined which databases and applications should be migrated to the cloud, you need to consider which configuration works best to help you achieve your business goals. Many organizations are realizing excellent results with a hybrid model of cloud and on-premises applications. Each configuration has distinct advantages in terms of uptime, security, and control. They also offer varying levels of scalability, flexibility, and operational costs to be considered.

Wherever you choose to migrate your assets, it’s essential that you integrate the systems to ensure seamless connectivity between the two systems so users may enjoy end-to-end visibility and insights across every environment. Remember, cloud performance and connectivity are critical to your success. Most organizations are well-advised to work with experienced migration professionals to develop their strategic plan and to ensure the best choices are made as they embark on their cloud migration initiative.

5. Ensure you instill the right processes, skills, and culture, right from the start.

When you move to the cloud, you’re not just relocating information and applications. You’re changing business processes, introducing new techniques that may require new skills, altering workloads, and shifting your organization into cloud-based development practices that will change the way you do business. This requires a transformation of culture that is essential to success.

You may need to realign staff and resources, initiate cloud management training classes, hire additional staff who can fill any skills gaps that ensue. To deliver a successful cloud migration, it’s imperative that you include these costs in your up-front estimate so you have the needed resources to teach or supplement skills, or even acquire outside help from strategic partners or systems integrators.

6. Measure and manage capabilities and performance.

Some organizations have spent tremendous time and effort to implement a cloud environment only to discover that it’s not providing the benefits they’d envisioned. Often, this is because they didn’t establish the metrics for success up front. Before you begin your implementation, you need to determine how you’re going to monitor and measure its performance, and the performance of your cloud providers.

What’s most important to you? Cost? Speed? Agility? Streamlined processes? Risk reduction? Better application of IT resources? You need to establish these goals up front and ensure you have buy-in from all affected parties.

Additionally, there’s always the chance that a certain application simply isn’t going to thrive on the cloud. Consider your exit strategy before you make the move so you can avoid unexpected issues in the future.

7. Choose your partners and providers wisely.

A successful cloud migration usually requires the extensive expertise of a consulting partner and is dependent upon a trusted relationship with one or more cloud providers. Each one has its own unique attributes, so it’s essential that you examine the differences between providers such as AWS, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and others. Unless you’re intimately familiar with the benefits and features offered by each of these providers, you may not select the one that works best for your organization’s goals.

Eliassen Group VP of IT Strategy and Digital Transformation, Mike Cardillo, cautions organizations to thoroughly analyze their strategy against the capabilities of the cloud providers. “This is a daunting task for IT professionals who aren’t fully immersed in cloud migration. The landscape is constantly changing, and you’ve got to be on top of who’s doing what. Moreover, you need to consider their future plans. Will you grow together or grow apart? You simply can’t risk making the wrong decision.”

Plan for Success

A successful cloud migration requires strategic vision, thorough examination, and a detailed plan.

It’s so much more than simply lifting and shifting data and applications. It requires strategic preparation, technical transition, and cultural transformation. Otherwise, you won’t reap the full benefits of agility, scalability, flexibility, and innovation that you envisioned at the outset.

For more guidance on how to confidently proceed with your cloud migration initiative, get in touch with us, and explore our cloud migration services.