Unicon is publishing an article on ways of approaching decision-making about adopting cloud and/or managed services. The article will be broken down into segments. The segments will cover elements including: strategic, financial, architecture, security, process, and people.
Recently, Unicon has been engaging with a number of clients on cloud migrations. In some cases, those engagements have been focused on executing migrations to private or public clouds. In other cases, Unicon starts with the challenge of whether a service should be migrated to the cloud and if so, how far does that go - just the infrastructure or the management of the environment and services as well? These are all complex conversations - in some cases driven by external pressures on the IT decision makers to reduce costs or improve service quality. In other cases, existing staff is simply overloaded; there is a desire to shed work not in line with core competencies, or recognition that there are gaps in ability to deliver necessary service levels. More often than not, factoring in the various elements that inform a decision results in no clear or obvious answer. The goal of this article is to help IT decision makers separate and address strategic elements to create a plan when approaching cloud and/or managed services transitions.
Note: For the purposes of this discussion we will interpret the term "cloud" broadly, to include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), as well as Platform and Software as a Service (PaaS and SaaS) and associated vendor-provided service management.
The Strategic Element
Our first question usually considers the overall goals of the institution or business and the IT strategy that supports those goals. Hopefully, the organization has a well-articulated technology strategy that translates the business goals into technology guidelines. These often include goals and positions such as: technology stack goals (e.g. homogeneous environment or best-of-breed/heterogeneous), service level goals, build/buy/partner positions, security and privacy risk position, open source position, and default position on time-to-delivery versus cost versus quality trade-offs. To cite some examples of different strategy profiles, a non-profit organization may choose to leverage open source to the maximum extent possible, build any integrations or solutions internally with limited staff, and seek to minimize costs through a uniform tech environment (e.g. a LAMP variant) even if it means going slower on rolling out new capabilities. An organization with a strong capital funding position and emerging growth opportunities and/or competitive threats might choose to spend their way past scale and growth issues. They may not invest time removing scale bottlenecks because time-to-market is crucial to meeting the larger organization's growth goals. At the outset of a decision making process, using the organization’s strategic positions (both IT and business/institutional) to state a concise set of guiding principles, that can be used as litmus tests or touchstones throughout the process, will help keep those involved on point. "Business and IT Alignment" surely has a strong presence in the management vernacular today - by incorporating the strategic elements above, one can help fulfill that alignment and check the buzzword compliance box too.
It is important to note, however, that not all organizations have a formal or even semi-formal technology strategy. In those cases, a cloud decision process can help set the stage for a better strategic position. This affords an opportunity to discuss financial and service level themes with other stakeholders in the organization and could begin to form the foundation for a set of guiding principles for broader IT decision making. Examining other recent technology decisions and the associated stakeholder conversations can also help tease out the starting points of a strategy.
Every week for the next five weeks Unicon will publish another segment of this article. Please check back for the next segment, which will cover the financial element.