Mapping a Path to the Cloud

You’ve decided to start solving some business problems with cloud and hybrid-cloud systems.  But where do you start?

Like all new business models, cloud computing should be researched, and then a planned and pragmatic approach should be adopted.  There are many benefits such as agility, cost savings, relief of resource pressure and flexibility, but which areas of the business should be the starting point for a major cloud project?

Follow the Benefits

One of the ways to start thinking about options is to look where your organization can find the greatest value.

  • Consider starting with systems that need attention and business processes that need significant optimization or to be reinvented.  Some systems that have been in place for a while and live on premises may be working just fine and those can be left alone.
  • Where can your business gain the most by making a strategic change in systems?   Are there areas of the business where you want to change processes and/or systems?  These are a good place to start.
  • Where do you need to move quickly – to be innovative and outpace your competition?  More and more often organizations are turning to the cloud to drive agility and innovation.

Information Matters

It is often said that “information is power”.  That has never been more true than in the age of digital.  As organizations look at what business processes and systems to bring into the cloud, they should consider the information that resides in or flows through those systems.  In many cases this will drive a decision on the type of cloud or hybrid cloud application to embrace for managing this information.

Axis of Control

How much control does the organization need over this data?
Is it subject to a high level of regulation?
Do they need to ensure it remains within a given geography?

Some types of enterprise information by definition need to be under tighter control by the IT department.   There may be privacy or other regulations that require you to keep strict control of information.  Conversely, there are other types of information that your organization wants to share with the public or at least to share in a controlled way.  Perhaps it is information that needs to be accessed globally and made available on a variety of devices around the world.  There is a broad spectrum of control enterprises need to have for their information – and it is different for each organization.

Level of Importance

As a corporate asset, consider how important the information is when looking at implementation options.

How important is the information to the organization?
Is it the“secret sauce” in the organization’s business?
Is it mission critical?

Whether or not the information is something the organization wants toshare externally, the information asset could be critical to the long-term health of the organization.  Consider the case of a technology provider and the programming code for their applications, or a moviestudio and their investments into media assets.  Those information assets are critical to the organization.  There may be no legislation,data sovereignty or regulation issues related to that information butthey are vital assets to the long term health of the company and must be treated as such.

Information Grid Analysis

When taking both the Axis of Control and the Level of Importance into consideration, organizations can look at their systems and the information that resides in them and plot them on the axis. Those systems with information that is both low in corporate importance and requires a low level of control are likely candidates to implement in cloud or hybrid cloud. While these use cases vary foreach organization, an example here might be a public website. The organization puts out information that can be openly shared – in fact is meant to be openly shared (or perhaps password protected for amember population), and this type of information is likely not subject to a lot of regulation and control requirements.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, on the top right, are systems with information that is both vital to the organization and highly regulated.  Examples of this include patient records in a hospital system or financial records in a publicly traded organization. The level of importance of this information does not prevent the information from being part of a cloud or hybrid cloud implementation but they do help to define a level of vigilance that is required in choosing the cloud provider, the system and the Service Level Agreement for the application.  And they help to indicate which systems and information may be the easiest start points for cloud implementations.

Pilot before Plunge

Starting with a pilot project makes considerable sense so that staff and all parts of the organization can learn and adapt to new ways of working.  You can measure the benefits and learn before taking more complex or critical workloads into the cloud.

Putting in place an overall cloud strategy and a well thought out cloud plan will help you to realize the full benefits of the cloud.Consider key drivers for your organization, review the kinds of information you are managing and what controls it requires, understand the information risk, and develop pilots to test and assess your cloud plan.

Lynn Elwood

Lynn is VP Cloud & Services Solutions. A Computer Scientist by training, Lynn is focused on bringing software and services together with cloud, on-premises and hybrid options to provide measurable benefits for organizations around the world.

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