When it comes to cloud, in many cases it’s best to leave it to the experts.
Many organisations in Australia can’t hope to match the economies of scale and expertise that exist within companies such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure which, between them, have built more than 200 data centres across the planet. These are resources you could never hope to field on your own.
But simply using their footprint and cloud expertise doesn’t mean you should forego thinking strategically about how to get to the cloud and what you put in it.
The shift to the cloud is one that could alter the very way your organisation operates. Get it right, and the payoff can be immense. Get pushed into the wrong decision, however, and the fall can be equally great.
Why rush to the cloud?
The sudden rush to ‘cloudify’ operations certainly has an airline magazine management feel to it: a CEO was at the airport and read about this fantastic new thing called cloud… and that’s now the company strategy, and everyone needs to scramble to implement it.
Those CIOs who can persuade the overeager CEO to take a more methodical approach to an implementation of this magnitude can be best placed to benefit most from the cloud shift.
For one, it’s simply not true that everything in the cloud is automatically better and cheaper and more innovative. While it’s certainly possible to find efficiencies, it’s also possible to overprovision on capacity or see services balloon out of control as they’ve been set to scale automatically without effective monitoring.
In some instances, an organisation could sign a contract with a big-name software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor and lock themselves into many years of expensive maintenance and support.
It’s incumbent on you, as the methodical approach taker, to do your due diligence on the different cloud offerings available, particularly when it comes to cloud-based applications.
Not all cloud services are alike
Some applications lend themselves better to the cloud than others, such as collaboration and CRM – in these instances it’s easy to see why SaaS has become so popular.
When it comes moving entire enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) to a SaaS cloud versus doing a lift and shift to the public cloud, however, the benefits may not be as easily seen.
These systems, prior to the cloud, probably took months of stress, tears and cash to operationalise and customise, and may serve as the backbone of the organisation since it went live.
There can be risk in moving this kind of operation into the cloud as it involves potentially throwing away years of work on customised applications, not to mention potentially going through the whole process of operationalisation once again.
Yet ERP vendors will continue to push a move into their SaaS cloud as the next stage in digital transformation and my advice in these instances is “buyer beware.”
Organisations may find that, once the move is completed, business-critical applications such as payroll automation or supply chain management software do not have parity in a SaaS cloud environment, or at least not yet.
Some companies may move because they think their ERP implementation was so poor the first time around that a move to the cloud offers an opportunity to “start fresh”.
Others are happy but think cloud is a way to build new revenue streams, and they can begin running their existing ERPs (customisations and all) on cloud infrastructure and gradually weave in other cloud services.
Neither is without merit, but the need to remain methodical is imperative to the future of the business and its bottom line.
How to slow down in the rush
IT leaders who are not prepared to go all-in on the cloud as their transformation strategy may have to explain themselves because “everybody knows” the cloud is the future.
But there are ways to keep the pace methodical.
For one, IT leaders should properly explain their concerns, even down to understanding the budget impact. They need to know, and be able to explain, how and why you do not have to move everything to the cloud, and that the move should not be rushed.
Two, look outside the vendor sphere – the big unicorn operations may huff and puff and try to blow the house towards the cloud with talk of expiring support deadlines. If they do, it could be time to look elsewhere for maintenance and support.
Finally, if and when you do move, find ways to bring your existing business-critical applications and data with you, not just into “the cloud” but into the right cloud. Microsoft, Amazon and Google are investing in creating next generation data management tools – and you can take advantage of them.
You may feel pressure from all fronts to make a quick, decisive move. But ultimately you probably want to make the best decision, not just the quick one.
So slow down, pick your spots and start taking advantage of the cloud technologies with the potential to make the greatest business impact and make the move you think is best for the organisation. Ultimately, you’re the expert here and you can take all the time you need.
Michael Bathon is vice president, cloud services at Rimini Street.
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