Cloud First Strategy – Fast, efficient and cost effective migration

Last week I was fortunate to be a part of a roundtable conversation with NSW Government agencies, NetApp, Microsoft and ADAPT. The topic revolved around how the agencies are responding to the cloud first policy of NSW Government and the challenges executives face in achieving their digital business objectives when navigating the cloud transformation. The event stood out for me due to the lively and engaging conversations (especially during the current ongoing lockdown!). It was great to get a front row view of the challenges that our clients in the public sector are navigating, and interestingly quite a few are common to the commercial segment as well. I have noted down the key elements which resonated with our experience in the field.

Efficient and Effective, yes. But for whom? 

Cloud is often billed as a more efficient way to delivering IT services, and it is. However, the question that isn’t typically probed enough is – who is it the most efficient and / or effective for? Obviously, on the surface, something that is more efficient and effective for IT is also efficient and effective for the business. But there is a little thing called a Business Case that’s often done with generics, which means the last mile of value delivery to the business (and making the cloud yours in a way that will deliver that value) is often an afterthought. Understanding what the value is, how the cloud will bring the value envisaged, when it is going to be realised, and who will be receiving that value is important to driving a successful cloud platform transformation. This aligns closely with the need for the CIO’s office to set the expectation of their C-suite colleagues and align the business, so that the cloud transformation is set up for success from its inception. 

Look for the land mines (or the rain bomb?) 

Cloud transformation and migration is a multi-layered consideration. Most organisations have jumped head-first into the migration, especially prompted by real world drivers such as the pandemic – need to enable remote working, need to deliver services remotely overnight. Some have spent little time to enable landing zones and security standards, but perhaps not to enterprise-scales. As time passes and the nature of cloud as a long-term platform is fully understood by the organisation – the critical elements are emerging as afterthought – alongside the buzzwords and associated confusion the tech industry has bestowed upon them – FinOps, Chargeback, automated SecOps, IaC, Policy as code, you name it! Again – the key is to lead with a concerted cloud strategy that is well laid out and principled and allows for extension when needed rather than specifying all the implementation details up front. 

The weakest link

Moving to the cloud represents a reduction of direct control of the infrastructure, full stop. There is more under the service providers control now, and less under yours. However, there is a “Shared Responsibility Model” which governs the line of control, and it is of utmost importance for an enterprise – such as a public sector organisation – to understand this model at a great level of detail. The good news is the big 3 – Azure, AWS, GCP – articulates and documents the Shared Responsibility Model with significant level of detail, and so do enterprise cloud solution providers such as NetApp. However, a lot of smaller SaaS players are not equipped to articulate and outline this detail in the level a public sector customer might need, but might be delivering a critical service – either directly to the enterprise or to their partner supply chain. Understanding this risk and the so-called “weakest links” in the information supply chain is going to be the name of the game for the CISOs and risk teams in the cloud world.

War of talent and the great resignation 

All of the above challenges, while significant, are not new. They have been around in different forms for many years. However, solving them in a sustainable manner requires skilled individuals who understand the nature of cloud, are skilled in the underlying technologies (many of which are new), and can cut through the buzzword and confusion to deliver back to the envisaged business outcomes. The lack of skills in the organisation – and the market – is something almost every delegate spoke of in the roundtable. This has been exacerbated by a closed talent market where almost every organisation is trying to pull off a cloud transformation, and it is a real concern that the upcoming great resignation will wreak further havoc into already strained organisations. Gregor Hohpe talks about a 4R model (Retain/Re-Skill/Replace/Retire) in his book “Cloud Strategy”, and it seemed like the organisations are looking at similar models to tackle this thorny problem. The osmosis effect of working with trusted partners and cloud solution providers, as well as adopting cloud centre of excellence models which can help to scale internal capability and capacity.

The Automation paradox

Cloud comes hand in hand with automation, theoretically then, it should aid in reducing the workload and ease the skills shortage? The reality is that automation does take away several manual tasks, but then the workload in the cloud world increases exponentially across new frontiers (often net new considerations for traditional IT operating models), as well as you need the talent to put the automation capabilities in the first place, and then onboard the rest of the organisation into that platform! Additionally, what many delegates called out was the automation fragmentation – there are automation platforms being put into place by every part of the business these days – business employing low code citizen developer capabilities, robotic process automation (RPA) bots / virtual workers / chatbots, IT is deploying automation tools for cloud orchestration, management, and operations, finance deploying automation for AP / AR – the list goes on. Every component then introduces capability that creeps into the space of the other ones – very quickly creating a space of confusion for someone trying to automate a business / IT process. This is where guiding principles may help, as well as adopting principles such as the open-source movement within the organisation may be invaluable.

All in all – it was an extremely interesting hour of time that I got to spend last week. At Eighty20 Solutions, our goal is to deliver technology transformations in a fast, simpler, and more collaborative manner working with our clients. We would definitely be looking at these challenges over the next few weeks and how we can help our clients in navigating these defining times in the business and technology climate.

Get in touch to find out how we can support your cloud migration journey.