Why Moving Your Business To Cloud Isn't as Easy As You Think
We may look back on the COVID-19 pandemic as the global event that transformed how companies operate and communicate. The wave of lockdowns challenged entrenched attitudes towards workplace practices and the role of technology, not just in corporations, but in the wider public perception. Enforced remote working required flexibility, agility and a more focused and intelligent use of technology at all levels.
The year of lockdowns - and the requirement to adapt - has given fresh impetus to the existing drive towards digital transformation and cloud migration. Companies are reconsidering how they manage their data with greater urgency. As we emerge from lockdown, we’re already seeing a new openness and a bolder attitude towards cloud solutions.
Although the business landscape is changing, we are still a long way from achieving simple and seamless digital transformations. There are institutional cultural and technical obstacles towards modernization that every company will encounter when they switch to public cloud. If you can identify these obstacles in advance, you’re more likely to be one of the 30% of enterprises that implements a successful digital transformation at the first attempt.
Obstacles to successful digital transformation
● Complacency, conservatism and risk aversion
● Silos and vested interests
● Inaccurate business models
● Technical difficulties
IT modernization projects are inherently risky and are arguably the single biggest project management challenge. The media is quick to report IT projects that fail to meet deadlines, experience significant cost overruns, and then fail to deliver on an operational level. A quick Google search will yield plenty of IT horror stories. System glitches and setbacks are inevitable in any technical project, but too many IT projects end in failure.
There are plenty of disastrous IT and cloud migration projects. Anybody who suggests transforming how a business handles its IT risks a reaction that ranges from polite skepticism to outright hostility. Even if you can present a detailed roadmap showing cost cutting projections, explanations of scalability, and guarantees of greater security and reliability, you may still face an uphill battle.
Executive Aversion to Digital Transformation
Many CEOs and board members simply lack a clear understanding of the potential of cloud migration. They also don’t understand how the business landscape is evolving and why the future of IT lies in cloud solutions. Even young and innovative enterprises can be trapped in local maximums and are barely aware that their environment is irrevocably changing. Established businesses with an inbuilt culture of conservatism are especially vulnerable. Pretty much any business wishing to rely on having a medium term competitive edge and genuine agility needs to embrace digital transformation.
It’s important to remember that the typical executive concerns and objections to digital transformation are entirely legitimate. They can’t be brushed aside and have to be addressed systematically.
1. 70% failure rate of digital transformation projects
2. Potentially high costs of any cloud migration project
3. Lack of necessary skill sets in the IT department
4. The need to indoctrinate and retrain all employees in new systems
5. Danger of vendor lockin
Redefine the role of your IT department
Before you can design and implement a strategic transition to cloud, you may need to redefine the role of IT within the company. The current mainstream view of an IT department is of a custodial team that maintains systems, reacts to problems - and when necessary - devises new solutions. When a company achieves a digital transformation, the role and potential of IT is transformed.
The new scalability within an open source framework allows for a process of continual optimization and a new level of client communication. Smaller teams can achieve better results in a shorter time. Budgetary requirements and procedures are simplified, logjams in departmental ticket systems can be reduced, and plugins within frameworks allow for fast building block solutions. IT has to become a driving force and an innovator within the company. To do this it needs to work far more closely with other departments, requiring a higher level of mutual understanding.
If you can sell a new concept of dynamic IT, and push the twin message of opportunity and inevitability, it will be easier to eliminate individual silos and take on vested interests and specializations. One of the main reasons why almost three quarters of companies are dissatisfied with their digital transformations is that they fail to develop the global architecture necessary for public cloud services.
Understand your business models
Before you can begin a process of digital transformation, you need to understand your own business model. It’s vital to identify weaknesses and realize which aspects of your business are potentially anachronistic. Digital transformation is a powerful disruptive force that will affect almost every single industry. If you are not proactive, cannot adapt, or are complacent about threats, your competitors will eclipse you.
When you have evaluated the current business landscape, your relationship with your competitors, and to emerging technology, you can consider your likely position and market viability in 5, 10 and 20 years time. If you can identify possible fault lines or growth opportunities now, it will define how you manage aspects of your digital transformation.
If you undertake cloud migration on a partial or an ad hoc basis, or with an inaccurate or unrealistic business model, you are setting yourself up for future failure.
Create enthusiasm for cloud solutions
There is a natural resistance to change within organizations, beginning at employee level. Few workers like to be taken out of their comfort zone and instinctively resent anything that makes their lives more complicated. Perception is the key to successfully introducing a new IT system. You need to demonstrate the benefits, offer the highest level of technical support and create a culture of continuous learning.
Company wide staff training is an integral part of any digital transformation project. It can be a major challenge and companies often find themselves playing catchup and trying to train employees after the event. Your choice of vendor is essential if you want a seamless transition to a new IT culture. It’s important to insist on a training package that is relevant to each employee's role and is aligned to recognized business goals.
Your choice of technology is also important. Intuitive solutions and applications that fit your current tech stack will go a long way towards getting employees behind your cloud migration. If the system is simple and user friendly, people will adapt faster, but you have to actively sell the advantages to them.
Although the initial costs of implementing a cloud strategy can appear high, they can open the door to long term savings. Major providers will offer transparent pricing and cost calculators. The costs of a digital transformation project can be recouped through high level long term savings. By preventing siloed operations, you can significantly reduce costs by operating with a consistent infrastructure. There are additional savings to be made on mundane expenses like physical rental costs for server locations and energy costs. Plus there are the benefits of greater connectivity. The use of a flexible and adaptable framework prevents vendor lockin and gives you the freedom to operate a truly dynamic and agile business, built around a process of continual technical optimization.
Nati Shalom is the founder and CTO of Cloudify, a serial entrepreneur and thought leader in open-source, multi-cloud orchestration, network virtualization, DevOps and more. Nati has received multiple recognitions from publications such as The CIO Magazine and YCombinator and is one of the leaders of Cloud Native and DevOps Israel groups. Nati is also a frequent presenter at industry conferences.