Taking to the skies: Developing world-class cloud migration strategies
For those organisations that have waited to move their applications to the cloud, there are now so many more insights to help develop a plan and guide strategy. There are also more choices to make in defining an approach to the cloud, thanks to increasing options from cloud solutions providers.
This range of options allows any business to choose the path that best serves its strategic needs and risk profile. “However, identifying the right path for a business will require that teams do their homework before considering all the alternatives in order to make sure they find a strategy that best matches commercial objectives,” advises Phil Lewis, Infor VP Solution Consulting, EMEA.
The first step is identifying and prioritising business and technology objectives. Mapping the existing ecosystem and identifying the gaps that must be addressed is key to any cloud strategy. “Legacy software often requires expert users to manage and create workflows that require near-manual handoffs between organisations that use different applications to manage their business,” adds Lewis. In addition, any given legacy software might be considerably behind current versions due to customisations, meaning the software would need to be updated to work with new versions.
Businesses already know that there is tremendous value in modernising an ecosystem with cloud technology, including the ability to keep capabilities current with ease, and reducing the load on internal resources. As McKinsey puts it: "By viewing cloud computing as a starting point for IT automation, companies may be able to have it all: scalability, agility, flexibility, efficiency and cost savings – but that’s only possible by building up both automation and cloud capabilities.”
To prioritise the migration phases, businesses should consider the time to return on the upgrade investment. A good place to start is the functionality that serves focused business silos; this can be a good way to start a cloud journey without requiring alignment and effort from large numbers of people across departments.
Organisational culture change can drive an analytics-first attitude. This can be achieved through leaving applications in place but moving data to the cloud, enabling insights across data silos and accurate monitoring of enterprise KPIs.
The second step is to consider whether the organisation is ready for digital transformation. For businesses that have the capacity to take on more substantive change, moving to a modern, cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) or digital operations platform opens up a wide range of potential, including more inclusive and consistent workflows, a common user experience across the organisation, and mobile access to critical tools and data to support work wherever employees need it.
“These next-generation digital operations platforms (DOPs) – spanning finance, customer operations, supply chain, product and people/talent – play a critical role in powering modern business and delivering customer experience,” observes Forrester. Additionally, many modern ERP systems can also be fine-tuned to a specific industry, reducing implementation time and customisations to meet the specific business requirements.
Once objectives and readiness have been established, the organisation should assemble a team to drive change. “Teams that execute successful transformations are inclusive, bringing business and technical stakeholders together to develop a holistic set of short- and long-term requirements. Mapping these needs shouldn’t be confused with creating detailed requirements – specifics will change over time during different migration phases,” he adds.
After developing the basic approach, teams should work with financial planning to detail the business case, determining the ROI model for the initial phase(s) of the migration. It’s always a good idea to choose initial projects that can provide a strong, tangible contribution to the business once implemented. By focusing on time to value, the early stages of the migration effort can create resource availability and productivity to support future projects.
Bringing data together from disparate systems can be challenging, but preparing data for the cloud is an essential step to realising cloud value. “By aggregating data across the enterprise, businesses can gain the visibility to align operations and employees. Assess data cleanliness and address data quality through improved input, while archiving unnecessary data or data that cannot be trusted to aid future decisions,” says Lewis.
Bringing data together for application integration and analytics requires a clear and strong approach to application integration, including the definition of data exchange standards and semantic maps to contextualise data once it’s been aggregated. For ongoing management of data exchanges, API-driven interfaces should be prioritised to maximise scalability and flexibility.
When selecting tools and partners, the business must recognise that cloud migration requires the consideration of different kinds of complexities. During implementation, applications might be running in parallel and need to work with other applications both in the cloud or on-premises. Applications from different cloud vendors will still need to be integrated to accommodate cross-functional workflows. Identifying platform technologies for integration, user access management, data aggregation, analytics and reporting should be done in concurrence with the initial application selection.
Lewis believes that choosing the right partners to help you design and implement the cloud strategy is therefore essential. Most businesses don’t have the capacity or expertise to do it themselves. “Partners should recognise that time to value will dictate a phased approach with clear milestones for tangible business contributions.”
Planning for the next phases is as critical as the initial deliberations. After the initial phases, the value a business achieves should be shared across the enterprise to drive support for the next cloud project. “For any cloud project to succeed, leaders must look beyond achieving a successful implementation and instead at how they can drive cultural evolution, identifying better ways to collaborate,” concludes Lewis. “The future is in the cloud, but that path doesn’t need to be cloudy.”