Editor's note: The following is a guest article from Gartner drawing on analyst insights about how IT leaders can formulate a cloud strategy for their organization.
Businesses are embracing the transformational nature of shifting to the cloud, recognizing the impact it offers on performance, agility and security.
By the end of 2019, more than 30% of technology providers' new software investments will have moved from cloud-first to cloud-only. As organizations increase their reliance on cloud technologies, IT teams are seeking to embrace cloud applications and relocate existing digital assets.
The C-suite will look to the CIO to answer questions about cloud and define a plan for its integration in the enterprise. The CIO often relies on an enterprise architect and/or chief technology officer to drive this effort.
A cloud strategy is an outline for the role of cloud in an organization, not a plan to move everything to the cloud.
Today, most organizations do not have a formal cloud strategy, although by 2022, 70% of organizations will have one. Businesses with such a plan have a more coherent approach to cloud usage, optimizing resources and costs.
By adopting a "cookbook approach" to creating a cloud strategy, IT leaders can ensure cloud decisions align with corporate goals and account for all necessary factors and potential risks, ensuring the buy-in of the C-suite.
Mapping this strategy back to existing implementation and migration plans will support an effective shift to the cloud.
When creating a cloud strategy, CIOs should focus efforts on a living document, updated as the organization's digital assets and goals evolve.
Here is a "cookbook" — 10 steps IT leaders can follow to formulate a comprehensive, actionable cloud strategy that aligns with business needs:
1. Executive summary
A cloud strategy should be for and by more than just the IT team. A summary is important to recap the document for leaders in all departments, including senior management.
This section should also highlight the people in the business's cloud council to demonstrate its importance beyond the IT department.
2. Cloud computing baseline
Simply put, this section should define the terms used throughout the document.
Organizations can leverage existing reference architectures, such as those from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to define cloud terms in clear and concise language.
Choose a set of definitions and stick to it — what's important is these terms are explicitly stated and kept consistent.
3. Business baseline
It's imperative to define how the cloud strategy connects to the company's top-line goals and digital transformation initiatives. Highlight the organization's key objectives and how cloud can help achieve them.
Consider the unique business, industry or geographical factors that will impact cloud adoption:
- Are you in a highly regulated industry where certain technologies will not meet industry standards?
- Do you have access to datacenters in countries with privacy regulations that align with your organization's needs?
Taking these factors into account, discuss the specific opportunities and risks that cloud adoption poses to the business.
4. Service strategy
When determining the role of cloud in an organization, IT leaders must decide when to consume services from a public cloud provider versus when to build.
Most enterprises will adopt a hybrid cloud strategy, as almost no company can afford to put everything in a public cloud or do everything itself.
Choosing when to adopt public cloud and which providers to work with is a critical and ongoing part of the cloud strategy. This section defines a framework for how these decisions will be made.
5. Financial models
Identifying the financial implications is essential for any cloud strategy decision. This section of the plan, developed in conjunction with finance leaders, should look at the financial options available and address issues such as cost transparency, visibility, budgeting and predictability.
While cloud is typically funded by an operating expense model instead of a capital expense model, understanding the impacts that this could have on the organization's financial profile is key before funding decisions are made.
This is where working with departments outside of IT becomes vital for a successful cloud strategy.
Principles are the meat of an organization's cloud strategy and thus should be explicitly stated. Principles can also include vendor-oriented preferences.
Some common principles to consider are "cloud first," "buy before build" and "best of breed."
Cloud first is a principle recommended for most organizations. This means that any new business or technology initiative should look to cloud as the first option, with the preferred approach being to use the public cloud.
As a cloud strategy should be applied workload by workload, an inventory assessment is warranted. It is helpful to gather a summary of information for each workload, including meta characteristics such as name, owner and vendor, as well as performance characteristics.
Performance characteristics can be rated on a spectrum (from unpredictable to well-behaved) to determine whether a workload is a good candidate for cloud.
An example of an unpredictable workload would be a website or a mobile app, which would be an excellent candidate for cloud.
By comparison, a steady-state enterprise application that is already running efficiently in your data center will not benefit as much from cloud.
While in years past, IT leaders have been wary of trusting the security of the public cloud, there has been a recent shift where organizations are in some cases becoming too trusting of public cloud providers.
While top-tier cloud providers do an excellent job of securing services, it is the client's responsibility to secure applications and data.
Aligning the cloud strategy with the organization's overall security strategy is key. Understand it is sometimes necessary to adjust security strategy to accommodate the realities of cloud.
This section of the cloud strategy can address issues such as governance and compliance as well.
9. Supporting elements
It is important to ensure alignment with existing strategies such organizational and staffing issues, architectural and technical issues, and data center strategies.
In the case of organization and staffing issues, coordinate with HR in the effort to identify how cloud will impact staffing requirements, including headcount and required skill sets.
10. Exit strategy
An exit strategy defines how to get out of a cloud decision if it does not work out as planned.
While contracts are the most obvious element of the exit strategy, it should also address data ownership, backup and portability.
IT leaders should discuss the issue of lock-in: at the data level, application level, the architecture level and the skills level.
The exit strategy ensures awareness and planning if a cloud decision needs to be changed or rolled back.
David Smith is a vice president and Gartner Fellow in Gartner Research, where he leads the research agendas for digital disruption and cloud computing. He specializes in the impact of catalytic technologies, such as the internet, cloud computing, digital business and consumer technologies.