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Practical Practitioners: Tips for Transitioning to the cloud

8 Oct 2014

From the individual to the corporation, cloud has transformed the IT world, forever changing the way information is stored and accessed. While traditional networks often call for high upfront costs and require skilled, dedicated staff to handle the constraints and complexities, cloud technology greatly alleviates these issues, and brings with it several tangible benefits ranging from reduced hardware and up front costs, to centralized administration, mobility and scalability.

In spite of these benefits, however, and perhaps because of them, changing over to and building your company’s cloud network is not a decision to be taken lightly. To ensure the transition is a smooth one, here are a few tips that may help with the process.

1. Accept your current operational flaws and be willing to change them: This may require a great deal of effort, but in order to reap the full benefits cloud-computing offers you will need to take stock of your current operating environment and make any necessary changes that will ensure your switch to cloud is as smooth as possible. This could mean getting rid of unnecessary, ineffective and incompatible software; and going forward after this virtual spring cleaning, resisting the urge to hoard unnecessary data and programs, simply because they are available. Ensure all of your systems are streamlined and fully integrated, giving you the agility to adapt your system to the cloud. 

[4:03 – 5:03]
What we found out was that we had multiple uncoordinated systems. Does that sound familiar to anybody? We had four primary ERPs in North America, 50 primary support systems, with 10 to 12 support systems around each of those support systems. Do the math, you’re at about 500 systems. In order to leverage these third party resources or cloud resources, we had to change. Sure, we were already using Concur, and ADP and SuccessFactors, and a whole number of other things, but what we couldn’t do is actually coordinate data as it was moving between those particular systems. So the more that we got into it, we realized that we had to start going through coordinating the technical activities. We had to clean up that environment. It didn’t really matter what we cleaned it up to, but…we realized it was our mess, and nobody was going to clean it up except for us.

2. Ensure the technology is functional and will serve your future business needs: Your technology plans should be directly linked into the business strategy. While your specific IT choices are crucial, what’s more important is the short and long-term functionality of the technology. Will it still be relevant to your business and facilitate smooth operation at least three to four years into the future?

That’s a big transition that’s just starting to happen right now, and what’s interesting, I see more IT people pushing on the functionality side than I see business leaders or functional leaders coming back pushing for the functionality. They are pushing for technology. I still say most of the interactions I have are people coming to me telling me you need to put this technology in. I say why? What do you want? What’s the experience? What’s the outcome?

3. Seek out feedback on your IT systems to determine how they compare to others: Inviting external peer reviews of your systems will help you to see how you stack up and what needs to be done to bring you on par with others in the industry. Internal feedback, though more brutal and humbling, tends to be more honest and actionable. Hearing directly from staff members about the shortcomings of the IT systems they use daily is vital toward developing system efficiencies.

So we started embedding our teammates and the technical teams in with the folks that actually sold, in with the people that performed operations, in with the people that did marketing, to experience what they experienced. That was humbling. There is nothing like taking someone who designed a system and loves a system, and then putting them out with someone who uses it, who four or five times a day says oh, this is crap, very humbling, but extraordinarily valuable. So then because we are starting to get embedded with these teammates and with our internal leaders, we took a joint approach to what should we start segmenting out. Where do we really have skillsets internally that we can build around this core engine, and then where can we go external to start pulling in these very, very competent companies and these great solutions, and plugging them in to that core? 

4. Stay on top of the market with regular reviews: Once your IT architecture is functional and supports Cloud – that involves consolidating, coordinating, standardizing and limiting what goes into it – it may seem like you’ve reached your destination. However, Technology is constantly changing, and the destination you were planning for two years ago, will likely have shifted by the time you reach it. To ensure success, you must constantly be on the move with the technology, but remember to strike that balance between what’s current and trending in the market, and what your actual needs are. The functionality of the technology is more important to business efficiency than the technology itself.

If you have a culture of purchasing something, running the depreciation out and then keeping it until it fails – I wont ask you to raise your hand, but I just saw heads nod when I said that – you’re about 30% of the industry. The odds that you are going to successfully be able to employ and deploy some cutting edge cloud technology for your storage, or for your compute, or for your CRM, or just about anything are very low, because your financial culture, based upon that, tells me that you run things to zero. 

How your network functions is fundamental to cloud computing and will ultimately determine the level of success you will have, so ensure you have the right team on board to make it happen. They should have the skillset to develop architecture that accelerates your company’s access to cloud, ensure the network is secure, create functionality and a pleasurable user experience both for staff and customers, and they should stay abreast with changing technology and ensure your network is fluid enough to accommodate these changes, while remaining functional. Finally, your company’s culture is key to your success, so know what you want to accomplish, before you set out to accomplish it, and ensure you have the culture in place to make it happen.