Building A Cloud Strategy To Boost Digital Innovation

By Yasser Zeineldin

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This article discusses why it is necessary to build an organisational cloud strategy and how to go about building one.

The role of cloud as an IT and business tool is now more than a decade old. Globally, IT departments are migrating their business applications from on-premises to public cloud platforms at a continuous pace. Gartner, a global market research player, expects this rate to pick up as legacy systems reach their end-of-life support and migration projects get underway.

However, on the flip side, many enterprise chief information officers (CIOs) have still to announce and formulate a well-defined cloud strategy for their internal IT and business end users. If well thought-out and articulated, a cloud strategy can become a blueprint for the roll-out of revamped and forward-looking digital processes, job roles and change in organisational structures.

Here is a checklist of pointers on how CIOs can build their cloud strategies.

List expected business outcomes

The starting point for building any cloud strategy is to get a complete picture of the desired business outcomes over short and medium terms. At this stage, it is important to focus on benefits from the point of view of business end users rather than IT end users. A successful cloud strategy sets up a culture of self-service across the organisation, adding in new business end users into the organisation’s connected network, thereby fostering a culture of self-driven innovation.

Are cloud and digital strategies aligned?

The biggest obstacle for a successful cloud strategy is to develop it without aligning with the digital innovation strategy of the organisation. The organisation’s cloud platform enables the rest of the digital experience and digital work processes to be built upon it. Lack of alignment between the two strategies in terms of requirements of scalability, application workloads, reliability and geographic responsiveness will lead to failure of the digital innovation strategy and lack of any business return from the cloud rollout strategy.

Is business more agile than IT?

Who is driving innovation in the organisation? If it is the business that is moving faster than IT, then key business decision makers need to be involved during the formulation of the organisational cloud strategy. By bringing business decision makers into the development of the cloud strategy at an early stage, it is more likely that investments required for the cloud rollout can be justified against investments required for digital business innovation.

Plan out critical and supporting workloads

A cloud strategy is not meant to be an IT showcase of sorts. The prime purpose is business innovation, business agility and significant improvement in IT operations and cost. A cloud strategy that does not include and plan for business-facing application workloads will have no returns from business. It may be promptly shelved as yet-another IT operational initiative that can wait for better times or forwarded to business, pending further discussion on a rainy and dull day.

Cloud implementation is not strategy

A cloud strategy document that goes deep dive into the process of technology, platform and supplier selection is going down the wrong side of the road. An implementation document cannot substitute for a strategic document that describes the business goals and the longer-term innovation benefits for the organisation. IT cannot follow a wild west approach, where all pending IT objectives and innovation goals are piggybacked onto the cloud rollout project. This will lead to huge project and architecture overruns, associated with capital debt and return on investment failures.

Internal IT and business audit

Like any IT project initiative, it is necessary to capture the states of the IT and business organisation before and after the start of the rollout. Internal audit should be able to answer the following questions from various end users:

  • What benefits are you are seeking from cloud?
  • Why is the organisation implementing a cloud framework?
  • What are the decision-making criteria for application workloads?
  • What is the readiness of the application portfolio?
  • As an IT and business end-user, are you ready to use cloud?

Do you need an external supplier?

Lastly, launch of a successful cloud strategy requires a trusted partner to ensure that vision gets converted into reality. Cloud has various models of consumption and configuration, and this is also driven by internal requirements and policies. Legacy data needs to be migrated and configured on whichever cloud platform is selected for implementation.

Multiple cloud platforms may also need to be introduced into the organisation. Increasingly, cloud brokers and managed service providers are playing an important role, at least in the early and middle stages of a cloud rollout.

By following some of these measures, CIOs may be able to formulate an effective cloud strategy. This will act as a bridge between IT and business, and kick start the organisation into digital innovation.


Yasser Zeineldin is chief executive officer of eHosting DataFort

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