As part of our Leading lights boardroom programme, we recently led a discussion exploring digital leaders’ experiences of their cloud journeys.
Interestingly, the conversation quickly shifted to the challenges of moving to the cloud - even though boards in general were fully behind digitisation and, therefore, the cloud adoption that would enable further digitisation. It turns out it’s not easy to draw up a coherent cloud strategy, to justify investments, to keep an overview, and to deal with a rapidly changing world full of providers and services.
So what lessons did we learn from our digital leaders’ collective experience?
Four principles for a cloud-based environment
Our CTO, Colin Bannon started by clearly recognising that moving to the cloud could be challenging, stating that, "going to the cloud is not for wimps!”. Colin presented four principles to efficiently reflect the rapidly changing digital world in the boardroom: the internet is the network, cloud is the data centre, identity defines your network’s boundaries, and you work on any device. He fully endorsed the challenges experienced by our participants such as: the skills gap, controlling costs, and dealing with multi-cloud set ups. These are challenges we can empathise with and speak from experience on, as we’re also 'cloudifying' at a rapid pace in order to be a service provider that offers connectivity and security in the cloud era.
Commitment to cloud transition must be whole-hearted
Our digital leaders identified that the start of a journey from data centre to cloud often has three phases: The basic facilities, the connectivity, and the migration from the data centre. In phases one and two, MPLS is phased out and the internet becomes the network. This is how phase two pays for itself, so to speak. In the third phase, our leaders plan to have a small percentage of data centre capacity available via co-location, and most of that capacity via the well-known hyper scalers. However, sometimes own data centres are no longer even an option. One of our contributors was very clear about it: “'Go big or go home' is our motto. We’ve sold our data centres to a co-location company and so have completely committed ourselves to the transition to the cloud."
Try everything to avoid running legacy services
Savings are also achieved by application rationalisation. Here, CIOs have to decide whether they can switch off or archive a service. If not, they may consider purchasing it in SaaS form. If that’s not possible, there are the possibilities of re-hosting, re-platforming, and finally re-factoring. In the end, if none of this is possible, you reach step four - keeping the service running as a legacy. Leading global organisations are bullish about the possibilities of avoiding legacy services. "So far we haven't found any services that we can't migrate", said one of the attending executives.
Successful cloud migration needs a zero-trust environment
Designing cybersecurity today most often means adopting the principles of zero trust. "We don't trust the network, not even internally," one CIO stated. The key term he used when it comes to connectivity is 'TCaaS', Trusted Connectivity as a Service. It means you only manage the connections with the internet yourself and leave the connections to SaaS, PaaS and IaaS providers to the TCaaS service providers.
One of the measures in zero trust is zoning the network. We can use the analogy of a hotel. You may enter the lobby, but you can’t leave it without the key to a certain hotel room. Then the lift will only take you to the floor where that room is located and, on that floor, you can only enter that one specified room. Identity indeed becomes the determining factor for the boundaries of your digital environment.
Take risk management colleagues on the cloud journey
Sometimes those responsible for risk management within the organisation are not yet completely at ease with the implications of the cloud journey. How do you respond to that? One executive reflected: "This can have something to do with the scope of the move, but also with unfamiliarity with cloud architecture. It's up to us to properly inform our colleagues in risk management and make it clear to them that we recognise the risks."
Recognise the value of the right mindset
Not every IT person wants to go through all the changes that come with the cloud journey, noted some of the executives in the session: "This requires a different mindset. Many infrastructure people have experience with hardware and find it hard to get used to this new model.” However hard organisations may try to support employees on this journey, not everyone wants to make the changes. Some would rather stick with their familiar work.
The challenge then is to create the right mindset for change. We closed by summarising this critical point: "For some organisations, it really is 'go big or go home'. This most certainly requires a razor-sharp focus from the entire organisation and a clear commitment from the board. You can deploy top technology, but the key here is to get the people on board." This once again highlights how important the war for talent is. You can only retain this talent if you treat it as a customer.
For help in achieving a cloud transformation led by your organisation’s needs, please get in touch with your account manager.
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