Friday, October 22, 2010

How do you determine if your business is ready for the cloud?

Last week, I was asked by my team for input on five questions. In this post, I’ve written-up my answer to the second: 2) How do you determine if your business is ready for the cloud?                                                                    
A variety of factors will influence how much benefit there is for a company to adopt cloud solutions and also the best adoption roadmap for them to take (which also answers if you are ready for the cloud along the way). It is a new and confusing landscape for organisations with many options and factors that can be taken into account or (explicitly) ignored. Decision makers need a blend of business and technology understanding in order to make the right choices. While the decision making process can be complex and requires detailed analysis I’ll lay out what I believe are the main areas that need to be addressed:

Technology standards.

Specific standards, such as the use of Linux vs. Windows, or preferred development platforms, need to be re-visited taking into context the cloud where it is abstracted and thus of less importance. Having said that, however, you should still be interested in the basic technical set-up of a cloud solution as it is a long-term investment and picking vendors that will not only survive but regualary release valuable functional upgrades will have significant impact on you as a customer versus the ones that don’t. For instance, you should be intersted in whether to go for a multi-tenant or single-tenant model and make an explicit decision (in my opinion).

Data and security standards (inc. risk assessments)
Along with the above description but worthy of its own bullet is assessment of policies you may have in place for data and security. Potential vendors should be asked for their qualifications and details so you can be satisfied with what encryption is used/ the data access rights of the provider and what audit and control processes are in place. Clearly, business risks must be within acceptable limits and with more detailed analysis of these with possible cloud providers mitigations can be developed. An assessment will be likely to reveal that many of the same risks also exist within your established set-up

Assess your IT organisation model
The type and number of people you need will be impacted when bringing in a cloud solution. Organisations should look at the new skills mix required (e.g. to what level are hardware / DBA skills required within the organization?) and be prepared to re-shape your team to make the most of your investment

Contracts and payment models
The organisation should ensure that they are comfortable with vendor contracts including the service catalogs, service descriptions and the SLAs offered. The impact of the subscription payment model for cloud vendors should be quantified enabling the affect on cap-ex / op-ex costs to be understood and agreed in principle.

Ensure a suitable delivery approach that drives business improvement
Most organisations have little experience of deploying cloud solutions and should be prepared for the differences during delivery. Your project/programme should adopt a suitable approach that makes the most of the rapid delivery timescales while still ensuring that enough investment / time is allowed for business design / change and cutover.

Deploy an effective support model
Before you know it you will be into a support model situation and this model must support business needs effectively. It should include ongoing reviews of new functionality to keep pace with the continual updates. One challenge to consider is how you will ensure that there is a team available to deploy new functionality / enhancements in a cost effective fashion (usually the original development resources are priced at premium rates and thus not cost-effective for support, but most outsourced support models offered by major SIs are for long-term, significant-sized offshore support teams not so suited to supporting cloud solutions).

Last but not least, the activities of mapping functional requirements / assessing TCO / assessing ROI / vendor viability of course need to be considered as part of deciding what adoption path to take. However, while you do need people that have the right knowledge and experience of cloud offerings, these activities are pretty much the same as always and as with all decisions these should be based upon determining if there is real business benefit. If you hear any different then it’s probably someone adding to the myth and hype. I would be interested to hear from anyone that disagrees.

Time for me to sign-off. I hope this provides a helpful summary of the key areas in the evaluation for now...

No comments:

Post a Comment