Enterprises across industries, large and mid-sized, regulated and non-regulated, are on the move. And the move is to the cloud. In the last twelve months, acceleration toward the public cloud has been breathtaking.

Some are experimenting with less critical workloads. Some are leveraging the move to push best practices, such as continuous integration and continuous delivery. Others are migrating mission-critical web sites, to leverage the scalability and resilience of a global footprint. Still more are moving large workloads like SAP and business intelligence onto cloud incrementally. And an entire set of organizations wants to move out of data centers, to a hybrid cloud model.

To adapt a phrase from the popular song, “What’s a CIO to do?”

Below I offer six strategies based on lessons learned during the cloud transformation of more than 75 clients of Cognizant. Whatever your enterprise, independent of your strategy, several common factors are important in driving successful adoption.

Call it a route map for the CIO. For clear sailing in cloudy weather, and supporting your digital transformation.

Address Security and Compliance up Front

Ah, passion! In several instances, we’ve seen enthusiastic internal IT teams experiment by adopting it for one or more technical services. There’s nothing wrong with the desire to be first. But it raises concerns in the C-suite–notably, with respect to governance and compliance, and IT security. Then, understandably, initiatives slow down.

Corporate security and compliance teams, and the enterprise’s IT architecture board (if it has one), can establish policies and controls to enable the rest of the organization to start using the cloud. Several clients of Cognizant work closely with cloud vendors to address specific security and compliance requirements. Mechanisms include subscription management, metering and chargeback, and service-catalog definition work. And vendors are more than willing to help.

Establish a Cloud Transformation Team

Cloud Transformation Team
Establish your transformation team

A board? A council? Either way, companies embarking on a move to the Cloud–or even just contemplating one–need to set guardrails and provide a central body for accountability. Adopting these services means big changes in people’s roles and skills, in processes (including automation and self-service), and platform (standardized and heterogenous). Different stakeholders, including line-of-business leaders and infrastructure leaders, have varying concerns and priorities. Many can be addressed through awareness and education, but it’s important for such leaders to show the value of leveraging these services.

Establishing a  Transformation team, council, or board helps achieve that. This team would include stakeholders from governance, compliance, and security; from line-of-business owners (demand-side); and from your infrastructure teams and vendor partners (supply-side). As with any strategic enterprise initiative, this group should meet periodically and review progress against plan, to address and remove obstacles.

Depict Current State to Demonstrate Value

Key to advocating internally for migrating to the cloud is building the business case, demonstrating the potential value in light of the cost and risk of any similar initiative. For some, this can be a struggle.

The cloud offers the benefit of global standardization, flexibility and scalability in operations, and the cost-savings of automation. A blueprint of current state with an accurate inventory of hardware (servers, storage, capacities, etc.), software (applications, network architecture), and vendor contracts and service-level agreements is a great way to showcase value at every step. Equally important is a set of KPIs to measure progress.

If You Build It? Not Exactly.

Cornfields in Iowa with ghosts? That’s not the cloud. Don’t build it and think they will come: you’ll lose the game.

A critical lesson of our work with organizations is that collaboration is key. In some instances, a supply-side group like the infrastructure division might take a lead in supplying cloud-based services. Based on familiarity with their own purview, they’ll work with a chosen vendor (or more than one), and adopt a model they believe works for the organization.

Learning stakeholder concerns
Collaboration is the key to success

This model is fraught with risk. With the rapid evolution of today’s technologies and the emergence of new ones, any IT initiative should be based on anticipated demands rather than current state. Cloud initiatives result in changes that can be resisted by the teams meant to use them, so it’s important to involve stakeholders, learning their concerns and current and anticipated needs. A lot can be achieved in the move to a cloud-based platform for IT, and a CIO’s team should facilitate change rather than simply provide services.

Overcoming the “Not-Invented-Here” Syndrome

IT departments can’t do it all. So it helps not to try. Five years have gone by since the advent of heavy cloud usage, but a lot of people–developers, application owners, infrastructure owners, and IT leaders–still want to be associated with a Cloud transformation. Is it their core competency? Usually not. Will it succeed? Rarely.

Most cloud service providers, managed service providers, and related professional services providers have been refining their offerings for several years. If it’s not a core competency, trying to do things others can do better slows down adoption. Recently, large enterprises have opted to build their own multi-cloud orchestration platforms, but some have seen (and others soon will) they’re not qualified to do what a typical product company does well.

Today’s CIO needs to focus on helping leverage the value of the cloud faster and more safely, impelling innovation and increasing competitiveness.

Address Fears of Change

We live in an age of rapid technological shifts. Digital innovation and pay-as-you-go cloud-computing are compelling IT organizations to adopt new tools, technologies, and processes faster than ever. Cloud computing affects infrastructure, applications, security, procurement, and governance. And the availability of third-party software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers lowers the bar to bypassing underperforming IT teams.

Cloud-powered IT will look different from traditional IT. So everyone will feel insecure about his or her role. The success of internal groups depends on their ability to adapt, and proactively addressing such fears can direct energy more productively. CIOs should plan how different teams fit into a transformed organization–re-training or re-distributing their workforce as needed, and providing clarity about the organization’s goals and direction for IT.

That means smoother sailing, and (dare I say it?) clear skies for the cloud horizon.

Sai KrupaSagar

Sai KrupaSagar is a Vice President at Cognizant leading the Cloud Transformation services practice across European and Asia Pacific regions. Over the... Read more