Cloud – Are You Ready?

Today’s Challenges are Not the Same

Today’s plethora of technology advances with their bewildering cornucopia of choices, why would they be the same? Your company wasn’t born digital. How in the Sam Hill do you compete with those who were? Their speed and agility are simply staggering – the way they innovate the customer proposition keeps you awake at night. You must be thinking, “Oh, how I wish our firm had that ability.”

Is Cloud the Answer?

Let’s take a look…

You are facing hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of applications built at different times, in different languages, by different teams in different geographies to meet different goals. Yet, they all need to be evaluated before migration to the cloud can begin – but how do you do that? In addition to a profound understanding of your application portfolio, this often requires an equally deep knowledge of the existing infrastructure and the cloud resources that would replace existing FTEs, to name but two.

Here is a basic check list of the information required before making cloud-centric decisions. Note, that this information is required for each and every application that is on your cloud-candidate list (more on that later).


Do you have a complete up-to-date inventory of all applications? If you don’t, this in itself is daunting. A few years ago, I led a team of consultants for North America’s largest utility — it took us 6+ months, interviewing 400+ employees, uncovering 43 out-of-date incomplete lists to compile a master inventory — which had never existed prior. At one point, we had 50,000+ app-candidates with which we started the ardent task of deduping, removing junk (server names, project names, interfaces, websites – you name it…), before we validated approximately 1500 applications. 6 months x 10 consultants x 40 hours / week = a (very) large investment in one of their firm’s largest and most important assets – the inventory of applications. And you know something? The client admitted THE most important deliverable of the entire project was a simple, yet complete, inventory of their current state. He had realized they couldn’t move forward without it. Lesson learned: DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! Admittedly, it’s not very sexy, but it is mandatory.

What is the benefit of ‘on-demand access’ to an ‘elastic pool’ of shared computing assets — applications, servers, storage, networks? What, literally, does scaling up or down as needed on a pay-per-use basis get your firm? If you can’t quantify the benefit to the business, you shouldn’t proceed. Why would you?

Can you “quantify” these benefits that come from cloud?

  • Greater flexibility
  • Both hard & soft savings
  • Someone else manage your HW/SW, lowering risk
  • (Dramatic) reductions in support staff à more FTEs available to focus on value-add innovation
  • Efficiency – only pay for what you use, freeing up funding for additional investment
  • Reduced support costs via a platform for automated, self-service IT

Are you prepared to manage applications in the cloud? How so? What needs to change? How will you develop and test applications in the cloud? Should you outsource that as well? Can you envision how to connect your end-users to their applications once in the cloud?

The SO WHAT test:

  • Organizationally, are you prepared to share resources across the enterprise? Cloud will require you to do that. From a HR perspective, are your IT performance metrics extendable to include public providers? If no, what’s the effort to make them so? Should they be the same? What will be the impact on existing roles in your IT organizations? Will your employees deem this cloud-thing as a demotion? More effort on their part? Will they want more money? More training? Who will leave the organization? Why will they leave? Bottom line, you must prevent any migration to the cloud from becoming a demotivating influence to your current employees.
  • Your business may be adopting cloud ‘x-times faster’ than IT. Do you know why? Is it OK? Can you get both organization back on the same page? Should they even be on the same page? If yes, what’s the value to the enterprise?
  • IT core competency needs to shift from being (just) providers to being brokers. OK, we’ve all heard this, but does a relationship exist between your IT organization and operations to allow this to become reality? If it doesn’t, cloud certainly is not the solution to change the relationship.

Individual Applications:

Which applications are the ones that anyone within IT or the business feels needs to be retired in the next 2-3 years? Obviously, these applications shouldn’t be considered cloud candidates. Cloud isn’t the solution for all applications. Do you have a method to breakdown your inventory into two lists? One, keep supporting in-house with existing staff, and the second – the cloud-candidate list.

  • What’s the criteria to develop each list? What are the deciding attributes? What is the weighting factor for each attribute? Is each weighted appropriately?
  • Who developed the criteria for attributes and weightings? How long ago? Is it still valid today?
  • Who decides when to add new criteria? To remove old criteria?
  • Who can override any scoring mechanism and make a rogue ‘executive management’ decision?
  • What applications need a quicker response time? Why?
  • Which applications provide enough business value that the front-end investment to move them to the cloud is a sound financial decision?
  • Which applications, once cloud-enabled, will still fit the way you do business? Which will do it better?
  • Which applications require the best stability? Reliability? Why? What is the impact on the business if they don’t have it?
  • Which applications, and their data, must be secure? What’s the business reason for the security? What’s the impact to the enterprise if there is a breach?
  • What is the impact on existing integration points with other applications? Does the integration need upgraded? Is the business case strong enough to cover these additional upfront costs?

So…What’s in it Really for the Business?

Remember, that pesky bunch that you support? Let me put it out there… Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT move 1 application to the cloud without asking the business what’s in it for them? Ask them, “what will the cloud provide you that you currently aren’t experiencing today?” Then listen intently…

Simply put, if you cannot articulate the ‘value’ business will receive in answering ‘the why’ moving an application to the cloud makes sense – don’t move it! Period, end of story, nada, move on to plan B…

Make sense? Applications are the key to greater efficiency, growth-oriented innovation, and IT cost reductions. These should continue when leveraging the cloud at any degree.

Questions that Many Clients Face

  • Can the cloud provide value to my application portfolio during a merger, acquisition or divestiture?
  • How do I determine if my legacy application environment is simply too old for transformation?
  • Will the cloud help translate maintenance spend to supporting the drive towards new innovation (read – business value)?
  • Will there be an uptick in complexity? How do I manage that while achieving more agility? How do I insure alignment with my business teams on meeting their future business needs?
  • Will the business need to change? (Tell me, oh please tell me, that the business was involved in the solutioning and decision making process – please) If yes, what impact does that have on my IT organization?
  • Do I start with the “problem children” in my portfolio or save them for last? Maybe just retire or replace them
  • What about my in-flight projects? They have already been approved. I can’t afford to finish all of them and spend on new projects to the cloud. How do I decide which?

So, Frank, Am I Ready for the Cloud?

Clients ready for any application transformation typically exhibit some of these driving forces

  • Struggle to align with the business from a strategic, capability, or an enabler point-of-view
  • Managing a (very) large number of applications and trying to figure out the right choices to rationalize to a smaller number
  • Struggling with an ERP implementation or other significant modernization project(s) that are not progressing as desired
  • Dealing with a lot of change within the business (e.g. M&A, markets, products, services, desire to globalize and / or centralize operations)
  • Changes in leadership, new CIO trying to put arms around what they have and how best to manage the business’ expectations while staying within an ever increasingly stringent budget
  • Consolidation in data centers and considering if it is the right time to modernize / rationalize / move applications at the same time

On the other hand, clients thinking about application transformation but are not really ready exhibit restraining forces like:

  • Little or no understanding of a strategic direction from either a business or IT perspective
  • Specific direction with regards to their infrastructure, data center, or network with no desire for functional or application change
  • Maturity of organization, governance, enterprise architecture, and / or business participation is low or non-existent
  • Too few FTEs being asked to support far too many applications
  • People funding enterprise applications not rational about which applications truly provide the most value, resisting any effort to modernize. Remind you of a car owner and their favorite old car?

Which of the above lists describes your current situation?

Here’s Your Plan of Action

First and foremost, understand your business’ goals! You’ve heard it before, right? But it’s true, your organization’s strategies and goals should define their future state. In addition, define your target architecture, along with a cloud strategy that supports the business goals. ANY effort, MUST satisfy that business direction.

(DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!) Build a full inventory of your applications portfolio. If you don’t, STOP right here and don’t read any further… You need to clearly understand the application technologies you’re starting with. Including such attributes as (1) the application architecture; (2) integration with, and dependencies on, other applications and data; (3) application technologies and resources; (4) the infrastructure on which it runs today, and; (5) all unique aspects of application operations and business service delivery that may exist.

Oh, and don’t forget the parts you can’t see:

  • Include inventorying the ‘shadow IT / underground applications’. May take twice the time but it might just uncover areas of need that a cloud environment could address.
  • Avoid migrating dead or duplicated code
  • In-flight projects may be an accelerator or a brake to any transformation – determine which is which for each major project. Don’t be afraid to cancel or postpone some.

In addition:

  • Identify all the business issues that impact (or may be impacted by…) what you can do with each application. Items such as regulatory / compliance, security, geography differences, vendors and partners who provide any type service or support
  • Once you have cleansed an appropriate application cloud-candidate list, develop a transformation strategy to the cloud for each. This should include identification of the target landing zone for each.
  • Review current business strategies and goals down to level-3 business process levels supported by each application, focusing on current, as well as future state
  • (Obviously) assess each application’s suitability to run in a cloud environment. Make the assessment process repeatable and use it consistently across the portfolio
  • Develop a project plan that incorporates a seamless transition to running the application after it’s been migrated to a cloud environment. Some may require running in parallel before the final cutover.

So…is cloud the answer for your current situation?

See you in the future…

Frank Wood

Executive Transformation Advisor


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