Developing a cloud strategy: the balance between structure and flexibility
We are reaching a tipping point in the cloud. It is clear that cloud is here to stay—and more, that it is the future. Most organizations now recognize that they cannot continue to keep everything on premises, and many are moving to a cloud-first approach, if not ‘cloud-only’.
The cloud has been a massive game-changer. It has more or less levelled the playing field. Small, nimble organizations can compete on equal terms with large incumbents, without needing to make huge infrastructure investments. It is small wonder that many larger organizations are now making the move across to join their cloud-native challengers.
The move to cloud is usually driven by the need to modernize. However, it is often accelerated by the need to replace current infrastructure but avoiding heavy investments. It can also be driven by new use cases that bring different needs. Fundamentally, cloud offers scalability, flexibility, faster costs and better speed to market—and what organization does not need at least one of these?
The need for strategy
However, it is one thing to decide to migrate to the cloud, and quite another to deliver on that decision.
The first step is to create a cloud strategy. This sets out the organization's approach to the cloud. The precise approach chosen will almost certainly depend on the organization's history with cloud. If very few parts of the organization have even experimented with cloud, it might make sense to have a single, uniform strategy across the whole organization.
The move to the cloud gives the opportunity to ‘rip and replace’. This, in turn, allows you to align business units around shared processes and software choices. There is much to be said for requiring all business units to use the same tools and processes. It makes IT governance much easier and reduces complexity. However, it also means that any business units that have already started moving to cloud may have to take a few steps backwards and undo their initial progress. Most organizations start their cloud journey on a project basis, and the legacy of this can be hard to untangle. This approach is therefore much harder to achieve in companies that have already started to experiment with cloud.
This approach is also very difficult to achieve in large companies, because it is very hard to find a single solution that fits all business cases—and especially all possible future business cases. There are many different requirements, such as current and future workflows, demand for elasticity, need for encryption and security, availability of the right skills, and even personal preferences. It is almost impossible to find a single solution that balances all these demands.
Structured yet flexible
The answer to this conundrum is that your strategy needs to be what I describe as ‘rigid yet flexible’. It needs to be rigid enough that there are clear standards and governance. However, it must be flexible enough to deal with the varying demands of different business units and users. This approach gives you the best of both worlds. In a series of articles, I plan to explore the ‘rigid yet flexible’ approach to show you how to craft and deliver a cloud strategy that works for your organization.
Read my next article, Structured flexibility: Designing your cloud journey
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