Cloud use has provided numerous opportunities for digital companies, allowing them to grow and scale their businesses.
As a cloud-first approach has turned into a "proposition for growth," it's crucial for businesses today to develop a robust enterprise cloud strategy, according to Gartner fellow and research chief Daryl Plummer.
"The ability to scale your business, your IT function is gated by whether or not you've invested in the cloud," Plummer told the audience at the recent Gartner Symposium 2018. "It is also something that determines whether the technology providers, aka vendors, that you work with are also ready to scale and grow."
He reminded the audience that cloud computing is not just a technology, but a service model: Cloud provides flexibility for businesses, allowing them to create value without having to worry so much about running the technologies, he said.
"You have to migrate to that service model with the outcomes in mind, not necessarily the technologies that go into doing things," he said.
Plummer described enterprise cloud strategy as a living document that includes a concise point of view of the cloud and its role in the enterprise. It does not outline implementation tactics or help organizations determine how to select vendors, but are a set of principles that guides an organization's thinking and planning for cloud over a long time period, he said.
An enterprise cloud strategy should be driven by the business strategy and the outcomes that organizations want to create, he emphasized.
"This is something that you are going to build as a group effort in your company: the business and IT together," he said. "You wind up restarting if you haven't taken into account what the [business] does."
Avoid these mistakes when crafting a cloud strategy
While organizations embracing cloud first as an enterprise strategy should think about how they can use it to grow and scale their business, they should also avoid factors that will slow them down, Plummer said.
For example, when building an enterprise cloud strategy organizations shouldn't let previous technology decisions stop them from going in a new direction to benefit their business, he said.
Daryl Plummeranalyst, Gartner
"You have to be willing to change; you have to be willing to overturn the decisions that you've made already to get to the cloud because you want to do it to gain business advantage," he said.
He also urged CIOs and IT pros to avoid looking at cloud as just an IT strategy instead of an overall business strategy. If they perceive cloud as just an IT strategy, the business will probably wind up going around them because they will slow the business down and hold them back, he said.
Eighty-nine percent of the companies that Gartner surveyed over the last five years have business units that are buying cloud SaaS without the IT departments knowing about it, Plummer said. That's not good, because they need the IT department to help them coordinate what's right about cloud computing, he added.
He advised IT pros to avoid stopping at lift-and-shift when moving applications to the cloud. While it is a great first step because it doesn't require businesses to throw out what they are doing, it's a horrible last step, he said.
"You have to start modernizing and ... the apps have to understand that they're in the cloud," he said. "You'll use autoscaling, containerization and you'll make more cloud-native function as you go."
Organizations should also avoid thinking of their cloud strategy as their data center migration strategy. Instead of migrating entire data centers to the cloud, he recommended migrating one workload at a time. It's also important to remember that most companies that try to implement a full migration strategy have a lot of stops and starts, he said.
Once they have enough skills and knowledge, they can then migrate groups of workload at a time and work their way up to the entire data center if that is their goal, he added.
Having a cloud-first mantra does not mean cloud-only, either, he reminded the audience at Gartner Symposium 2018 conference. Workloads that have highly sensitive data like HIPAA or PII will probably have to be kept on premises for a number of years, he said. There is no shame in being cloud and non-cloud at the same time, he added.
"These things you have to avoid. ... Get them in your head because they will take you down some paths you really don't want to be on," Plummer said.