Jun 08 2016

What It Takes to Move from Cloud Dabbler to Cloud Adopter

The next stage of cloud begins when you stop talking about it and start using it.

You can dabble in cloud — we all do most days in our private lives using, say, Gmail and Google Docs. Businesses can, and do, dabble too.

But if you want to reinvent your business model to utilize the cloud, then you have to do more than dabble.

Recent data suggests that most companies — small and large — are just beginning along the path to cloud.

According to IDC, 37 percent of small and medium-sized businesses in the United States have deployed cloud, and another 28 percent report that they plan to use it. And Intuit reports that some 78 percent of SMBs expect to be fully cloud operational by 2020.

It will come as no surprise that email and collaboration software are the leaders in the cloud adoption clubhouse for SMBs, with e-commerce and office productivity apps not far behind, reports the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

For startups and SMBs, the possibilities of cloud are alluring, particularly from a speed-to-market perspective.

The ability to scale at will and pay as you go are driving widespread adoption of cloud services for all aspects of IT, which explains IDC data from January of this year showing that Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service have surpassed Software as a Service as the fastest growing public cloud uses.

Choose a Path

So how do you move beyond dabbling? The first step is that strategy that I already mentioned. The business and IT teams need to build one. It takes more than the techies, who will manage the cloud services, to craft the strategy. Why? Because it needs to blend cloud capabilities into the fabric of the organization.

That requires sitting down and detailing the company’s business objectives. Define those first, and then make business value the top priority when looking at the cost-benefit analysis of migrating or launching services in the cloud to support and deliver on those objectives. This is where you decide whether to stick with on-premises IT, go all in on cloud or take a bimodal approach — and look at public, private and hybrid cloud models too.

It can’t be stressed enough that you need to identify your desired business results before cloud implementation begins. That’s the only way to choose the right solution to help achieve those goals from the start.

Moving to the cloud is a process (just like building out an infrastructure on-premises is one). Don’t shortchange your business by acting in haste.

Even if you just opened shop, you’ll also need to detail the existing IT of the business. What are you already running onsite? What apps and services power your business? What is the state of your security?

Armed with this information, you can look at what data makes sense to move to the cloud from a straight-up IT investment perspective as well as from a business goals viewpoint. You can prioritize and set the course that your cloud path will take.

As part of this phase, you need to look at your options. There’s rarely one path. You need to look at the different vendor choices relative to specific migration challenges that your business will have. For each of these choices, you will want to look at the efficiencies (or lack thereof) that a cloud deployment will provide — and assign dollar values or other weighted values to them.

For many SMBs, the prospect of the prep and analysis make cloud adoption daunting. How can the IT team get this done and keep supporting day-to-day user needs? The answer is that you might not want to go it alone; you might want a little help.

Assess Your Skills

Staff bandwidth isn’t the only resource issue that you’ll want to consider. It’s also important to evaluate the IT team’s bench strength.

You’ll want to make sure that you have the resources available to evaluate prospective cloud services and vendors. That will be particularly critical if your early strategy work suggests an end-to-end cloud model