A guide: Top tips to avoid cloud buyers remorse

A guide: Top tips to avoid cloud buyers remorse Brian Murray is Head of Service Development at ECS, a UK IT services firm. Brian has many years’ experience as a consultant to some of the UK’s largest organisations on cloud procurement.

Only a fool believes that moving enterprise applications to the cloud is a panacea for the majority of the challenges facing today’s CIOs. Even cloud migration itself, like any IT project, presents a number of complex challenges. My favourite piece of advice is to think the same as you would if buying a house: don’t be impulsive. By taking the time to develop a clear focus at the outset, cloud buyers can eliminate unwanted costs and complications down the road. First and foremost, be clear around what you are looking for and why.

Updating the procurement function

The procurement department had a firm grip on IT purchasing until the advent of cloud. Now there is the risk that buying cloud services slips through the procurement net. Self-service applications mean that business line executives can whip out a credit card and pay for a small service themselves without involving procurement. But, just like a kid when in-app game purchases get out of control, at some point the bill might be too big to hide or the security too lax.

As with any IT change, the biggest challenges to a successful transition are generally cultural.  It’s not just the IT department and users that need to think differently when moving to the cloud. The procurement department also has to change well-engrained mindsets as it adjusts from dealing with products to services.

To transition from a Capex to a granular Opex model, the processes involved in purchasing and evaluating IT have to become more nimble. Without this, the procurement department becomes a bottleneck and the backlash will be a significant increase in shadow IT and shadow cloud.

Instead of negotiating with product providers every couple of years, the procurement team will have to adopt a new model that supports buying Opex services from more than one provider at a time. This means embracing a new level of agility, because cloud features and capacity change overnight.

Drivers for cloud

The first question to ask when someone requests a cloud service is: why? Only by understanding the key drivers at the outset – particularly when those factors are agility or cost – is it possible to choose the right model. This approach undoubtedly helps with negotiations and also makes it easy to switch providers if needed at a later date.

Defining cloud

Having a clear definition of what is meant by cloud within your organisation – and communicating this clearly to everyone inside the company and to your cloud provider(s) – is an important step. Then when your internal business customers talk about ‘cloud’ there are no misunderstandings.

Everyone within your firm should understand that it is an architectural and commercial model rather than simply a location – and that it does not mean any managed services or service delivered over the Internet.

Cloud repatriation and exit strategies

Cloud repatriation – moving workloads from the public cloud to a private cloud – is a growing trend. Even Dropbox, a company that started in the cloud, has now moved from the public cloud to its own data centres for faster performance and lower costs. Although security is one of the main drivers for repatriation, high profile cloud outages, greater control, cost, compliance and latency are all contributing factors.

Exit strategies are often neglected at the outset. But cloud buyers who don’t consider exit costs at the start of a relationship are missing a trick. Moving to a different provider – or repatriation – will require budget and time for recoding and retraining to get your staff up to speed.

Avoiding lock-in

One topic that is generating a lot of discussion right now is how to avoid cloud lock-in. A key reason for moving to the cloud is to gain greater flexibility. But this is stymied if your organisation takes advantage of a cloud provider’s set of compelling, but proprietary, add-on features and APIs without considering how you will manage without those features should you wish to change cloud provider down the line, or add a second cloud provider to the mix.

Balancing the need to avoid becoming too reliant on a provider’s proprietary features while at the same time making the most of what your chosen provider has to offer needs careful thought.

Cross-department collaboration

While DevOps and agile processes have transformed software development, buying cloud services require the business line, IT and procurement teams to work together in new ways. There is a need to collaborate on decisions and to ensure the work force has the right skills to benefit fully from the cloud.

Engaging early

As with any IT change, it is important to remember the users’ perspectives. This requires engaging with users early in the process to fully understand their needs; then at a later time educating them about the new service, particularly if it is self-service, and ensuring it continues to meet their needs over the long term. To do this effectively, many organisations engage third-party cloud expertise early on to transfer essential knowledge and innovation through lessons learned elsewhere.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

We stressed the importance of being clear about what you are looking for and why at the start. The next step is to set up clear measurements and baselines to measure benefits. Only then is it possible to track improvements and evaluate the return-on-investment.

Despite all these notes of caution, don’t be disheartened. When it is well planned and executed, moving to the cloud is a beautiful thing to behold.  Be as prepared as a boy scout and you will reap the rewards.

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