The 2018 Planning Series (1 of 9): Think cloud first

In October, Gartner released their highly-anticipated planning guides for 2018. Each year, they do a deep dive on the top IT trends and what you can do to take advantage of them in your business. I always look forward to these as a way to confirm what we at Binary Tree are seeing with our clients, and to mine them for things we can do better.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing thoughts about 9 of these trends, and how we see them playing out with our clients. The first one—adopting a cloud-first strategy.

The winds have shifted

In the past several years, I have seen the cloud conversation shift with our clients. We have all watched the cloud in action now, either in pockets within our own organization or in our competitors. We have heard all the reasons to move to the cloud, many of which are now tried and true. There are a wealth of examples of how the cloud can help you save costs, scale, and be more innovative.

So these days, as I am talking with our clients, cloud is a given. But they’re also talking about flexibility. It’s about avoiding getting locked in to a single provider. For many organizations, that means a hybrid model. You might need to deploy your applications wherever they work best, whether that is in your data center or to a mix of public and private clouds. This helps you better keep up with the ever-changing market and future-proof your infrastructure.

Cloud helps you keep up

Cloud is where the action is. Organizations today are challenged to keep up and compete with the costs and pace of innovation in the cloud. If they’re not in the cloud, they’re falling behind the pack. Here are some examples of how the cloud helps:

Reduce physical costs. Large cloud providers like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon use a volume discount to get new hardware faster and cheaper than you can. I was particularly intrigued by some eye-opening stats that Microsoft shared about server cost in a recent eBook. In their data centers, they buy tens of thousands of servers at a time. Which means they can pay a fraction of what you or I can. For example, where our organization might have to pay $5,000+ per server, large data centers often pay < $500 per server.

Reduce labor costs. In the past, organizations tended to spend 70-80% of their IT budget merely maintaining legacy systems. Microsoft points out that “with the cloud, the balance between maintenance and innovation shifts.” Your IT team no longer has to do the drudgery of making regular backups, upgrading software, installing patches, and other maintenance tasks that suck up time. A 2016 Forrester report finds that many organizations spend 80% less time on IT maintenance when they switch to the cloud. (Your mileage will vary.) Think of what you could do with that time back. Your IT folks can spend more time on value-add projects that help your organization innovate and drive revenue.

Innovate faster. The same Forrester study found that organizations in the cloud were able to go to market with new products and services 50% faster. That’s partly because they’d freed up their IT teams. And it’s also because cloud providers are in the business of continually making their cloud services better and faster. They do the heavy lifting on new features and services that are really easy for you to piggyback on, rather than re-creating the wheel.

“Most organizations are already developing cloud-first strategies with Microsoft Office 365, so if you are not, you are likely falling behind your competitors.” —Gartner 2017

But cloud is not easy

Our clients often find cloud projects to be the largest and most complex IT effort they have ever tackled. And the stats from Gartner match up. They warn that many organizations struggle to move forward with the cloud. It’s easy to get bogged down. Some of the key challenges they mentioned are ones I see with our clients as well:

Internal politics. Often, internal politics come in to play on cloud projects. Some of your teams might not be eager to give up the control or features they once had. Others might think their own, custom tools can meet their needs better. There are even some lingering misconceptions around cloud security, governance, and compliance. These attitudes can be tricky to navigate.

Project scope and speed. Cloud projects tend to affect many—if not all—of the teams across your organization. So from the get go, you’ve got a lot of people involved. What this often means for our clients is that parts of their organization move faster than others. They probably have a host of related cloud initiatives, all in various stages. Sometimes, teams might not even be aware of what other groups are working on.

Talent gaps. Many organizations are finding that their people aren’t yet equipped to move to the cloud. As I said above, cloud projects tend to touch teams across your company. It’s unlikely that all affected groups know the latest best practices around how to move to the ever-evolving cloud. And they might lack the skills to manage their applications in the cloud once they get there.

How you get there

Gartner points out that there are three key things you need to get yourself to the cloud. I noticed that these align nicely with Binary Tree’s key pillars for enterprise transformations: plan, move, and manage. I have mapped them for you below:

Plan. First, you need to plan for a cloud-first architecture. As a matter of policy, your de facto place for new or updated applications should be the cloud. But not all of your functions might be a good fit for the cloud. So you should set up a flexible architecture in which you determine criteria for how you’ll use your physical data center, public clouds, and private clouds.

Move. Next, you should create an action plan to move your users and applications to the cloud. This might involve retiring or redesigning applications. And this is also a great opportunity to engage a partner like Binary Tree. We can come in and do the heavy lifting here, so your IT teams can focus on shoring up their skills for managing the cloud going forward.

Manage. Last up, you need the skills to manage and govern everything once you get there. This involves training your staff on best practices for the cloud. The skill sets of your IT roles often have to shift. Or you might hire a partner to manage it for you.

Next steps

Maybe you are ready to start your journey to the cloud. Or you’re in the thick of things and could use some help to move it along. Either way, take a look at the cloud solutions we offer. As I mentioned, we’re experts at planning, moving, and managing enterprise transformations from end to end. It’s what we do. I’m always proud to be able to say that we’ve helped more than 7 million users get to Office 365. And I look forward to working with you as well.


The 2018 Planning Series