Rohan Manuel, Chief Information Officer, Hendry
The buzzword of the day is cloud. As most of you will know what we call cloud today, is really centralised computing. This is not a new technology but one of the oldest principals in IT for delivering a rich suite of services to staffs or clients who are separated by distance and geography. IT leaders, when implementing a new cloud environment or transitioning from an existing to new, much of our focus is often expended on the technology itself and selecting providers who provide the best product to meet the business requirements at the lowest cost. These are important elements to get right. However after numerous transitions and transformations, what I have found is that there are many other elements that also need to be considered. My top three elements in addition to the technical and cost aspects to get right are as follows.
- The relationship element or human factor.
The reason why this is so important is due to two factors. They are
- If you consider what a cloud model entails from an IT perspective. Traditional IT departments are divesting themselves of infrastructure and handing over the founding blocks of their environment to someone else to manage. With this goes an element of control that is replaced with an SLA agreement, associated legal contracts and in some cases a dashboard from the service provider. In good times, this may suffice. However when an issue occurs and you are managing the expectations of Directors or Boards, having someone within the providers infrastructure who you can call upon to champion your issue from the provider side is of great benefit.
- For those who haven’t made the transition into a cloud environment yet, the devil is in the detail. For example when some providers talk about migration it will seem a simple process of lifting and shifting a VM or physical service from one data centre to another. However there is so much more to a migration to consider. For example. Third party licensing, application provider support structures, printing, performance metrics of new services, data sovereignty, primary and secondary support agreements to name a few and my favourite end user acceptance testing. These often require a significant amount of negotiation. Whilst much of the outcomes fall to contractual agreements and obligations having a good working relationship with the groups that you work with, can make a difference and assist with a successful outcome.
So as you can see when you select a cloud provider, the one with whom you can create a good working relationship is paramount.
2. Detailed Planning
The cloud provider will have a project plan that encompasses their element of the project. However, as mentioned above there is more to consider. Hence creating a master project plan which encompasses all activities and sharing this to all providers is prudent to ensure that any delta’s which may arise are considered and dealt with before the project moves into a run state.
3. Continuity / Rollback Planning
All things being equal migrating to cloud should be a straight forward affair, if you have taken the time to plan and resource appropriately. However things can and do go wrong and in some circumstances, where organisations are heavily dependent on system availability, there may only be a narrow window of opportunities to migrate. So whilst it’s great to hope for the best I also recommend planning for the worst and considering aspects such as:
- What if the migration is delayed for a couple of months?
- What if the incumbent cannot meet the timelines?
- What if we need to maintain our current systems and current vendor relationships?
- What if we need to retain consultants and contract staff for longer periods?
Asking these questions is important before taking any steps towards a migration. As in some instances, it may be required to discontinue a relationship with a current provider. From the provider’s perspective, when this occurs the majority of them will operate with integrity and the best intent. However there is little incentive for them to provide any additional support. Hence if not managed appropriately you could find yourself in a position where you need to pay additional or worse duplicate charges to run new services as well as maintain existing. In extreme situations you may also find that the exiting provider simply may not have capacity to continue to host a service. Therefore it is prudent to ensure you have a fall-back position in the event that service does not present them as anticipated.