In my last blog, "Moving to the Cloud: What Does It Really Take?" I talked about moving to the cloud in the context of its overall challenges and benefits — and the need for thorough preparation before beginning the journey. Although my experience is primarily helping companies with Oracle environments move to the cloud, the need for preparation is the same regardless of your environment.
In this post, I’ll address operational readiness. What is operational readiness? Operational readiness is a process that drives many other activities within a cloud migration assessment.
A good analogy for operational readiness is the pre-production stage in making a movie. In pre-production, everything the director needs to shoot the movie is brought together. Actors and technical staff for cinematography, lighting, wardrobe and makeup are hired. Locations are scouted. A script is written and rewritten. It’s a huge effort with a lot of moving parts. But before the camera rolls and the first line is spoken, all those parts must come together.
Likewise, before the first application or business process is migrated to the cloud, there’s a lot of work to be done.
The Three Dimensions of Operational Readiness
There are three groups involved in moving an organization to a state of operational readiness: the business, the IT organization and the project management office (PMO). Stakeholders from each will have important concerns and contributions.
The business establishes the vision. So, the first question the business needs to ask itself is, “Why?” Why is the journey to the cloud necessary? It should provide tangible value to the company.
Executives must believe that transformation via the cloud is vital to continued success, understand why, and communicate this throughout the organization. Because this requires a fundamental shift in mindset, it usually requires a top-down approach.
Once a vision is established and communication is underway, companies often engage system integrators to take them forward into a full-blown assessment.
In my view, IT systems are hardwired to business operations. Therefore, it's critical to keep them flexible. Otherwise they can't respond to business demands. As Jason Jennings says in the title of his book on using speed as a competitive advantage, “It's Not the Big That Eat the Small — It's the Fast That Eat the Slow."
For example, businesses are now under tremendous pressure to become nimble so they can execute the changes in strategy required by growth (organic or via acquisition), the spinoff of a division, new products, a changing marketplace or regulatory environment, globalization or localization, and the demand for increased efficiency.
Business Process Mapping: In business process mapping, we engage the business users of applications so they can share information on the health and status of all their processes: those that should be substantially rebuilt, those which are working but can be improved, and those that are performing well.
This exercise is "process baselining." With it, we want to identify the existing business processes and map them to corresponding processes in a new set of applications, such as Oracle Cloud.
Of course, there are challenges. For example, some processes might be well established, with customizations that fit the needs of the business. But in the cloud, the application that would host this process may not be mature, so there's a gap that must be addressed.
While new processes are being designed is a perfect time to ask, "Are these scalable?" A strong implementation partner can help answer that question and provide the right guidance by sharing their experience with establishing processes scalable and efficient processes.
The Project Management Office
For the project management office (PMO), overseeing and coordinating a cloud migration poses several challenges. First, as important as it is, it will not be the only project on the to-do list. Second, a cloud migration differs from traditional application deployments and integration scenarios. It will have a different set of planning considerations that the PMO will need to learn and master.
Just moving even one on-premise app to the cloud will have a ripple effect. The tasks associated with it are very different than rolling out another application in an on-premise environment. And, people maintaining the application will need to be trained to do something else.
There is a similar impact in terms of integration. Imagine you have an on-premise integration solution. Now you are moving everything to the cloud. That application, which has been used and maintained by database administrators (DBAs) and system admins, will be replaced.
Methodology also differs. For on-premise projects, the PMO can rely on its team to execute tasks. Now, some of that will fall to a software vendor, like Oracle or Dell Boomi, that is providing services such as spinning up instances.
The PMO team will work with the ISV’s support staff. The roles and responsibilities between a client and ISV, implementation partner or third-party management services provider will change the PMO's implementation and risk management process quite significantly.
The IT Organization
When organizations move to the cloud, IT’s role changes. IT no longer manages a complex on-premise environment and all that goes with it — licensing, provisioning, customizing, maintenance and upgrades.
Modern cloud business applications are highly configurable. For example, using Boomi to build a new integration could be as much as five times faster than using an on-premise solution. The traditional approach of developing everything from scratch and then customizing it is no longer necessary — or sustainable.
For IT, the focus will no longer be on in-house development skills. Instead, new skills and knowledge will be needed, including a greater understanding of the business and its demands.
IT will be responsible for developing a hybrid infrastructure that can accommodate cloud and on-premise applications and data. Historical data and regional and local considerations such as taxes and GDPR will all have infrastructure implications. Release management and security will also remain under the control of IT.
Moving to the cloud doesn’t diminish the importance of IT, but it does reorder priorities and expectations.
Change Management and Communication Strategy
Suffice it to say that beyond all that must be done, moving to the cloud brings monumental changes for the business, the PMO and IT. And if those changes, their justification and their impact aren’t communicated clearly to everyone involved, success will be elusive.
As I noted earlier, business leaders must define the cloud vision. And they must identify the “cloud champions” who will spread the word and keep a spotlight on why moving to the cloud is necessary. This is where communication and change management begin.
From day one through all the phases of a multi-year implementation, communication should be frequent, consistent and consumable — plain language, please — to all stakeholders. Email blasts. All hands meetings. Offsites. Workshops. Whatever it takes.
Everyone needs to know and be constantly reminded: Why are we doing this? Why is it important? What’s my role? This is how you build operational readiness.
At Jade Global, we use a set of templates during our assessment phase that help us clarify the company’s vision (what it wants to achieve and why), so its communications can be clear. And together we prepare a plan to communicate and manage change.
Business Continuity: The “Hidden” Barrier to Cloud Migration
So far, I’ve covered several challenges facing each of the three organizational groups that must achieve operational readiness for a successful cloud migration initiative. But I’ve saved the “best” for last because it’s so often overlooked.
From start to finish, a phased, well-planned and executed cloud migration can take three to four years. During that, normal business operations must continue.
And that’s quite a challenge. It takes a real commitment since it may require hiring additional resources to maintain business continuity while migrating to the cloud.
Nearly everyone understands the benefits of migrating to the cloud, but while that effort is underway, normal business operations have to go on. There’s no magic bullet. And sometimes people ignore that. They think a system integrator will come along and do everything, and they’ll have nothing to do. But it just doesn’t work that way.
So, when it's time to shout "action" for your cloud journey, make sure you've done your pre-production. Bon voyage.
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