4 crucial steps to take before moving to the cloud

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So you’ve decided to finally make the move to the cloud. Now what? That’s a question firms should ask themselves. But it’s what a firm does after posing this question that often makes the difference between a smooth migration or a painful one.

Finding and partnering with a top cloud services provider can certainly help the transition to the cloud. However, facilitating a successful migration to the cloud is not just about technology and data; it’s also about doing your prep work, preparing your team and optimizing your ability to collaborate with your cloud partner.

Here are some tips for ensuring your cloud migration experience and outcomes meet your expectations and goals.

1. Assess

James Standen, a contributor to Datamartist’s blog, offered this pearl of data migration wisdom: “Often the first time the legacy system is documented is just before it's shut down.”

I find this to be true for any organization seeking to move to the cloud. Their legacy system has become a jumbled mess of software, hardware and data sources that have been added to and altered for years without a deeper strategy. This often leaves their current IT infrastructure like a tech Frankenstein, alive but a jumble of parts, some functioning better than others and some not at all.

Before engaging a cloud partner, you and your key team members must do a deep dive and map your legacy system. What hardware do you have? Where is your data? What software licenses do you hold? Where is your documentation and is it up-to-date? These are just a few questions that you need to ask when preparing to move to the cloud. Your cloud partner will be able to help you improve your system map, but you and your team also need to understand the basics of your legacy system before engaging a cloud services partner.

That said, your assessment should not focus on tech and data alone. Your team and their IT pain points need to be collected formally via surveys or group discussions. These discussions should not be limited to your IT team alone; rather, anyone that engages the legacy system needs to be queried to truly understand what your organization needs from its future cloud IT platform.

2. Define success

After assessing your legacy systems and team IT pain points, create a working group to define company-wide goals for moving to the cloud. This does not mean you have to create an overwhelmingly complex matrix of desired outcomes; it simply means you need to have a working definition of success so that your future cloud services partner understands early in the process what you want from the process.

3. Pick the right partner

You and your cloud working group have done your homework: You’ve mapped your legacy system, gathered cross-functional input and defined what a successful move to the cloud would entail.

Now you’re ready to search for and select the right cloud services provider that can help you achieve your company’s goals. A strong cloud services organization will quickly build on the work you’ve already done, pushing back where it's needed to help you clarify your assessment and goals.

Of course, many companies search for the right partner first before conducting a

self-assessment and defining desired outcomes. That’s an option, but it puts you at a

disadvantage when it comes to finding the right cloud partner. If you come to the interview process in an “I don’t know what I don’t know” state of mind, it makes it more difficult for you to accurately assess possible cloud partners and it slows down the process once you’ve engaged and signed on with a cloud provider.

Doing your prep work achieves two important things: First, it empowers you to ask the right questions when interviewing providers; and second, once you choose a partner, you and your team are self-aware and educated enough to be a helpful collaborator during the migration process and beyond.

4. Communicate

Cloud technology is not a panacea for what ails your organization. It will also not be the sole reason for improved efficiency and productivity post-migration.

Your staff, i.e. the users of your new cloud infrastructure, will have a significant influence on the success of your migration to the cloud. For some, the cloud will be intimidating and unfamiliar. Change, especially at scale, can be scary for those that are used to working in a certain way. It’s imperative for your leadership team and key personnel to understand that internal communications — even internal PR — is a critical success factor for a successful migration and effective post-migration use of the cloud platform.

Be open and transparent with your team from the start. Create a communications strategy and designate an internal team to spearhead its execution. What this strategy looks like will be different for every organization, but the critical elements of transparency, consistent communication and building a sense of company-wide process ownership are always the desired results.

Your cloud partner should also be involved in the communication strategy so that trust is established across your organization. There will be natural inflection points for your cloud services provider to join update meetings so your wider team can connect with them and put a human face on the migration process.

There are many, many technical nuances and details that contribute to a successful cloud migration. That’s the nature of the technology; it’s complex. Your cloud partner will help you navigate that complexity. What’s often overlooked is the critical importance of preparation and the human aspect of a cloud migration.

By doing your prep work prior to engaging a cloud partner, defining what cloud success looks like and communicating with your entire team throughout the process, you will set the stage for a smooth migration and enjoy the increased efficiency and productivity empowered by cloud technology.

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