As usual, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is making a slew of announcements at its reinvent conference in Las Vegas, and as expected, the key ones related to making it easier for organizations to move workloads to the cloud, keep data secure and get more value out of their data with services supported by Machine Learning.

However, one of the most interesting points made in the keynote by CEO Andy Jassy was not the power of the cloud transform business, revolutionize industry sectors or the latest AWS server processor chip and services, but about the common, non-technical barriers organizations have to overcome to move to the cloud, which every organization thinking about Digital Transformation should bear in mind.

Achieve business leadership alignment to drive cloud migration

The top observation is that leadership is essential. Digital Transformation of the business and the customer experience (which commonly involves moving workloads to the cloud) is most successful where there is strong support from the business leaders.

Leadership must be aligned on how and why the business needs to be transformed and must set aggressive goals for moving to the cloud. This means that one of the first and most important challenges for organizations to tackle is figuring out how to get the executive team aligned.

Set specific, aggressive targets to build momentum

AWS experience shows that setting specific goals forces everyone in the organization to commit to change. That in turn builds momentum within the organization with everyone driving towards achieving the goals that have been set and coming up with ideas for what can be done in the cloud.

Conversely, where organizations start by “dipping their toes” into cloud with experimentation, they tend to get stuck in this phase for an extended period of time without making any real progress. Only when Digital Transformation is driven from the top down, is real progress made quickly.

Cloud is not difficult, but training is essential

After leadership, the next challenge is that typically most people in an organization do not have any experience or understanding of the cloud. Education and training is therefore an important first step so that everyone in the organization understands how and why doing things in the cloud is different, and how that can benefit the business. While using the cloud is not difficult, it does require training.

It is important that organizations not attempt to move everything into the cloud at the same time. Instead, they should prioritize projects and draw up a methodical plan for moving workloads into the cloud, starting with the simplest and easiest first.

This approach avoids organizations getting paralysed into inaction by trying to do too much at once. It also enables the organization to learn with the easiest transitions, which in turn makes it easier to tackle the workloads that are more challenging as people in the organization gains experience and confidence.

AWS Outposts: removing another obstacle to cloud migration

This approach is more likely to result in completing a greater number of cloud projects in a relatively short time and build momentum to moving all remaining workloads into the cloud, and where there are things that simply cannot move or not right away, AWS has just announced general availability of AWS Outposts, fully managed racks that allow organizations to run compute and storage on-prem, while connecting to AWS services in the cloud.

This was just one of many more announcements on the first day of reinvent 2019, but the opening message was all about taking care of the non-technical aspects of cloud and the transformation goals of your business before considering the cloud services that will deliver the desired outcomes.

In short, get everyone in the leadership team to agree and get behind the why, then focus on the how and building momentum by training everyone to enable them to get up to speed.

Cloud migration similar to other complex IT projects

For all complex, heterogenous projects in IT with multiple stakeholders in the organization, including cloud migration projects, KuppingerCole Analysts recommend:

  • Knowing your stakeholders and getting their buy-in;
  • Understanding problem areas;
  • Defining the policies and processes;
  • Setting the right expectations about what you want to achieve; 
  • Outline a clear roadmap with defined goals;
  • Highlighting the quick wins; and
  • Ensuring you have the right resources on hand;

It is always important that the business understands the benefits of the project, and that will make it easier to get the buy-in and support of all the stakeholders. For the same reasons, it is important to make the purpose of the project clear so that all stakeholders are aware not only of the benefits, but also of what needs to be done, what is expected and when. And while it is important not to try to do too much in the initial stages, it is equally as important to identify quick wins from the outset and prioritize those to demonstrate value or benefit to the business in the early stages of the project.

Part of identifying quick wins is defining the goals and processes at the start - including responsibilities and accountabilities - to support the desired outcome of the project. This is also where the education piece, also mentioned by AWS comes in so that all stakeholders understand the processes and goals and have the tools and skills they need.

Understanding the problem areas and processes of the business is also key to the success of any IT project as this will be valuable in getting stakeholders on board as well as in setting the right goals and ensuring that you have the right resources and skill sets on hand for the project.

Continually measure progress and keep an eye on the future

Once the project is underway, KuppingerCole Analysts recommend continually measuring benefit/progress against the set of defined goals to demonstrate tangible success at every stage of the project.

Finally, keep an eye on emerging IT/business trend relevant to the project. Take them into account when planning your project and update your planning on a regular basis as new trends emerge.

Find out more on how to make your project a success, in this case applied to Identity and Access Management (IAM) projects, in this webinar podcast: How to Make Your IAM Program a Success and this point of view paper: One Identity - The Journey to IAM Success - 70226