How to Define Your Enterprise Cloud Strategy?

Recently, I was asked to consult on the creation of a Cloud Strategy document for a client of ours. The effort has been going on for a couple of months already but it seemed that instead getting to convergence, the scope of the document was constantly growing – adding new tools and technologies, creating separate documents for certain areas and so on and so on. The strategy was suffering from the same sickness any other technology project was – scope creep.

As always, when we, the techies, concentrate on technology, we lose sight of the actual problems and start blowing things out of proportion. And all this, just because tech is cool 🙂

This effort prompted the idea to create a series of posts and lay out my thoughts about an enterprise cloud strategy. Also, with the research I regularly do for clients, I thought, it will be good to take all my notes out of the OneNote and share it widely for feedback and suggestions.

So, let’s get started with what a strategy is and what should it entail. First of all, any “strategy” that doesn’t get people on-board is a waste. Also, any strategy that is too abstract and does not give people clear idea how to implement is doomed to fail (or it should be called vision and not strategy). Hence, I think, a technology strategy (not only enterprise cloud one) should have the following characteristics:

  • Defines an audience
    It should be clear who are the people who will need to follow or implement this strategy
  • Gives background on the technology
    This is a dumbed-down explanation of the technology including an introduction of the basic terminology and the technical jargon
  • It is easy to understand and follows some common sense logic
    The easiest way to get people onboard is to explain things in a simple, logical fashion
  • Explains the (business) value
    If there is no value, then why bother implementing it
  • Provides guidance for implementation
    If there is no guidance how to implement the strategy, everyone will have their own interpretation and you will end up with many implementations
  • Provides reasoning of choices
    If the strategy recommends certain path of implementation, it should also explain why this path is chosen

With all this in mind, let’s go through the thought process for an enterprise cloud technology strategy.

Who will be the audience for your cloud strategy? The most common answer is: “The IT team!”, because they are the ones who will implement it. While this is correct, it is only small part of the answer. Unfortunately, most of the enterprise cloud strategies are defined from the IT point of view and fail to get other actors onboard. Now, here is a little bit more comprehensive list:

  • IT team
  • Security team (often folded into IT however rarely thought of)
  • Line of Business (LOB) Application Development teams
  • Business Owners (LOB) including leadership and Program/Project/Product managers

Anybody else? Well, you can add Finance and Accounting because cloud uses a completely new business model that may change the way company’s revenue and assets are calculated. You can also add HR because they will need to change their approach to hiring tech personnel. And you can add your Sales and Marketing teams to show them how fast will products reach the market by moving to the cloud.

Now, that you have a better understanding of who your audience is, explaining what cloud is may not be so trivial. When you explain the technology, you should refrain from using strong technology language full of acronyms and techy jargon. Even tech savvy people are often confused by the abundance of specialized terms and technologies that sprawl lately. Start with the basics – explain what the cloud is, what is it good for, deployment models, service models, who are the vendors and lay the ground for everybody to understand.

Next comes the flow – will you start with the technology and tools (and risk to lose most of your audience from the beginning) or will you start with something that everybody understands like a business process or an application? The best way to approach it, I think, is to look at the types of applications available within your company and walk your audience through the journey of implementing those in the cloud. Throughout this journey, talk about the value first, then outline the options (tools, vendors, technologies) and provide a guidance which one to choose. Giving just choices is not a strategy, it is a market research. It is important to make choices when you define your strategy – this way you avoid the ambiguity and don’t let people wonder which way they should go. But don’t forget to justify your choices, else you risk to

Last but not least, look at the new application trends and types and add those to the list to show the audience what the opportunities are. It will be easy to get everyone onboard if they see what will they miss if they don’t implement the strategy.

As everything else, your strategy should follow a story. In my next post, I will talk about the story I find easy to follow when defining an enterprise cloud strategy. It will be by no means the only story but will be one that can bring things together.