Cloud migration a longer, harder journey than most organizations expect

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A majority of organizations now have some presence in the cloud, although how satisfied each organization is with their cloud computing experiences is all over the map.

Security issues remain a top concern for many, and those concerns are often cited as the primary reason that many firms have adopted a go-slow approach to cloud migration.

Like other emerging technologies, it takes time to capture the benefits of the cloud. In fact, a recent Accenture survey found that nearly two thirds of organizations are failing to realize the full benefits of their cloud migration journeys, with top barriers being security and the complexity of business and operational change.

To get a sense of where organizations are in their migration plans and efforts, Information Management spoke with Siki Giunta, Accenture, managing director of intelligent cloud and infrastructure at Accenture.

Information Management: Accenture recently released the results of its study on cloud migration and cloud benefits. What were the key findings of that study?

Siki Giunta: The cloud has long been cited as a means of achieving multiple business benefits including reduced IT costs, faster speed-to-market, better service levels and an enabler of the digital business. Fully achieving these anticipated benefits, however, proves much more difficult, with 65 percent reporting they have yet to realize the full impact they anticipated.

Another key finding was that those companies most heavily “in the cloud” are significantly more likely to report having achieved their intended cloud outcomes. Yet, less than 50 percent of these companies recount full achievement of expected results.

More than half of public cloud users (54 percent) report having captured their cost saving goals, yet only 28 percent have experienced their anticipated speed-to-market benefits.

IM: What most surprised you about the findings in the report?

Giunta: The cloud migration journey to greater innovation and efficiency is more complex than most companies anticipate. And it takes longer to complete. For most companies, the journey to full realization of the benefits can take anywhere between three to five years. When it comes to cloud migration, organizations need an integrated cloud-by-design strategy to close the gap between aspiration and reality.

Another key finding from our study underlines the difficulties companies are facing in turning the promise of cloud into reality. Ninety percent of companies say they achieve some level of their desired cloud outcomes, but only about one-third on average report having fully achieved their expected outcomes across the four categories of cost, speed, business enablement and service levels.

IM: Where do organizations tend to place the most blame for any disappointments with cloud investments?

Giunta: It’s not finding what areas to blame. It’s about finding the barriers to success. Our enterprise clients have complex business operations, regulatory compliance requirements to navigate, mushrooming infrastructures with escalating costs while trying to avoid disruption and staying relevant with end users.

Our research showed that the barriers to achieving expected results were:

  • 65 percent from “security and compliance risk”
  • 55 percent from “complexity of business and organizational change”
  • 43 percent from “legacy infrastructure and/or application sprawl” coming in at third, followed closely by “lack of cloud skills with the organization” (42 percent).

For context, look at how the complexity of business applications is always changing. Enterprise clients own large data centers with assets that are hard to monetize. It has become increasingly difficult to try to measure everything.

IM: Security issues were cited as a top barrier to cloud success. That has been a top concern for some time. Are things getting any better in this respect?

Giunta: With security, ongoing news headlines around breaches show that there are still challenges with policy and governance. The problem lies in an organization’s operating model. It’s the problem of the industry, not just the cloud. The good news is that we’re starting to learn from the weaknesses and we’re learning more on how to fix the problems. We now have more ability to understand the maturity and security posture of the cloud.

IM: Business complexity was cited as another barrier to success. What is the problem here?

Giunta: With cloud, digital transformation will quickly show the complex business processes. You need to streamline the complex business process at the speed of cloud. With so much complexity, you cannot just digitize a bad process.

IM: What separates those organizations that have good cloud experiences from those that don’t?

Giunta: Based on Accenture’s implementation experience from more than 20,000 cloud projects including three-quarters of the Fortune Global 100, we have learned that clients need a clear-eyed assessment about how to position the cloud organization in the larger enterprise. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask:

  • What’s the best way to integrate legacy IT resources with cloud resources and systems?
  • Do synergies exist between the legacy operation and the new business?
  • If the cloud organization is a new, standalone business unit, what’s the best way to provide core functions?

Integration of your new, cloud-based capabilities is important. Otherwise, your digital platform is in danger of becoming just another box on the org chart. Instead, it needs to be a transformational engine that powers your company to digital parity with your competitors. In part, this is an operational challenge.

Companies need to reconcile their legacy, standard operating procedures with the cloud organization’s organic agility. Because cloud-based innovation projects often shift the direction of the company, leaders need effective ways to quickly gauge progress and mitigate issues as they occur.

How do you successfully reconcile your legacy, standard operating procedures with your new, cloud organization’s organic agility? It requires resolute leadership, strong operational alignment and a clear execution roadmap.

  • Get the entire organization on board. Train employees in cloud solutions, tools and apps. Make a “cloud first” pledge for all your future innovations.
  • Go agile. Create a top-to-bottom agile organization, not just in development but for every area of the company. Manage projects and services in “sprints and scrums” with clearly assigned ownership responsibilities to create urgency and boost speed.
  • Get rid of excess baggage. To reduce IT drag, embark on a mission for lean workloads. De-commission services you no longer use.

IM: How can organizations best act to improve their cloud experiences?

Giunta: We tell clients that they need a clear, well communicated strategy, with clarity of cloud providers, goals and expectations, and expected business outcomes.

To extract the best results possible (or be among the “winners of cloud adoption”), the hallmarks for success are as follows:

  • A well-defined and communicated “North Star” -- have a cloud strategy execution road map, and use KPIs to measure progress
  • Have core cloud practices and critical tools in place with ongoing efficiency measures for continuous improvement
  • Be on a quest for application modernization -- have formal planning and analysis of legacy applications for migrating to the Cloud, employ agile methods and/or DevOps in software development, and have a comprehensive set of API-related services as well as a standardized governance and management model for consistent operations.
  • Have an infrastructure transformation focus -- implement an approach to metering and billing consumption to take advantage of cloud economics and achieve real cost savings, know their progress toward end-to-end operational management, control of on-premises cloud technologies and integration of tools into a unified cloud management platform.
  • Have an organization & people nucleus -- have a dedicated team in charge of the definition / execution of the cloud strategy, have a dedicated team / resources to help internal users secure, customize and consume cloud resources.
  • Have strong cloud management -- have completed a thorough cloud inventory regarding usage in their organization, currently use a cloud management platform (CMP).
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