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The barriers to cloud adoption (and how to overcome them)

The benefits of the cloud are well documented, and growing day by day. By transforming digitally, companies are able to gain access to the rapid delivery of new products and services and accelerate the process of turning ideas into realities. It is by innovating and implementing new business models that companies can truly differentiate themselves.

Making that critical first step can be a challenge of itself – a case of learning to walk before you can fly. Digital transformation is practically impossible if a company doesn’t know exactly what needs to be transformed.

Known and unknown risks

The existence of Shadow IT – IT projects managed outside of and without the knowledge of the IT department – can mean that many companies don’t have a clear picture of the extent or components of their IT estate. They don’t know which applications run on which platforms, the extent and nature of their data consumption, or how what legacy infrastructure they rely upon.

These operational complexities make it a struggle for any organization to accurately build a map of its infrastructure, its data, its applications, and supporting business processes.

Even when a company has a clear picture of its estate, many don’t focus on developing an end-to-end business, application, and technology view for their migration. Not having a clear view of what is currently installed and how it is being used by the business is a big mistake when attempting to move the estate to a cloud platform.

As something of an aside, I recall one Capgemini engagement for a global organization with over 10,000 servers. We encountered something of a surprise along the way (which seemed to be as much of a surprise to the customer as us) when we literally “found” servers and applications hidden in long-forgotten server rooms. Migrating these would have been easier had we known about them earlier; it would have aided planning and design. Ultimately we succeeded in migrating all “forgotten” servers to a cloud platform, albeit this was not as efficient as it could have been had we been able to include everything during the design phase.

Legacy and security

The cloud-native applications within the enterprise will often be dependent on traditional IT infrastructure, which can occupy anything from 60% to 90% of a company’s existing IT landscape. Migrating only the cloud-native aspects can make things even more complex by introducing unwanted new dependencies that can manifest themselves to the customers as poor performance and response times. Focusing solely on cloud-native applications (which are already web enabled) would risk rendering the overall migration incomplete, as end-to-end business processes traverse both legacy and cloud native applications.

This was a mistake made by one large UK insurer. Viewing the cloud as a purely technical platform they focused solely on achieving cloud-centric technical benefits with the cloud, without including the rest of the business. The result was that they ended up creating different cloud environments that the business wasn’t using – in effect, replicating their silos digitally. Instead of harmonization, the process increased costs and complexity, the exact of opposite of what they wanted to achieve.

Limited and unlimited choices

Security is also a major concern. Cybercrime shows no signs of abating and if anything, is getting increasingly sophisticated. The disparity between silos or cloud services and legacy systems can open vulnerabilities that criminals can be quick to exploit. This is a risk amplified by the existence of Shadow IT – how can you protect your estate when you don’t know what it is you’re protecting?

One of the most critical factors is the human element: having the right people on board to implement the changes and maintain stability and security. This is something that is becoming increasingly difficult. The rapid evolution of cloud and associated technologies has caused a brains race as workers in every sector strive to keep their skills aligned. And in today’s strong employee market, the limited pool of skilled workers is in high demand.

And lastly, there’s still the difficulty of choosing the right solution. There is already an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to the cloud, and making the right decision is only made tougher by a shifting technology landscape – new technologies are emerging on almost a weekly basis.

Planning the breakthrough

Icarus may have reached the clouds, but his lack of understanding and foresight was his downfall. It’s vital that companies wishing to digitally transform plan in detail to avoid crashing and burning.

The keys to breaking through the barriers to the cloud is having an understanding of what’s involved, and a watertight migration plan. This needs to be much more than an IT operation – it must be a business change management program.

Getting this plan right is absolutely vital. Engaging the…