Four steps for setting an effective cloud strategy
As we discussed in our earlier article and detailed in a short video, a cloud strategy remains an important artefact for organisations that are looking to use cloud-based tools and technologies to meet their business objectives.
The strategy shouldn’t be a hefty tome, nor should it be a rigid set of rules that the organisation must adhere to.
Rather, it should be a simple, easily understood set of principles and guidelines that forms an overarching framework for how the organisation will embrace the cloud in the right way.
But how do you set a cloud strategy given the fast-paced nature of the industry and the challenge of getting the organisation to follow it?
Based on our experience, we’ve seen that a simple four-step process can be effective.
First and foremost you need to engage with people from different functions across the organisation to understand how the use of cloud tools will impact different areas of the business.
Over a 2-4 week period arrange a number of focused workshops and 1-1s to understand what the business objectives are, and what the implications of these objectives will be for the overarching strategy.
Ideally the representatives involved in these discussions will be senior decision makers that can actually enable their specific functions to embrace these principles.
- Senior executives, who will be in a position to outline the business objectives
- Product and proposition teams, who can discuss how the technology will impact customers
- Marketing and analytics teams, who will want to embrace the cloud to enhance their analytical capability
- Engineering, who almost certainly are using the cloud today and will be best placed to talk to how it should be best used in the future
- IT Security, who need to understand what level of analysis and control is appropriate
- Legal, Risk and Compliance, who will need to understand the risk appetite of the business and ensure that their governance processes are enablers, rather than blockers
- Procurement, who may need to change process to better engage with cloud-based vendors
- People function, who will need to understand what capabilities the organisation needs to meet the cloud strategy
At the culmination of the assessment period you should be in a position to organise a final session where you are able to confirm:
- The business objectives, agreed by all areas of the organisation
- Cloud design and engineering principles that outline what the solutions should look and feel like to meet these objectives
- High level cloud delivery roadmap that details the priority areas of focus for cloud development or migration, and appreciates the opportunity cost of targeting these areas rather than others within the business
- The KPIs and measures that will determine whether the strategy is being met, or needs to be tweaked
The level of detail contained within the design and engineering principles depends on the maturity of the organisation’s journey with cloud.
A firm that has been using cloud tools for some time, but with little direction and not across the entire organisation, may be able to outline what specific tools and services they will use for which specific use cases.
One that has less experience may simply detail that it needs to use cloud-based automation tool to reduce operational costs, but it allows flexibility across the business to decide how this will be achieved.
Importantly, the strategy should be easily understood and readily available to anyone within the organisation that needs to access it.
The senior leaders that set the strategy should take responsibility as cloud champions to distribute the messages within their functions, and to establish a feedback loop to assess whether it is being adhered to or needs to change.
They could challenge their teams to consider what the strategy means for them and what actions need to be taken to support it. For instance, a Procurement function that determines it needs a more fluid process for engaging innovative suppliers will need to consider how it enables that process without compromising good governance and risk assessment.
Finally, the organisation must review the strategy on a regular basis that works for them.
A quarterly review might seem too frequent, but it creates a faster feedback loop allowing for smaller, more regular tweaks to direction, rather than a mass overhaul once a year.
Reviews should be based on the agreed KPIs, as well as feedback from across the business and technical teams.
The absence of a cloud strategy doesn’t prevent you from building out cloud tools and infrastructure, but once in place it will focus your direction and crystalise the things that your organisation needs to do to best achieve its business objectives.
With a thorough assessment and a comprehensive communication plan a strategy can quickly be agreed upon and followed across the business, and a regular feedback cycle will allow constant re-alignment where needed.