Why do #Cloud Strategies fail? Applicable to #WindowsAzure, #AWS or #PrivateCloud


Introduction


Lately I’ve been doing a lot of Cloud Strategies for different company sizes, from small to Large Enterprises with multi-billion dollar revenue. By doing that I’ve found a lot of common mistakes which make the Cloud Strategies to fail and in some cases “badly”. Due to this I decided to write a bit about what I think are some of the important reasons for those failures so it the “ride to the cloud can become smoother”.


Common Cloud Strategy Mistakes


So here’s a small list of some of the things which can destroy any Cloud Strategy:

Overlooking the Business Requirements


When talking about the Cloud you see that almost everyone starts by saying that is will cut the IT costs, but completely forget to look at the business part of things and how the business will be impacted by it. Cloud is an excellent opportunity for performing a complete Enterprise Portfolio Assessment since in order to make a really great Cloud Strategy you’ll require to understand the Business, Software, Data and Infrastructure of you company. You should also understand how the real issues that the business wants to solve, and not only throw your IT problems to another platform and wait that everything goes well, normally it doesn’t. One of the most typical problems is that this overlook generated a massive decrease of business continuity, agility and failure in the strategy costing and the reason is simple, there wasn’t a good transition plan and roadmap from the “As-is” state to the “To-Be” state.

Other typical issues are:
  • Building a Cloud Strategy without a business case will be a way to fail. The Business Case is important because we’re talking about a business transformation and it’s important to understand and plan every step we take.
  • Selecting the wrong business domain is another one since normally people think they should take the “lowest hanging fruit” but fail to understand that it is actually bound to a business process that might change with that approach.
  • Selecting mission critical systems as the first systems to migrate to the Cloud is a great way for getting things wrong. We need to understand that the first time we move something it’s not going to go always well and as all the books say, there will be issues that need to be solved, risks to be mitigated and so on, so choosing it is generally a huge risk that normally if same thing fails, even a simple perception, the full Cloud Strategy will fall apart.
  • Selecting legacy systems as the first systems to migrate to the Cloud is another good way to fail. There is a reason why systems when moving to the Cloud need to be generally re-architected, it’s not only in horror stories. Most of the legacy systems aren’t ready for working in a highly available, scalability or even have reliability implemented so any outage or brownout that happens will destroy the solution.

 

Lack of expectation management and following the magazines or opinion makers


A large number of companies still just follow what magazines or opinion makers write about the cloud completely forgetting how it needs to be applied in their specific reality. This normally ends really badly because as any other thing the Cloud isn’t the “silver bullet” that is going to solve all the problems in the world from Business to IT, it’s just another tool in our belt in order to make our business better. Failing to understand this is generally a very good indications that your Cloud Strategy will fail since if you place a massive unmanaged expectations on top of the strategy you’re also setting it up for failure right from the start.

Other important issues are:
  • Before you choose to follow something be sure to prove the claims that you’ve read or heard. Do a Proof-of-Concept, search for other opinions, get recommendations for other companies in the industry. Don’t believe everything you hear and read, your company works in a specific way so the strategy should be done with that in mind.
  • Lack of Strategic Plan and Architecture definition (Enterprise and Solution Architecture) is a great way to fail since without the strategic plan to define what is going to be done, when, who and what gets affected you can’t mitigate any risks in the process. Also not having a clear architecture definition increases the odds of failure because it is they way the strategy is going to be implemented and the way you’ll understand the interdependencies and which potentially new skills sets you’ll need to have.

Embracing Technology just because it’s new


Technology is really great and cool but everything needs to be tested, validated and proven in the right context. Technology is there to help the business and not to make it harder. There needs to be a compelling reason for you to move to a new technology. I’m not saying you should stay with old technologies or even like some say you should be in version – 1 in order to be successful. I like technology and live going with the new things but also like to prove them and understand how they can help the specific business problems we want to solve. So you’ll need to really look at it to make sure it fits all the business, technical and management requirements. Avoid being a technology fanatic, it never works.

Other important issues:
  • Avoid doing things just based on a book you read. Experience how the technology helps, how it “feels” which new skills you’ll needs, if it is going to give you the right telemetry information and so on.
  • Overlooking the full solution requirements is another good way to miss it, you need to understand the big picture before you actually select the technology because that is one of the major drivers for that choice process.

Overlooking the importance of the Enterprise Architecture


I’ve been faced with several situations where companies tend to look only at a specific solution and not how that will affect the full system. It’s critical to look at the Enterprise Architecture because it what gives us the complete view of the system, from Business, Solution, Data and Infrastructure. Avoid thinking that the cloud will solve all your issues until today without a real strategy and that “agile” is just a way to avoid looking at the strategy in detail.

Overlooking potential outages and brownouts


The Cloud has outages and brownouts, there’s no reason to hide it. By having the Cloud the hardware didn’t stop failing, we just got heavy automation and self-healing systems which are managing these huge data centers which create the Cloud. I saw some corporations creating a Cloud Strategy looking at Enterprise Architecture, with a Business Case and everything else we discussed so far, but they forgot that even in the cloud the hardware fails and so they would need to have fault-tolerant in mind, business continuity plans, run-books/playbooks, and so on.Without those your business will be hit.

 

Summary


So as you can understand the journey to the Cloud is something you should do with a real strategy like any other decision you do in your company. This strategy should understand everything from your company from Business to Technology since without it will be doomed to failure and this is true independently of the Cloud vendor you use from Microsoft Windows Azure to Amazon AWS or even Private Cloud, if you don’t have a strategy you won’t achieve your goals. It’s that simple.