Understand What an Enterprise Cloud Computing Strategy Is
This article combines research and practice to help you gain a deep understanding of enterprise cloud computing strategy, then it shows you how to build your own.
Table of contents
- Understand What an Enterprise Cloud Computing Strategy Is
- Build Your Enterprise Cloud Computing Strategy
- Understand How Working in the Cloud Changes Organizational Culture
Enterprise Cloud Strategy :Introduction
The rise of cloud computing has changed everything we do, and from a business perspective, you need to understand what that means for you and for your organization. Organizational strategy is a huge topic of great importance, and more and more an enterprise cloud computing strategy is a necessary part of that overall organizational strategy.
But what is an enterprise cloud computing strategy? Why do you need one and how do you create one?
In this article, we will explore enterprise cloud computing strategy in-depth, and you’ll emerge knowing exactly how to plan, create, and launch your own enterprise cloud computing strategy.
We’ll talk about enterprise cloud computing strategy from a big picture point of view. This article combines research and practice to help you gain a deep understanding of enterprise cloud computing strategy, and then it shows you how to build your own.
What Is an Enterprise Cloud Strategy?
An enterprise cloud computing strategy is an agreement among business stakeholders about what the relationship between the cloud and the organization should be, and a high‑level road map of how to get there.
It’s a living document that outlines the role of cloud computing in the organization. By living document, I mean that it is agile, it is always updated and kept current, it’s accessible, everybody knows where to find it, and it is well-governed. While it’s regularly updated, only authorized individuals can do the updating, so everybody knows that it is accurate.
Elements of an Enterprise Cloud Strategy
An enterprise cloud computing strategy consists of five key elements. Depending on your specific organization, you may want to modify these or add more elements to it, but the five basic elements are:
Principles are high‑level statements about the role of cloud computing in the organization, things like evaluating SaaS solutions first, or using industry best practices whenever possible.
2. Cultural change
Another element of an enterprise cloud computing strategy is cultural change. Getting work done in cloud computing can be vastly different than traditional IT working methods. To take advantage of cloud computing, we need to ensure that our organizational culture is ready to adopt certain principles like breaking down silos, working safely in complex systems, DevOps and Agile, and other things.
Cultural change also instills the importance of education in each individual within the organization. Technology, especially cloud technologies, change rapidly, and we need our people to be educated on the latest technologies and methodologies in the cloud.
3. Service strategy
A service strategy defines which cloud computing services you will use in different organizational use cases. It defines when the IT teams will act as brokers, for example, for SaaS products, and when they will build internal products for consumption by other teams.
It also broadly defines who your customers are, what you will deliver to them, and how you will deliver it using the cloud.
4. Security strategy
An enterprise cloud computing strategy contains a security strategy. This section discusses the security implications of cloud computing. At a high level, it discusses confidentiality, integrity, and availability of public cloud computing systems. It also lays out at a high level, identity and access management strategies.
5. Financial Strategy
Cloud computing cost models are very different than traditional IT cost models. So we need a financial strategy for cloud computing. In the public cloud, we pay for services using operational expenditures, pay as you go, instead of purchasing gear with a lot of upfront capital. Because of this, it’s dangerously easy to let costs run away with you. This section can also discuss how you will charge back to customers, especially if your IT organization decides to act as a broker, and I may have saved the best for last.
6. The Data Governance Strategy
Data governance strategy discusses at a high level how your data will be managed in cloud computing. Your data is the most valuable technological asset of a business, from day‑to‑day transactions to enormous analytical data sets. We need to govern our data in cloud computing.
An enterprise cloud computing strategy is, of course, only a part of the overall organizational strategy. It should seamlessly integrate into the organizational strategy. As an old boss once told me, when everybody is swimming in the same direction, we all get to the finish line.
It’s also helpful to understand what an enterprise cloud computing strategy is not. An enterprise cloud strategy is not an implementation plan or a migration plan. These plans are very important, but they come later.
The enterprise cloud computing strategy is the launching point for these other plans, and we need the strategy part worked out before we can consider the technological implications of implementation or migration.
Why You Need an Enterprise Cloud Strategy ?
In other words, strategy and enterprise cloud computing strategy is a living, breathing, growing thing. It’s not something you write once and forget about it. It’s something that’s agile, that’s constantly updated, that requires constant thought and effort. And it is an investment in time and effort.
Think of an enterprise cloud computing strategy as the pre‑work and preparation necessary to save yourself a lot of money and headache down the road. Your future self will thank you. And even Benjamin Franklin famously said, by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.
Cloud computing is vast with endless capabilities. Your strategic choices in the cloud can have effects that echo throughout your organization for years or decades to come. By doing the upfront research and work of building an enterprise cloud computing strategy, you will likely save your organization massive amounts of money, time, and resources.
Enterprise cloud strategy: Summary
• Agile, accessible, governed.
• Part of the overall organizational strategy.
• Not an implementation plan.
Necessary preparation to save yourself time and money down the road
• Cultural change
• Service strategy
• Security strategy
• Financial Strategy
• Data Governance Strategy
Build Your Enterprise Cloud Computing Strategy
The Three Phases of an Enterprise Cloud Strategy
Build Your Enterprise Cloud Computing Strategy. In this part, we’ll talk about the three phases of an enterprise cloud computing strategy: Planning, Creating, and Launching.
Planning an Enterprise Cloud Computing Strategy
Let’s start with planning. Like designing a building before beginning construction, it’s essential to complete the necessary pre‑work to create an enterprise cloud computing strategy.
Remember that if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s much more difficult to determine how you should get there.
Time needed: 3 minutes.
A 6-Steps Guide For Planning A Cloud Computing Strategy
- Identify vision and principles
First, we identify vision and principles, and this is an important first step. Again, without a vision or roadmap, we don’t know where we’re going, and we won’t know when we’re successful.
- Gather baselines
Next, we start to gather baselines. These are the definitional foundations upon which we all agree.
- Begin to formulate sub‑strategies
Then we begin to formulate sub‑strategies and in the creating stage, we actually put these down on quote‑unquote paper.
- Classify and map data flows
We classify and map data flows. Data is an organization’s most important technological asset. So in the planning stage, we’ll need to do some discovery here. We need to find out what types of data we collect, how it flows through the organization, and who owns it.
- Plan a documentation strategy
And then we need to start planning a documentation strategy
- Plan exit strategy
We also need a cloud exit strategy. There are a few reasons why we would need to exit the cloud. Sometimes it’s just not working the way we expected it to.
1- Identify vision and principles
So, let’s start with identifying vision and principles. A principle is a high‑level, but specific statement that captures a belief, ideal, or aspiration, and informs decision making at all levels of the organization. Somebody on the help desk, for example, should be able to look to our cloud principle statements to determine whether the decisions they are making align with our enterprise cloud strategy.
Here’s a great example of a principal statement from Niel Nickolaisen’s book, Stand Back and Deliver.
Now, this may seem like a very high‑level, meaningless platitude, but principal statements are axiomatic starting points from which we can build our enterprise cloud computing strategy, so they’re very important.
2- Establish baselines
Then we need to establish baselines. A baseline is simply a definition, configuration, established process, or other points of reference that is used for comparison. There are three types of baselines we need in our enterprise cloud computing strategy.
- 1- A cloud computing baseline.
- 2- A business baselines.
- 3- the financial baseline.
The cloud computing baseline is simply a list of definitions of cloud service models that we all agree upon. Now, of course, we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel here.
Hybrid cloud computing, for example, means what hybrid cloud means. However, our organization, Globomantics, might need to tweak the definition just a little bit to make it fit within our organizational processes, attitudes, and culture.
For business and financial baselines, we need to consider how the business goals and outcomes fit into our enterprise cloud computing strategy.
3- Formulate Sub-strategies
Next, we need to formulate sub-strategies. At a minimum, an enterprise cloud computing strategy should include these four sub-strategies:
- 1- A service strategy.
- 2- A financial strategy.
- 3- A security strategy
- 4- Data governance strategy.
There may be specific organizations or use cases where additional strategies might be necessary. Feel free to add those as needed.
4- Classify Your Data
Next, we need to classify our data.
We need to classify data that’s going to the cloud so that we know how to properly govern it. There are a lot of ways to classify your data, and I recommend starting with these three basic classifications:
Is it regulated?
If your data is regulated by, let’s say, GDPR, HIPPA, Sarbanes‑Oxley, or another governing body, it needs special consideration for where it goes and how it’s handled in the cloud.
How valuable is it?
If you’re Coca‑Cola, the data that contains your secret recipe is not regulated, but it is of very high value to your organization. So investigate your data’s value by talking to the data owners and business stakeholders.
How sensitive is it?
How likely is it that someone could piece together data elements and, for example, violate somebody’s privacy?
After you’ve gone through this exercise, it’s time to create basic maps of how your data flows.
5- Map Your Data
By having a clear understanding of how your data moves throughout the organization and how it will move into the cloud, you can set up a more robust governance plan.
There are several ways to map your data flow. A good old‑fashioned architecture diagram drawn in Visio or Lucidchart works very well, even just whiteboarding them with your enterprise cloud computing strategy steering committee and taking a photo can work.
Here’s an example of a basic architecture diagram for a business intelligence pipeline:
We have source systems that go through a VPN that land in a cloud gateway, finally, in a data lake, the data gets transformed, and then is used by the business intelligence group.
Next, we need to start planning a documentation strategy.
6- Living Document Platforms
The enterprise cloud computing strategy is a living document. That means that it’s always in a state of growth, changing, and improving.
And there are many ways to do a living document, but whichever you choose, it’s important to have certain controls on how the document is updated or changed; therefore, I recommend treating the document almost like an application where you put it into some type of CI/CD pipeline.
A Wiki is a good approach, but be careful not to have a Wiki document that anyone can edit. You still have to have change and source control. The advantage of a Wiki is that it’s familiar to users, it’s highly searchable, and if your other technical documentation is also on the same Wiki, it’s easy to link to other documents within that platform.
A website is also a good approach. With a website, you have the ability to make your documentation look however you want. It can match the rest of the corporate branding, websites, and intranet, for example.
Collaboration tools (Confluence, SharePoint, Jive):
Another medium on which to create a living document is a collaboration tool like Confluence, SharePoint, or Drive. These are powerful tools with a lot of customizable options, security and access controls, and many other features. They tend to be expensive, but they have a lot of built‑in functionality.
I’m also fine with something like Google Docs or some sort of basic word processing collaboration software, but again, you have to be very careful with the security side of things.
The tools that you choose are less important than the philosophy within which you build, manage, and maintain the enterprise cloud computing strategy.
Create and Launch Your Enterprise Cloud Computing Strategy
- Assemble the enterprise cloud computing strategy steering committee
- Campaign for organizational support
- Assess where you are now
- Establish baselines
- Finalize sub strategies
During the creating phase, we assemble the cloud computing strategy steering committee, and this committee will be in charge of our enterprise cloud strategy, its ultimate publication, and its upkeep.
Then we campaign for organizational support. Our enterprise cloud computing strategy can’t be successful unless we have buy‑in from around the organization.
Also, we need to assess where we are now. We take a good hard look at where exactly we are. Do we have things in the cloud already, for example?
Next, we take the baselines that we’ve started thinking about during the planning stage, and we establish them on quote-unquote “paper.” We put them in our document.
And then we finalize our sub‑strategies.
What does an enterprise cloud computing strategy steering committee do?
They’re in charge of our enterprise cloud computing strategy:
• Create, review, update, and release the living document and its iterations
• Build enabling governance models and sub-strategies into the enterprise cloud computing strategy
• Ensure that the enterprise cloud strategy is aligned with the rest of the organization
• Regularly meet to raise, hear, and discuss emerging issues and challenges
• Knowledge management
• Community leadership
This is where the enterprise cloud computing strategy can curate and publish knowledge and education about cloud computing and what it means to the employees of the organization. And community leadership also means getting organizational support by influencing people.
Three Groups of People You Need to Influence
There are three groups of people we primarily need to influence, according to author Emily Freeman in the book, DevOps for Dummies.
Executives are the most important because they can squash your cloud computing strategy altogether. They can also use their power to influence your strategy’s success.
Managers, says Emily Freeman, are the most difficult group to convince, but they matter a lot because they are the bridge between executives and individual contributors.
Individual contributors are the engineers and product managers and people who are actually building and migrating things to the cloud.
To influence individual contributors, we need to offer concrete solutions. Individual contributors are less likely to be influenced by lofty ideas and experimentation.
Next, we need to assess where we are now.
Four Steps to Assess Where You Are Now
We need to take a good hard look at where exactly our organization is in regard to our mission-critical workloads. There are four basic steps to assess where we are now:
- Create a profile of each workload and its flow of data:
First, create a detailed enough, don’t kill yourself, the profile of each workload. This includes a document explaining what the workload is, what its components currently are, and a basic diagram of how it handles the flow of data.
- Decide which workloads to keep, and which to sunset (if any):
Next is deciding which workloads to keep using and which to sunset. We can’t afford to migrate applications and workloads to cloud computing that are no longer used. This is your chance to clean things up a bit. Look at your company’s product lifecycles and gather data about application usage and mission criticality.
- Group the “keep” workloads into those already in the cloud computing, and those that are on premises:
Then, group the “keep” workloads into those already in cloud computing and those that are on‑premises.
Your organization may have already taken advantage of the cloud in some capacity. It’s almost impossible, for example, to avoid Microsoft Office 365 or Google Docs.
- Create a decision matrix for on premises workloads using the “five rs”:
And even with the existing applications that we decide to keep, we may not migrate them all to cloud computing.
Cloud computing isn’t the answer for everything, and some workloads simply may need to stay on‑premises. And that’s where we can use some frameworks like Gartner’s Five R’s, which we’ll talk about in a moment, to determine whether applications should go to the cloud, and if so, what our approach should be to get them there.
- Modernize infrastructure:
During the launching phase, we look at ways to modernize infrastructure in cloud computing. For example, we’ll assess each app or workload for cloud fit and form a strategy around migrating into the cloud, keeping it where it is, or retiring the workload altogether.
For apps that we want to go to the cloud, we have to assess the best ways to migrate them and run them in cloud computing. And again, there are a few frameworks for this, such as Gartner’s Five R’s.
- Change organizational culture:
We will also need to champion organizational change. Working in cloud computing is different than traditional work. We need to understand how to best approach working in the cloud with things like DevOps and ITIL best practices. We also need to instill a culture of education. Especially in the cloud, our people need to be able to experiment and educate themselves on cloud topics. And by the way, CloudComputingAdvices.com is a great way to do that.
Five Rs of Application Migration
And here are Gartner’s Five R’s of application migration. When we’re trying to figure out which applications to migrate to cloud computing and how exactly to do that, this framework works very well.
The first R is rehost. In this alternative, you “lift and shift” your application from its current physical or virtual environment onto a cloud infrastructure as a service or container as a service.
In revise, you modify your applications so that they can begin to take advantage of cloud capabilities for elasticity and minimize resource use. Revising means that we modify it so it works with some cloud‑native features like auto‑scaling. Rearchitect means we materially alter the application so that we can shift it to a cloud‑optimized architecture.
Rearchitected means making significant sweeping changes to the application’s code so that it can be more cloud-native.
Rebuilding means we rebuild the application again, but in the cloud, and using cloud‑native tools and processes.
And finally, replace. In this alternative, we are giving up on the COTS software package and replacing it with usually a SaaS solution.
Enterprise cloud computing strategy ready to go
When you’re finished with all three of these stages, you should have an enterprise cloud strategy ready to go, and I recommend these sections as a cloud strategy baseline. You should, of course, modify them to meet your specific organizational needs.
Understand How Working in the Cloud Changes Organizational Culture
We’re going to talk about how the cloud means rethinking some aspects of our organizational culture:
- 1. First, we’ll talk about nurturing a culture of education in everything we do.
- 2. Then we’ll understand how the cloud changes the nature of IT work,
- 3. And to wrap things up, we’ll talk about building a cloud exit strategy.
Change Organizational Culture: Nurture a Culture of Education
Cloud computing moves and changes quickly, so it’s essential that we promote a culture of education, including a safe environment in which to experiment.
Building a culture of education not only means making money available for training, like Pluralsight, but developing a culture based on the scientific method.
We must build the institutional structures and promote the psychological safety that allows teams, as well as individuals, to be curious, to ask questions, and to sense the technology because it changes all the time.
Curiosity should lead to research. We should encourage our teams and individuals to dive into the latest research, and of course, there are many avenues for this, like Pluralsight, books, think tanks like Gartner, and academic journals.
The research should lead to hypotheses about how something could be done better or more efficiently.
And then we need to set up experimental environments so these hypotheses can be tested. We need to allow for testing, failure, testing again, failure again, etc., etc. Some hypotheses will work, many will fail. That’s part of educational culture.
Understand How the Cloud Computing Changes the Nature of Work
Understand how cloud computing changes the nature of IT work. The cloud can allow us to gain unprecedented efficiencies and capabilities, but only if we understand how to do work in the cloud.
Unlimited scalability, limited human resources:
In the cloud, resources are nearly unlimited. Well, as long as you have the budget, right? But people and teams have cognitive limits, often called cognitive load.
Rapidly evolving technology:
Cloud computing changes and evolves rapidly. Take a look at the service list on Google Cloud from one month to the next, and you’ll likely see something new and improved or changed.
In cloud computing, everything is as a service, meaning that even hardware is virtualized and treated as a software construct.
Systems in the cloud are built with smaller, disposable components. Often, if a component fails, we simply replace it instead of attempting to repair it. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of containers.
Three Approaches to successfully working in cloud computing
The good news is that there are well-researched and practiced approaches to successfully working in cloud computing, and I present three philosophies here but understand that there are others.
The first one is DevOps. Everyone’s heard of DevOps, but what is it? Well, there are a lot of courses on DevOps, and the rest of this learning path talks a lot about DevOps as well if you’re interested.
But basically, the acronym CALMS, proposed by Damon Edwards and Jez Humble, two of the founders of DevOps, sums up DevOps very well:
- C is for a culture of busting down silos, total transparency and visible work, collaboration, fast failure, and feedback. Accidents are normal emergent properties of complex systems. Tooling and culture are interrelated.
- A is automation and running operations more like a software development function. The less human hands are in systems, the less failure we introduce.
- L is Lean means doing things in small batch sizes with continuous integration and continuous delivery,
- M is measurement, measure and monitor systems with advanced data and analytics tools.
- S is sharing. Share in and learn from each other’s failure. Failure should be seen as a learning experience. Collaborate among many different types of teams.
Site reliability engineering, or SRE:
Site reliability engineering, or SRE, is closely related to DevOps and was invented by Google as a practice to run their large systems like Google Search. Think of SRE like NASA mission control. SRE teams are constantly monitoring and finding ways to automate their systems.
Information Technology Infrastructure Library, ITIL
ITIL began as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a body of standards used by the UK government to streamline IT management, notably service management. But ITIL is now used worldwide.
Build a Cloud Exit Strategy
Build a Cloud Exit Strategy. Believe it or not, you may need to exit the cloud. So the time to create an exit strategy is before you commit to any cloud offering.
There are three main reasons why you need an exit strategy, but these aren’t the only reasons, they’re just the big ones.
- Avoid vendor lock-in
Number one is to avoid vendor lock‑in. Avoid relying totally on one vendor for your systems and data. Vendor lock‑in allows the vendor to have control over how much they charge you, for example, for cloud services.
- Outgrow SaaS
The second one is you can outgrow the SaaS solution that you purchased. Even the best SaaS solutions on the market today might one day be overshadowed by a better, more functional substitute.
- Significant changes in the vendor’s cloud offerings
And the third one is significant changes. Public cloud vendors are always changing and improving their products. They also sunset products. So if you are using a product that a public cloud vendor offered and they decide to sunset it, you may need to exit that public cloud vendor.
By this point in your cloud computing strategy journey, you have the data and systems cataloged in such a way that creating an exit strategy should not be a monumental endeavor.