What to Consider in a Cloud Business Case

Good and Bad Clouds

Moving to the cloud can bring sunshine or floods.  In a successful move, people will cheer and the sun will shine favorably upon IT.  In a failure, dark clouds will hover and bring pain.  Being successful with the cloud all depends on what key people in the company know before getting into with the cloud.  This is where having a solid cloud business case can help achieve success.

Business Needs

When considering the a move to the cloud, the business needs to identify what they want to achieve with the move.  Does you business want to move quicker than the competition?   Or does your business want to reduce costs?   Or are there some other business goal?  Once the business identifies the key goal(s), IT needs to translate it into IT specific goals in the cloud business case.  By driving down to IT specific goals, IT can look at the current state and work to determine the benefit to the organization.

With IT specific goals, IT can measure the current state of key processes.  The act of measuring these needs to include all the costs in the key processes, like:

  • Time
  • Facility costs
  • Training and skills up keep
  • People costs

By capturing these numbers for a cloud business case, IT knows where it stands today and can work out the exact benefit of moving to the cloud.  In some global organizations, there are hundreds, if not thousands of IT projects, which could be moved to the cloud.

When building a cloud business case, consider your key Tier 1 applications.  In large organizations, there are too many applications to consider in a cloud business case.  By focusing on Tier 1 applications, saves time on building the cloud business case.   A cloud business case needs to consider the act of migrating these Tier 1 projects to the cloud.

Cloud Migration

Cloud migration is going to be critical to a cloud business case, as this can make or break a move to the cloud.  In an AWS blog post, the post identified six strategies to migrating an application to the cloud.  The six strategies are:

  • Rehosting – (lift-and-shift) is a simple move of the app to the cloud
  • Replatforming – (lift-tinker-and-shift) Move an app with a bit of cloud optimization, but no architecture changes
  • Repurchaising – Move to a SaaS platform
  • Refactoring/Re-architecting – Build a cloud native application
  • Retire – Get rid of it
  • Retain – Revisit it later and do nothing with it now

Each application considered for the cloud will need to be compared against these six strategies before moving to the cloud.  For a cloud business case, it should not include this for every application.  Remember focus on the key Tier 1 applications, to account for the time and cost involved in migration.  When a cloud migration effort starts in a company, it should utilize a migration factory.

With a large number of projects migrating to the cloud, IT needs to set up a migration factory.  A migration factory will allow the migration teams to share knowledge and experience.  This helps improve migrations over time, which increases the success of a move to the cloud.  Remember using the cloud is not a simple task, it requires skilled people to obtain success.

The Human Equation

If a company is not using the cloud today, most likely the IT staff is not experienced with the cloud.  Lack of resources/expertise was the number one challenge in moving to the cloud in RightScale’s 2016 State of the Cloud Report.  A cloud business case, needs to address how to handle the organization’s knowledge gap, as this is issue is going to put at risk a move to the cloud.  One potential answer is creating a Cloud Center of Excellence.

Creating a Cloud Center of Excellence is a great answer to dealing with a organization’s cloud knowledge gap.  This will get people prepared for the move to the cloud and prepare them to best use the six migration strategies when working in the migration factory.  It is key people are trained and are comfortable with the cloud before migrating to the cloud.  Otherwise, a move to the cloud is under great risk of failing.  Another area to fail in a cloud business case, is not focusing properly on the numbers.

The Financial Perspective

Any good cloud business case will have clear and all-inclusive numbers showing the costs along with the financial benefits.  However, many people do not know the true costs of their environments, as the costs are spread across a number of groups within the organization.  Most people know the costs of staff, software, hardware and related costs, but they are less likely to know the costs of the infrastructure and facilities.  The costs of the cloud are even more elusive.

The costs in the cloud can vary wildly along with the various payment methods.  It is up to IT staff too understand the different pricing models available from the clouds under consideration.  Selecting the correct pricing models for a given situation is critical to the success of moving to the cloud.  Selecting the wrong pricing model for a given situation can send costs skyrocketing.  Many cloud providers have tools to help manage costs.  AWS has Trusted Advisor to help with costs and much more.

Many cloud providers have TCO calculators, like AWS’ TCO Calculator, these calculators can help bring the hidden costs to the forefront.  This helps create a better cloud business case, which allows for fact-based discussions about the move to the cloud.

Final Words on Cloud Business Case

A move to the cloud can bring rain or shine.  For success, it is key an organization creates a high-quality cloud business case aligned with business goals to achieve a successful outcome.  The business case needs to include the costs of preparing people for the transition along with all the numbers, so management can make an informed decision on the move to the cloud.