There’s no denying that migrating to the cloud unlocks multiple benefits for organizations looking to modernize their IT infrastructure. However, the journey to truly unlock the benefits of the cloud and experience its full potential can bring some unforeseen challenges. We can all agree that no two cloud journeys are alike, but having worked on several cloud migration projects, I have uncovered three common challenges that organizations face when migrating to the cloud if they haven’t spent enough time researching and planning.
Prematurely Locking in Cloud Vendors and Solutions
Migrating applications to a cloud vendor is not something that you rush. Look holistically at the vendors, their offerings and the needs of your organization before you sign a contract. Make sure that the vendor is able to keep pace with your migration without negatively impacting your productivity. This will avoid the need to switch vendors once the migration has begun.
In addition, choosing a single cloud or multi-cloud solution is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. Committing to a multi-cloud strategy means that you will also be committing to a vendor’s multi-cloud ecosystem to handle data synchronization and failover. Committing to a single cloud approach means your software vendor strategy may be different. For example, you may lean more on a vendor’s proprietary managed services, such as a specific database. Deciding later to move from a single cloud to multi-cloud approach, which requires moving data between clouds, is complex and expensive.
Focus on the Broader Picture
The anticipation of building new things on the cloud can cause some organizations to act first, without taking into consideration how all of their existing systems will work in a new cloud-first environment. They forget to examine the whole environment and take the broader picture into account. Some older applications may not be worth moving to the cloud – they may even end up being slower or more difficult to use in a cloud configuration, especially if the software architecture or program language is not compatible with a cloud environment. For these applications, it may be best to leave them on-prem.
When you do move processes, software and applications to the cloud, it often triggers subsequent things that you did not expect. Very often, you can’t use the same code and development paradigm and expect it to work seamlessly. There will likely be compatibility issues such as libraries or runtime that require the re-writing of code. Don’t have stagnant thinking. A lot of things that you think are trivial are not, especially when your software and applications may be outdated, incompatible or not supported by the cloud.
Treating Employee Cloud Adoption as an Afterthought
Often, there is confusion or misalignment on exactly what benefits a new ecosystem provides, especially in organizations that have had the same processes in place for many years. This can lead to a lack of alignment on the cloud outcome. Getting employees on board with cloud adoption and integration shouldn’t be an afterthought. If you are building a replacement platform, it needs to have enough features for it to be useful and adopted, or users will continue to use the two systems (the one you are building and the one that has been there for a long time) in parallel, which will slow down and hurt the credibility of the transformation process. Eventually, you need to sunset the other system. In the meantime, you will have to maintain those two systems in parallel, keeping a lot of systems in sync to make it work for the company, which is both complex and expensive.
Tips for Cloud Modernization Success
So, with those common challenges identified, the next logical question is, how can I avoid these challenges? Having helped several organizations on their cloud transformation journey, I have learned several things. Most of the pitfalls that I’ve faced could have been avoided entirely by spending more time researching and planning. Proper planning will help eliminate a lot of potential challenges before they become a problem and you’re scrambling to find a solution. Here are a few tips that I’ve identified over the years:
- This process is a journey, and it’s about transforming technology, processes and practices.
- Reach out to all the relevant stakeholders in your organization. Take the time to have meaningful conversations and set expectations for the project clearly.
- Hold managers accountable for providing cloud training and certifications.
- Get the finance team engaged from the very beginning to manage financial expectations.
- Take a holistic look at the entire environment and architecture. Stay focused on the bigger picture instead of getting bogged down by little details.
- Cloud modernization requires a lot of background work and research. Take the time to figure out if you need a multi-cloud or a single cloud strategy. Consider how your business processes will evolve and if they require a specific vendor or a vendor-neutral cloud offering.
- Review your existing software and determine what makes sense to take with you. Sometimes it’s cheaper to update, re-write or re-engineer older applications ahead of a cloud migration, but some software may be best suited to leave on-prem.
- To experience the full benefits of the cloud, it’s better to take a multi-prong approach that combines rewriting and consolidating, lifting and shifting, and leveraging cloud services – you can even leverage all the approaches for migrating the same monolithic application.
- Plan out your adoption path for cloud transformed systems and include an incremental sunset program for old applications. This will streamline the process and help show progress.
- Map out a repeatable playbook. Measure success based on the execution of the outcomes and use your success to develop a process for the rest of the company.
I began this article by stating that no two cloud modernization journeys are alike. While that is certainly true, many of the challenges outlined above often seem to rear their ugly head when these journeys are underway. By understanding common challenges and then implementing some of the tips outlined above, you will be better prepared to address challenges when they arise.
By Damian Ng, Senior Vice President of Technology at Anywhere Real Estate
Damian Ng, Senior Vice President of Technology at Anywhere Real Estate Inc., is a technology leader with more than 25 years of global experience. He is responsible for defining and implementing Anywhere’s next technology journey, owning Enterprise Architecture, Application Modernization, Operations and Application Reliability across all business units. His previous work includes engineering and architecture leadership positions at companies like Cigna, Evernorth Health Services, PayPal, Visa and numerous digital agencies. Accreditations include a Master of Management Science from University of Waterloo and Bachelor of Science from University of Toronto.