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Successful hybrid cloud projects require a detailed roadmap

There are many reasons to embark on a cloud transformation. To execute on the right strategy, be clear on what those are.

There's no question that some of the most enjoyable journeys in life can be of an ad hoc nature. Hopping in the car for a spontaneous vacation or an unplanned cross-country drive with only the endpoint in mind can be memorable and a lot of fun. But when your destination is a cloud transformation, getting started without a defined outcome in mind, or identified steps to lead you there, is a recipe for disaster. Organizations that want to undertake a cloud-everywhere transformation should ask themselves a fundamental question: "Just what kind of transformation—or transformations—will we need to accomplish?" Or put more simply, "Why are we doing this?"

Define cloud for your organization

First and foremost, you need clarity on what cloud means for your organization. This sounds like a simple question, but answers can vary widely, and correctly defining cloud can have far-reaching impacts for your organization. Some might define cloud as automated provisioning of services on premises; others may define it as software as a service; others may think purely of public cloud.

The reality is that cloud is not a destination or a specific technical platform but an experience. Cloud is a different operating model for IT, one that injects automation and agile practices to deliver an agile and flexible business that can continuously adapt and succeed in any market environment. Focusing on experience and outcomes departs from the usual way organizations traditionally have solved their IT issues.

Please read: Five strategic patterns for successful digital transformation

Rather than worry about speeds, feeds, features, and performance, organizations will get further by determining how they want to operate and what they hope to get done. They can use as-a-service technologies to change the way the organization performs specific functions, and they can drive outcomes that improve overall IT capability and deliver improvements to the business process.

People, process, and technology

Success with cloud transformation relies on the people who are involved at all stages of the transformation, the processes the organization sets up to enable the people to be effective, and the technology choices that enable the transformation. The most common desired outcomes of a cloud transformation are enabled by this combination of people, process, and technology:

  • Culture change is at the intersection of people and process. Organizations are looking to find ways to break away from the status quo and the mentality of "this is how we have always done things."
  • Time to value is accelerated by getting the best out of process and technology. It is not merely about the automation of software development and deployment but about improving the entire value chain.
  • Innovation is driven by people applying technology to come up with new ideas. Cloud models help organizations use data, experiment, and innovate much faster than they were able to before.

Infrastructures, platforms, and workloads

The technology choices enterprises make during their cloud transformation shape their outcomes. These choices tend to fall into three categories: transformations that deal with infrastructure, others that focus on platforms and data, and a third set that redefines workloads. And never forget that woven throughout all these transformational activities is the necessity of considering the people involved, their current and new roles, and their buy-in to the process.

Organizations need to determine the type of transformation they hope to accomplish and then move to adopt the right technology—or combination of technologies—to get where they need to go. Starting with a thorough evaluation of the current state of operations across their enterprise, they need to ask the question, "How do we do this?" And then they need to be prepared to answer any logical follow-up questions, the most important of which are, "What is the experience we're looking for" and "What are the outcomes we expect to drive?" How does the cloud-everywhere approach, and an overall as-a-service technology delivery model, change the way you do business?

Please read: Transform your customer experience to unleash your company's full potential

Quite often, this is also the first strategic fork in the decision process: Is the desired outcome to save money or drive revenue? While these outcomes are not mutually exclusive, the underlying mindset can often drive different approaches to the eventual outcome.

At the core, the reasoning is simple: Unless you have a modern IT operating model, it's very difficult for you to be able to drive business model innovation that relies on technology. It's really about figuring out how to enable IT to pivot at the speed of business.

Infrastructure transformation

Delivering a cloud-everywhere experience almost mandates the use of an as-a-service delivery model. Infrastructure transformations give organizations the opportunity to "consume" infrastructure in a different way than they're used to. Rather than getting into an endless cycle of buying more server or storage capacity, organizations can adopt an elastic, consumption-based infrastructure model. Offloading infrastructure management to a third party helps the business take advantage of optimized and predictable costs and helps IT achieve operational simplicity. Leveraging such an IaaS model themselves enables the business to align infrastructure spending to demand and drive continual rounds of cost savings. This ensures they are paying only for what they need, when they need it.

Platform and data transformations

Organizations that are focused on rapid innovation will want to make platform and data transformation a priority, leveraging technologies such as containers, database services, or private cloud resources. This allows data to be used differently and apps to be developed differently. For business, it's about encouraging the development of prioritized services that help get work done. They also help the organization get to market faster and take fewer cycles to generate bottom-line value for a project. For IT, it's about becoming more agile and effective. Supporting DevOps and agile initiatives, these transformations free up resources for value creation, facilitate faster global deployments, open up opportunities to leverage infrastructure as code, and enable teams to do a better job meeting business goals and requirements.

Workload transformations

With workload transformations, customers consume and use workloads as a service to support new business models and approaches. This can encompass a wide range of horizontal workloads such as ERP, desktop and productivity tools, and MLOps, or industry-specific workloads such as electronic health records, financial trading, or factory automation.

Businesses can achieve several outcomes by strategically shifting workloads to the cloud: They can streamline security and compliance, execute more efficient business processes, implement more predictable and value-driven cost structures, and create a steady flow of innovative apps and data solutions for customers.

Please read: Accelerating the future

IT, meanwhile, can shift more of its focus to delivering end-user services. It can also open opportunities for individual departments—meaning rapid changes at the departmental level, which often resulted in shadow IT being deployed, can now be done with the full blessing and support of internal IT. In moving much of the infrastructure maintenance to an as-a-service provider, existing IT resources can be more effectively utilized and deployed.

The path to cloud everywhere

Digital transformation and delivering the cloud-everywhere experience can seem like an overwhelming task, especially when organizations are sorting out priorities for a post-pandemic environment. The good news is there are a lot of new technologies and services, especially under pay-as-you-go and as-a-service models, that weren't available in the rush to cloud over the past few years. You can now drive positive outcomes, and a cloud-everywhere experience, while maintaining your hybrid cloud mix and taking advantage of the latest IT and business models. The key is to ask the right questions and set the right path. Understand what your options are, what your objective is, and what you're trying to achieve.

Sean Foley, a senior business technology leader at HPE, and Steven Fatigante, director of hybrid cloud transformation solutions at HPE, contributed to this story.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.