4 Steps to Business-IT Alignment for Cloud IaaS Adoption

IaaS Cloud

According to Gartner, you can successfully align your Cloud IaaS to your long-term business strategy by implementing 4 key steps: 1) Define the Scope, 2) Align to (or develop) IT strategy, 3) Create strategic plan for Cloud IaaS and 4) Create operational plan for Cloud IaaS.

Fragile Ecosystem

Your business is at a tremendous risk when your Cloud IaaS is not properly aligned to your long-term business strategy. Failure to do so can severally disrupt your enterprise ecosystem model. Suppose you have operated on premise throughout the duration of your business’s lifespan. End users and other departments have grown accustomed to its workings. They’ve undergone the technical training, mastered the learning curve and can maneuver these systems to accomplish their tasks with reasonable effectiveness. But in the IT department, you are on the forefront of managing these systems. You are painfully aware of the significant cost and labor that goes into keeping them stable so that, on their end, they run smoothly. You know a change is needed in order to lower costs, improve efficiency and minimize future incidents.

For this reason, you confront executives and announce that you’re abandoning the business’s on- premise infrastructure to invest in Cloud IaaS. You assure them that there are ways to migrate your infrastructure to the Cloud without disrupting current workloads, and the long-term gains on costs and efficiency will provide the edge that the business needs to be competitive. Besides, competitors around the globe are doing it – you need to be a part of this race. Fast forward into the future – end users are frustrated, departments are struggling to perform their workloads, productivity is suffering and, worst of all, it was just announced that the organization will be adjusting their core capabilities to adapt to changing needs within digital users – as strategies are being explored, structural changes across each department will be made to support online traffic, optimize the user experience and extend into new lines of business.

With the Cloud IaaS adoption still in effect, certain workloads await their migration. This will most likely pose significant challenges to the business’s initiative to streamline operations and optimize for digital users. It may delay or hinder the success of this transformation and force you to backtrack against changes already implemented. Worst of all, had you been aware of this upcoming shift, you would’ve been able to plan your Cloud IaaS migration to accommodate the changes and expedite the process for both the IT and business end. For you, sympathy is scarce. Failure to create Business-IT alignment, particularly within the context of Cloud [an obscure topic for most executives outside IT], leads to a reduced perception of your value by other departments. Participation in future planning is met with unease, and any ideas for advancement into the Cloud is delayed. If they are approved, people are reluctant to cooperate, resulting in reduced governance and oversight and further increasing the risk of yet another pending failure.

According to Gartner, this is the fate of those who do not ensure Business-IT alignment within their Cloud IaaS deployment. IT will suffer a loss of relevancy and governance, while the business will experience great inefficiency, extra cost and complexity and, worst of all, fall short in the race for innovation and agility. For these reasons, you should seek to establish Business-IT alignment well within the early stages of your Cloud IaaS planning. That way, you can align your new investment with your long-term business strategy and continuously optimize to drive successful business outcomes. According to Gartner, this can be done using a 4-step strategic planning process. This article will cover step 1- Define the Scope.

Step 1: Define the Scope

Small, mid and large-scale enterprise adoption of Cloud IaaS is still in its youth. For this reason, best practices to ensure successful adoption in order to optimize Business-IT alignment are still in development. In fact, the discussion of what constitutes a “successful IaaS adoption” rarely includes the criteria of ensuring proper alignment between business strategy and IT before migration. When plotting their Cloud IaaS migration, IT personnel are quick to rely on their preset skills to develop their unique strategy.

However, historical misalignment between their department and the long-term business strategy may exist, and if it persists across their future Cloud IaaS migration, IT will suffer a loss of relevancy and governance, and the business will experience inefficiency, extra cost and complexity, while missing out on the benefits of innovation and agility commonly afforded by the Cloud. According to Gartner, in order to ensure successful Business-IT alignment for your new Cloud IaaS adoption, you must first define the scope of your project. This is broken down into three parts.

  1. Establishing Definitions
  2. Determining Benefits and Challenges
  3. Evaluating Cloud Service Options

Establishing Definitions

The term “Cloud” is used liberally throughout IT departments. However, it does not adequately reflect the wide array of options that businesses have in making use of Cloud IaaS services. The possibilities vary greatly, ranging from simple hosting, colocation and virtualization on demand, to entire development platforms and managed application environments. While it may seem obvious, the critical first step in defining the scope of your Cloud IaaS adoption is to gain consensus on the different approaches to cloud infrastructure and deciding on which approach will fit best within your organization. That way, you can avoid confusion and future misunderstandings regarding how Cloud IaaS will be incorporated within your business.

According to Gartner, the number one goal should be to enhance education regarding the varying qualities of the different types of cloud computing, including private cloud (internal and hosted), the public cloud, the community cloud and the hybrid cloud. By becoming familiar with the details of their distinctions, you certify your expertise in Cloud solutions and can make more informed decisions about how Cloud will be incorporated within your business. Then, by offering this education to those outside of the IT department, you can construct a more effective business case for Cloud IaaS, defend against objections and gain the trust of individuals in other departments who may be feeling unease about the upcoming changes. Enhance education in the interim so that you can improve your credibility and make decisions from a more informed market perspective.

Determine Benefits and Challenges

“The Cloud” and its long list of applications carries with it an equally long list of benefits and challenges that Cloud IaaS may or may not invoke. Nonetheless, the likelihood of realizing the benefits and mitigating the challenges increases when the business case has been established and the advantages have been clearly communicated across the business. The goal is to create a balance between the quick wins, long term drivers and foreseeable challenges that may ensue across the journey of your Cloud IaaS adoption. According to Gartner, some business benefits that you may consider include faster time to impact business, lower barriers to experimentation, easier expansion (and contraction) and enabler of digital business (new business functions and models, new business ecosystems and partners).

It’s often misconstrued that Cloud IaaS is a quick and easy way to secure short term cost reductions, but this is the number one reason NOT to migrate to IaaS. Some IT benefits you may see include improved security, improved visibility of IT usage cost, reduction in technical debt and improved access to IT innovation. Challenges, however, may include restrictions on cloud usage due to compliance requirements and expense management and capacity planning [just to name a few]. It may be that this determination of benefits and challenges will be realized over a greater time frame. However, this is critical to defining the scope of your Cloud IaaS adoption and ensuring successful Business-IT alignment.

Evaluate Cloud Service Options

Another step in defining the scope of your Cloud IaaS project is selecting the type of cloud service provider(s). According to Gartner, there are 4 Cloud service options. These are based on an analysis of the projected benefits of your Cloud IaaS adoption and your company’s ability to manage the challenges associated with the migration. These 4 options include:

  • High and clear benefit with low and manageable challenges
  • High and clear benefit with high or unmanageable challenges
  • Low or uncertain benefit with low and manageable challenges
  • Low or uncertain benefit with high or unmanageable challenges

In the case where benefits are high and clear and challenges are low and manageable, embrace a Public Cloud solution. If benefits are high and clear but challenges are high or unmanageable, consider a Private Cloud solution. However, if benefits are low or uncertain and challenges are low and manageable, it may be best to engage in some experimentation to see if evidence unveils in favor of one approach. Yet, if benefits are low or uncertain and challenges are high or unmanageable, avoid a Cloud solution altogether until conditions in your environment change to better accommodate the Cloud. In this step, it will be your job to calculate the risk of pursuing the benefits you outlined previously and estimate whether you are suited to overcome the challenges.

While it may seem a bit early to consider types of IaaS providers, by including this step within your strategic planning process, you’ll be able to structure your research based on the hierarchal needs and goals of your business. This integrated approach will allow you to easily compare the subtle differences of each different solution, specifically regarding how they will help your organization reach its long-term business goals and generate positive business outcomes. Saving this step for last is a common blunder among IT executives but becoming informed sooner rather than later about different provider solutions in the market is an important step for ensuring Business-IT alignment for your Cloud IaaS adoption. In the early stages, your goal should be to obtain clarity early on about the conditions of your future cloud environment. That way, you’ll have a legitimate business case for which approach to choose once it comes time make the call. After you define the scope of your Cloud migration, you’ll be able to proceed onto the second step: Align to (or develop) your IT strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by IaaS in Cloud Computing?

Where the entirety of an organization’s information systems was once located and managed within internal data centers, thanks to advancements in information technology, we now live in the era of Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing is the delivery of IT resources and workloads over the internet for the purpose of generating performance improvements that lead to greater innovation and cost efficiencies. Within the context of Cloud, there are different types of Cloud Computing [public, private and hybrid] and different types of cloud services [IaaS, Paas, and SaaS]. Cloud IaaS refers to Infrastructure as a Service. This is the lowest level of Cloud services and refers to the process by which a customer [you] outsources the computational elements needed to power and supply their IT capabilities. This may include core compute, network, servers, Virtual Machines, data storage hardware, etc., and all the materials that go into maintaining IT operations. business it alignment

Is IaaS public cloud?

As stated, there are different types of Cloud Computing – Public, Private and Hybrid. This category refers to the nature by which your Cloud Solution (in this case IaaS) is being hosted. If an organization is engaging in the Private Cloud, it means their computing resources are isolated and delivered via a secure private network, hosted in either an on-premise environment or a 3rd party vendor’s off-site location [in the discussion of cloud, they are hosted by a 3rd party]. The primary technical difference between Public Cloud and Private Cloud Hosting is that Private Cloud Hosting offers clients a dedicated and secure environment that cannot be accessed by other customers. Because you have the option to select Public or Private cloud (or a combination of both – Hybrid Cloud), Cloud IaaS is not inherently a Public Cloud solution, but instead, it is a personal choice and discretionary detail of its application within your business. If you are currently in a fully on-premise environment, your Cloud IaaS migration will require you to outsource a portion or all of your infrastructure from a hosting provider, in which case, you will have to select between a Public, Private or Hybrid hosting solution.

How does Cloud IaaS Work?

The way Cloud IaaS works is the cloud provider owns and operates the computational assets and equipment and you essentially rent them out based on your scheduled needs. In doing so, you can reduce reliability on data centers and IT personnel and consume IT resources as you need them. By replacing capital expenditures with this pay-as-you-go operational expense model, you can optimize spending and redirect in-house focus away from cumbersome IT maintenance to valuable IT performance enhancements that lead to agility and innovation.

What is an example of Cloud IaaS?

A good example of Cloud IaaS is Del Monte. Del Monte, following tense pressure in the market, implemented Cloud IaaS within their organization and significantly reduced their IT costs within 4 months of its deployment. Most of their cost gains came from their ability to retire their physical data centers and take advantage of the resource provisioning elements of Cloud IaaS. This allowed them to shift focus from in-house IT maintenance to making product improvements and focusing on customer-driven initiatives. The Cloud IaaS adoption was also heavily supported by the business end, as upper executives across all departments were making sincere efforts to optimize operations and reduce costs. This is one of many success stories that serve as evidence in support of Cloud IaaS when strategic business planning is included within the development of Cloud initiatives.