Five years have whizzed by if you were an early adopter of cloud. And the market now looks very different. It has consolidated to a smaller number of big players, their service offerings are more complex and technology has moved on enormously – especially with regards to improving systems’ agility to allow continuous development and operation.
Some of the companies we work with are now at the point where they’re contemplating re-platforming their first generation cloud-hosted solution. And they’re asking how they can transition to one that offers greater agility while avoiding significant business disruption.
One public sector organisation we recently partnered with successfully transitioned its large and complex IT system from an inflexible local cloud provider onto a new Amazon Web Services infrastructure in five days without any problems.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? But only in the same way performers in a West End musical make two hours of song and dance look effortless. Like a good show, staging a cloud migration requires a lot of careful preparation. We’ve found there are three key ingredients that must be in place to achieve a successful cloud re-platform.
Don’t rush things – allow time for plenty of initial analysis and planning
Start by examining the acceptance criteria for the transition. This will ensure you have a clear view of what a successful implementation looks like before you start, and that critical elements are planned early on (for example, security of customer data is paramount and should drive the technical solution). A feasibility assessment is carried out to preserve initial technology options rather than narrowing down to one from the outset: this will allow for changes in direction. Areas of risk and focus, such as integrating legacy infrastructure or disrupting business operations, are called out early to set expectations with the business.
Start, and maintain, communication with all players involved
If you gain high levels of engagement with the business teams, stakeholders and third parties involved in your transition from the outset, you’ll ensure they’re committed to responding swiftly to decision requests and have a clear understanding of the big picture. We’ve seen organisations achieve this engagement by setting up working groups and hot house planning sessions, regularly briefing suppliers and providing ongoing firm-wide communication through weekly blogs. And in these organisations, the inevitable changes and issues were resolved far more quickly and led to a well-rehearsed and granular transition plan.
Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again
This will allow you to discover and resolve complications early on. This is particularly important for third party service integration – a problem there can cause a project to overrun or even fail if it remains hidden until the live cutover. Rehearsals will also ensure everyone, including the new cloud provider who will be keen to ensure migrations are a success, have a clear and practiced view of their actions for when the time comes for cutover.
Over the past five years the pace of change in cloud deployments has been exhilarating. Many organisations, including those in the traditionally conservative public sector, are now at the point where they want to evolve the way they use cloud and to achieve even greater benefits. Our experience shows it’s possible to re-platform cloud systems with minimum disruption – but only if you treat it as you would a carefully choreographed show.