5 expert tips to help leaders migrate to the cloud

2 Jun 2021

Image: © Denys Rudyi/Stock.adobe.com

Two cloud experts from Amazon Web Services discuss their top tips to help businesses successfully migrate to the cloud.

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Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is one of the leading cloud service providers on the market, so experts within the business can offer some solid advice for leaders when it comes to migrating to the cloud.

Mark Schwartz is an enterprise strategist at AWS and Paul Hannan is the UK enterprise technology lead at AWS.

Before working at AWS, Schwartz was CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the Department of Homeland Security, where he oversaw massive digital transformation and gleaned many of his top tips.

Meanwhile, Hannan speaks to many IT and business leaders about how to accelerate and de-risk their adoption of cloud technology. Prior to joining AWS, he oversaw a major transformation to the cloud as CTO at a large UK utility. His advice focuses on how organisations can avoid some of the common traps when trying to migrate to the cloud.

Beware of analysis paralysis

According to Schwartz, deploying cloud technology is the easy part – but he said it’s easy to get tied up in trying to make decisions at the start and getting struck with analysis paralysis.

“It’s simple to take out your credit card and spin up some virtual machines in the cloud,” he said. But when you’re selecting development technologies, people advocating for different software development platforms can become a huge drain on time and resources.

Schwartz said the answer is simply not allow that to happen. “Flip a coin and move on. You have more important things to do.”

Let employees drive solutions

Another obstacle for companies that want to migrate to the cloud or carry out any level of digital transformation is when there are rigid, bureaucratic processes in place.

Reflecting on his time at USCIS, Schwartz said the trick is to set the right goals and give teams the creative freedom to suggest how to reach them. He did this with a quality assurance team, which was so focused on upholding quality that it would often prevent systems from going into production.

So, Schwartz changed the QA goals and parameters. “I told them their job was not to stop systems of low quality going into production, but to ensure everything was built to a high level of quality to start with,” he said.

However, one caveat was that developers could hit the deploy button at any time, without permission from QA. The QA team soon came up with periodic reviews and developer training so they could effectively build quality into products rather than assess them after the fact.

“I was so happy. The QA team had started to think creatively about how to further the transformation rather than being an obstacle,” he said.

Don’t expect new tech to work with old systems

Hannan said there is a common issue where those who deliver new opportunities via new technologies often work separately to a company’s traditional IT team, which can cause problems when trying to scale an initiative.

“These organisations often fall into the trap of asking their very traditional IT department – that’s used to managing risk via rigid processes and on-premise technology – to deliver a transformation in the way their technology is managed and operated, without realising the scale of organisational change that needs to be in place to make this happen quickly and efficiently,” said Hannan.

“As leaders, our challenge is to bring the best of both of those approaches together – the ability to innovate at scale, but in a secure and reliable manner that protects the assets of our organisations.”

Give your cloud team autonomy

Sometimes, cloud teams are set up as a sub-team of people still following the same reporting lines, accountable to the same people as before, rather than a brand new team.

“Traditional enterprise IT often acts like antibodies – they’re wonderful at crushing new ways of doing things,” said Hannan. To overcome this, businesses need to ensure their cloud team has the autonomy to make decisions that will deliver the right business outcomes.

“You must also engage other corporate areas in the transformation – audit, accounts payable, legal, procurement and so on. Otherwise everything runs the risk of slowing down,” he said.

Address a culture that resists change

Hannan also warned that any organisation undergoing large-scale transformation will encounter ‘anchors’ – people who will slow down the process because they are uncomfortable with change.

He said one of the common traps companies fall into is allowing the pace to slow to keep previous processes in place and keep these ‘anchors’ happy.

Hannan said leaders of organisations must facilitate the smooth adoption of change in order to successfully migrate to the cloud. “In a world where a constant state of change is becoming the norm, we have to create cultures and organisations that can embrace change and adapt quickly,” he said. “Change your culture to fit cloud and you’ll fly.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic