These days it seems that everyone’s jumping on the high speed train – destination - “The Cloud”. Most have some well thought out reasons for doing so. Others seem to be jumping on the train because it’s “all the buzz” and “everyone else is on board, so it must be the right thing to do”. Gartner, Forrester and others have many polls that show the top reasons that companies are migrating to the Cloud. They also have many statistics that show exactly what type of workloads are being moved, what type of Clouds they’re being moved to, the top Providers being selected and much more. Access to all of this type of information can be very helpful in understanding what others in your vertical or in your market are doing.
Typically, when we look at what workloads we should move to the Cloud, we’re asking a lot of very important questions – most of which relate to the technology itself. At a high level, we are asking about things that relate to performance, reliability, scalability, security, compliance, disaster recovery, development/test environments and many, many others. Whether it’s off-the-shelf software, custom developed software or anything in between, we want to be sure that our workloads will function as well or better in the Cloud as they do on premise. If we can do it all for less cost in the Cloud, it’s a big win for both the IT organization and the business at large. Great! All aboard. Destination - The Cloud!
The point I’d like to make is that many of the surveys and studies done show industry trends and directions from a technology perspective only. Yet, when you read the studies and further investigate all the good information about what workloads are being moved (the technical considerations) you’ll also find what I would argue to be the most compelling reasons to move to the Cloud. For example, a recent study by Gartner polled companies who have moved a variety of workloads to the Cloud and who have successfully run those workloads in the Cloud over time. When asked what the number one benefit they realized from moving to the Cloud, somewhat surprisingly, they did not say “cost savings”, nor did they say anything relating to all of the technical questions and considerations referenced above. In fact, in the Gartner poll, 66% said that the number one benefit in moving to the Cloud was “Business Agility”. Only 10% said “Cost Savings”; 12% said “Improve QOS”; 10% said “Business Alignment”.
So, according to this study and others like it, if Business Agility (business benefit) is reported as the biggest benefit in moving to the Cloud, then why are we still leading the Cloud discussion with questions about the technology itself? To be sure, we have to get the technology right or there will be no business benefit. But shouldn’t we be first asking questions such as ‘which workloads should we move to the Cloud that will provide the biggest business benefit?’ Shouldn’t we at least prioritize what to move to the Cloud (and when) based on business benefit? Wouldn’t we want to know how can we use the Cloud to implement existing systems or introduce new systems that will allow us to reach new target markets, deliver new products and services, gain competitive advantage, etc.? I would suggest it’s far less important where our workloads run than it is about how we can get the biggest business benefit from those workloads. A simple “lift and shift” of those workloads from on premise to the Cloud buys us some cost savings at best. How to implement those workloads or maybe new workloads in the Cloud better, faster, and yes, cheaper can focus those workloads at operational efficiencies that can create business advantages which in turn can facilitate top line business growth. Cost savings are great, but they don’t compare to those factors that leverage the cloud to achieve what Gartner and others report as the biggest benefit of the Cloud – Business Agility – top line business growth. Stated another way, “It’s great to save 20% of your IT budget; It’s even better to use technology to grow your business by 20%”.
The technical questions and considerations of moving to the Cloud are indeed very important, but I would suggest that they’re neither the first nor the most important question to be asked. Consider viewing the Cloud through a business focused, business advantage lens first. You’ll find the outcome and the implementation timeline for Cloud computing can be very different and the business impact and the ROI to be much more favorable. Surprisingly, you’ll also find the technology questions are much easier to answer as well. Looking at the big picture, if you don’t look at business advantage first, your market competition will, and they’ll be the ones gaining competitive advantage and market share.