For the last few years, we have been hearing about the benefits (and all the permutations!) of the cloud. And at this point, many of us agree the benefits are sizable and beneficial. So, now that you have finally agreed that it’s time to move to the cloud, what’s next?
First off, it’s worth noting that moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. In fact, the best strategy often is to start by solving a specific problem or taking advantage of a good opportunity. Companies that weren’t “born in the cloud” – meaning any company more than a couple of years old – need a plan for going cloud. What new approaches will you adopt in the cloud? What systems will you sunset and transition to cloud in the next incarnation? What systems work today and will always stay as they are? You may never be 100 percent cloud – and that’s OK.
But to begin to go cloud, you do need a plan. And to help, here are a few strategies and things to think about as you begin your transition to the cloud.
Be Clear on the Problem you are Solving
Moving to the cloud should be driven by a real business problem, not by an abstract desire to be in the cloud. For example, do you need a new HR management solution? Consider starting there. Evaluate the cloud offerings in that space, like Workday, SuccessFactors, and others. You’ll likely have a faster implementation by going cloud, which means you’ll get value fast and you’ll be able to start your transition without ripping out something that’s working. And chances are that you’ll save money in the process.
Leverage the Cloud to Rethink the Way you do Things
One of the major advantages of cloud services is that they offer a completely new way of doing things, whether in capabilities or pricing. If you have decided to move a system to the cloud, don’t just replicate what you already have. Think of ways to leverage flexible pricing, elasticity, and instant provisioning.
Cloud data warehouses are one example of new approaches to old problems. Systems like Amazon Redshift and Google BigQuery can be set up in minutes, as opposed to weeks, and can scale to fit the size of your data. These systems are optimized for analytics and they offer a path to insight from big data from devices, social media, or machine systems.
Be as Flexible as the Cloud
The cloud is in a stage of rapid evolution. You have the possibility of prototyping as you go, and adding volume when you have it right. Keep an eye on new technologies and see how you can fit them into your workflows. Your best architecture today may not be your best architecture in a year, or even six months. A bit of tweaking can save you a lot of money.
As you consider new services, take advantage of the flexibility in the cloud. Elasticity is a characteristic of many cloud services. This means you can use (and pay for) a small amount at first and then scale dramatically when your concept is proven out. In the cloud, you can try things out without having to commit massive infrastructure or licensing costs up front.
You also can take advantage of different services to change your cost structure. For example, shifting your file system storage from Amazon S3 to the Amazon Glacier product, which offers slower access at a better cost, can save two thirds of your storage costs for your data lake.
Plan for Growth
One of the advantages of a cloud infrastructure is that you can scale up easily – as long as you have the right infrastructure. Take the time up front to get your systems working, as you want them, whether they are cloud applications, data, or analytics.
For example, you may be able to scale up your data collection overnight in the cloud – but if you’ve set up the wrong schema for collecting it, you’ll have a lot of fixing to do. If your business starts growing, a good system can go a long way with you – but a bad one will only add to your headaches.
Give your Users a Hand (or at Least a Single Sign-on Solution)
One of the challenges with moving to the cloud is that your users may end up with a number of different username and password combinations to remember. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Single Sign-On (SSO) solutions like OneLogin and others let your users use one password for many applications. This can significantly reduce headaches and make users more open to adopting new solutions. It’s a good idea to favor solutions that use SAML or OAuth, so that you can make use of an SSO solution when you are ready.
Enable your Organization Broadly
Consider ways to allow many people to leverage the cloud. The cloud makes mobile access easy, so think about which applications would be more valuable if you integrated them into the flow of business better. For example, could you give your sales team mobile access to the CRM system, or recruiters access to the HR system for when they are at events?
You can add even more value by broadening access to data. If you are building a data infrastructure in the cloud, think about how your businesspeople will be able to use that data. If you are moving to cloud applications, think about how you’ll integrate the data with other data in your enterprise. Otherwise, the limiting factor in your cloud infrastructure will be the time of your data scientists.
One way to do this is to offer access to data, and the insights from it, via an analytics platform that can connect to several different kinds of data. This helps people who know your business and who have the appropriate security access get value from your data, and from the cloud. And you don’t have to change your analytics platform every time you adopt a new data service.
Those are just a few strategies for moving to the cloud. The good news about the cloud is that it’s flexible, so different approaches will work. Be intentional, be incremental, and enjoy the atmosphere.
Ellie Fields is the Vice President of Product Marketing at Tableau. Ellie joined Tableau in the early stages of the company in 2008 and is part of the core team that has fueled the growth and success of Tableau’s products. In particular, she launched and oversees the development and growth of Tableau Public, which has served more than 200 million impressions. Tableau Public is a unique product, popular among journalists, developed for anyone that wants to easily publish interactive data on the web. Ellie also helped launch the company’s new cloud analytics product, Tableau Online. Prior to Tableau, Ellie worked in product management at Microsoft and as an associate in late-stage venture capital. Ellie hold B.S. and B.A. degrees in Engineering from Rice University and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
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