Cloud plays an invaluable role in the future of business; it underpins nearly every digital transformation happening today. To stay competitive in the Digital Age, organizations must be able to rapidly respond to ever-changing customer needs, deliver services faster, keep employees connected and build more resilient applications — all while controlling costs. Cloud makes this possible. 

According to Gartner, 45 percent of IT spending will shift from traditional IT solutions to the cloud by 2024. Odds are your organization is already leveraging cloud in some form or fashion, whether you're hosting sporadic workloads in a public cloud or experimenting with microservices architectures. So, the question becomes: what's next, and how do we get there?

Organizations need a comprehensive strategy to expand their cloud presence, derive maximum value and maintain momentum in their cloud journey. In a recent TEC37 episode, we interviewed Maria Sterck, VP of Cloud Services for Reinsurance Group of America (RGA), to get her advice on how organizations can best move from cloud ready to cloud smart. Sterck shared six principles that guide her team's cloud strategy and encourage cultural transformation.

Security and risk control 

As data and applications relocate outside an organization's traditional perimeter, it introduces new vulnerabilities and security challenges. Whereas on-premise environments provide a more embedded security approach, cloud requires organizations to intentionally protect their assets. Developing a cloud security strategy is critical as one misconfiguration can cause an unwanted data leak. An organization's strategy should be a living document, continuously evolving to improve its security posture based on risk level. For example, business-critical applications with higher risk receive stricter security configurations, while non-business critical applications are allowed more flexibility. Having a framework in place allows organizations to make sound security decisions for their applications in the cloud. 

Maximize cloud benefits

A move to the cloud is an investment, both financially and culturally. Organizations must be willing to lift and transform, rather than simply lift and shift to get the most out of cloud. By evaluating the business value of their applications, organizations can determine the best migration approach per application and start prioritizing workloads. Consider asking: Which applications make most sense to refactor or rebuild now? And which applications should we lift and shift, then optimize later when resources are available? 

Repeatable, portable delivery

Portability, or the ability to seamlessly move applications across environments, is every organization's dream. And while it isn't exactly black and white, organizations can move farther down the portability spectrum by establishing repeatable processes. By documenting and communicating proven, repeatable processes, organizations can help reduce time, effort and budget while paving the way for cloud automation and technologies like containers that support greater portability. Establishing repeatable processes also allows organizations to set metrics, track process improvement and, most importantly, identify potential weaknesses.

Cloud first 

A cloud-first strategy refers to an organization's commitment to consider cloud-based solutions before anything else for new IT projects, initiatives and refreshes. It does not mean cloud is the only option. This is when cultural change comes into play as organizations must shift their mindset to ask questions through a cloud-first lens: Can this project be executed in the cloud? If so, how? If not, why not, and can we change that? 

Cloud first impacts other areas of the organization, too. For example, an organization's cloud procurement process should be very different from how they purchase traditional hardware and software as it doesn't require evaluating physical assets. Additionally, organizations might need to consider reorganizing their structure to dedicate more resources to cloud or change how they hire to acquire new talent skilled in cloud. The key is to understand that shifting to cloud first doesn't just impact IT; it can affect the entire organization.  

Maintain data center services 

A crucial component of being cloud smart is properly placing applications and realizing when cloud is not the right option. For many organizations, maintaining data center services is a smart decision for both technical and cultural reasons. Not only do most organizations want to avoid undermining their data center teams, but there's also a good chance they have applications that are better suited or required to stay on-prem for compliance reasons. The goal is to bring data center and cloud services teams together to create cohesive, standardized processes so everyone can be more productive, no matter the infrastructure platform.

Cost transparency 

Cloud transforms IT budget planning by shifting from capital expenses (CAPEX) to operating expenses (OPEX). This enables individual departments to budget for monthly cloud service costs, rather than rallying capital. By spreading ownership across the business, IT is no longer the gatekeeper of the infrastructure budget but instead can consult departments on expected costs and available services. Being proactive and providing as much transparency as possible allows departments to make informed decisions with little or no surprises. 

Are you ready to become cloud smart?

Moving from cloud ready to cloud smart can be an intimidating task. Instilling these six principles, building a culture that embraces change and celebrating small wins along the way can certainly make the transition easier and keep your organization on track to achieving its business goals.

Listen to the entire TEC37 podcast episode featuring Maria Sterck or contact us start planning your comprehensive cloud-smart strategy with our experts.