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Steps to Continuous Cloud Optimization

Cloud optimization is an ongoing task for any organization driven by data. If you don’t believe you need to optimize, or you’re already optimized, you may not have the data necessary to see where you’re over-provisioned and losing spend. Revisit the optimization pillars frequently to best evolve with and take advantage of everything the cloud has to offer.

Begin with the end in mind

The big question is, where are you trying to go? This question should constantly be revisited with internal stakeholders and business leaders. Define the process that will get you there and follow the order of operations identified to reach your optimization goal. Losing sight of the purpose, getting caught up in shiny new tools, or failing to incorporate the right teams could lead you off path.

Empower someone to drive the process

This is pivotal because without this appointed person, cloud optimization will not happen. Give someone the power to drive optimization policies throughout the organization. Companies most successful in achieving optimization have a good internal mandate to make it a priority. When messages come from the top, and are enforced through a project champion, people tend to pay attention and management is much more effective.

Fill the data gaps

Cloud optimization is a data driven exercise, so you need all the data you can get to make it valuable. Your tools will be much more compelling when they have the data necessary to make smart recommendations. Understand where to get the data in your organization, and figure out how to get any data you don’t have. Verify your data regularly to confirm accuracy for intelligent decision making geared toward optimization.

Implement tagging practices

The practice of not only implementing, but also actively enforcing your tagging policies, drives optimization. Be it an environment tag, owner tag, or application tag, tags help you understand your data and what or who is driving spend.

Enforce accountability

While lack of tagging and data gaps prevent visibility, overprovisioning is also an accountability issue. Just look at the hundred plus AWS services alone that show up on a bill for an organization that’s a long-time user. It’s not uncommon for 20-30% of the total to be attributed to services they never even knew existed at the time they migrated to the cloud.

Hold your app teams accountable with an internal mechanism that lets the data speak for itself. It can be as simple as a dashboard with tagging grading, because everybody understands those results.

Rearchitect and refactor

Migrating to the cloud via a lift and shift can be a valuable strategy for certain organizations. However, after a few months in the cloud, you need to intentionally move forward with the next steps. Reevaluating, refactoring and rearchitecting will occur multiple times along the way. Without them, you end up spending more money than necessary.

Continuous optimization is a must

Optimization is not a one and done project because the possibilities are constantly evolving. Almost every day, a new technology is introduced. Maybe it’s a new instance family or tool. A couple years ago it was containers, and before that it was serverless. Being aware of these new and improved technologies is key to maintaining continuous optimization.

Engage with an experienced partner

There are a lot of factors to consider, evaluate, and complete as part of your cloud optimization practice. To maximize your optimization efforts, you want someone experienced to guide your strategy.

One benefit to partnering with an optimization expert, like 2nd Watch, is that an external partner can diffuse the internal conflicts typically associated with optimization. So much of the process is navigating internal politics and red tape. A partner helps meld the multiple layers of your business with a holistic approach that ensures your cloud is running as efficiently as possible.

-Willy Sennott, Optimization Practice Manager

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Cloud Optimization: Top 5 Challenges and Why Tools Can’t Solve Them

Optimizing your cloud is essential for maximizing budgets, centralizing business units, making informed decisions, and driving performance. Regardless of whether you’re already in the cloud or you’re just beginning to consider migrating, you need to be aware of the challenges to optimization in order to avoid or overcome them and reach your optimization goals.

1. Complexity

The most pervasive challenge of optimization in the cloud is the complexity of the task. Regardless of the cloud platform – AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, or a hybrid cloud strategy – the intricacies are constantly evolving and changing. Trying to stay on top of that as an individual business requires a good amount of time, resources, and effort. Adding new tools and processes to your cloud requires integration, stakeholder agreement, data mining, analysis, and maintenance. While the potential outcomes from optimization are business-changing, it’s an ongoing process with many moving parts.

2. Governance

Standardized governance frameworks bring decentralized business units and disparate stakeholders together to accomplish business-wide objectives. Shared responsibility, from central IT to individual app teams, prevents the costly consequences of overprovisioning.  While many organizations are knowingly overprovisioned, they can’t seem to solve the problem. Part of the issue is simply a lack of overall governance.

3. Data

Cloud optimization is a data driven exercise. If it’s not data driven, it’s not scalable. You need to maximize your data by knowing what data you have, where it is, and how to access it. Also important is knowing what data is missing. Many organizations believe they have complete metrics, but they’re not capturing and monitoring memory, which is a huge piece of the puzzle. In fact, memory is one of the most constrained points of data across organizations.

4. Visibility

Incredibly important within data discovery and data mapping is gaining visibility through tagging. Without an enforced and uniform tagging strategy as part of your governance structure, spend can increase without accounting for it. Tags provide insight into your cloud economics, letting you know who is spending what, what are they spending it on, and how much are they spending. It’s not uncommon to see larger organizations with a number of individual linked accounts and no one knows who they belong to. We’ve even found, after some digging, that the owners of those accounts haven’t been with the company for months! To get the cost saving benefits from cloud optimization, you need visibility throughout the process.

5. Technical expertise

You need a certain level of technical expertise and intuition to take advantage of all the ways you can optimize your cloud. Too often, techs aren’t necessarily thinking about optimization, but rather make decisions based on other performance or technical aspects. Without optimization at the forefront of these deterministic behaviors, the business drivers may not perform as expected. Partner with data scientists and architects to map connections between data, workloads, resources, financial mechanisms, and your cloud optimization goals.

Tools are part of the solution, but not the entire solution.

While tools can help with your cloud optimization process, they can’t solve these common challenges alone. Tools just don’t have the capability to solve your data gaps. In fact, one foundational issue with tools is the specific algorithms used to generate recommendations. Regardless of whether or not the tool has complete data, it will still make the same recommendations, thereby creating confusion and introducing new risks.

It takes work to get the best results. Someone has to first be able to deduce the information provided by your tools, then put it into context for the various decision makers and stakeholders, and finally, your application owners and businesses teams have to architect the optimization correctly to be able to take advantage of the savings.

In choosing the right tools to aid your optimization, be aware of ‘tool champions’ who create internal noise around decision making. New tools are launched almost daily, and different stakeholders are going to champion different tools.

Once you find a tool, stick with it. Give it a chance to fully integrate with your cloud, provide training, and encourage adoption for best results. The longer it’s a part of your infrastructure, the more it will be able to aid in optimization.

2nd Watch takes a holistic approach to cloud optimization from strategy and planning, to cost optimization, forecasting, modeling and analytics. Download our eBook to learn more about adopting a holistic approach to cloud cost optimization.

-Willy Sennott, Optimization Practice Manager

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Introducing Google Cloud VM Migration

Moving to Google Cloud from on premise or cloud virtual machines is the focus of many enterprise companies, while also optimizing your workloads for performance, scale, and security. Workloads and applications migrating to the cloud require careful consideration to determine when and how their architecture must be modernized to best leverage the value of cloud technologies. ​

We see cloud migration from 3 different lenses:

  1. Migrate > Modernize
  2. Modernize > Migrate
  3. Build Cloud-Native

Migrate > Modernize is the typical ‘lift-and-shift’ model of migration helping companies get quickly to the cloud. This approach is most helpful for time-sensitive projects like datacenter exits or quick scale for a new product launch. The Google Cloud Platform supports a quick and easy virtual machine migration to cloud while also automatically providing you right sizing and sustained use discounts to save right away.

Modernize > Migrate is a newer model that companies are taking on, especially when they are focused on upskilling staff and allowing experimentation while dealing with an existing infrastructure lock-in. In this approach, many departments upgrade their technology applications while on premise and then move those workloads to the cloud. Google Cloud offers a great way to move to containers and Kubernetes through their Anthos platform. We’ll have more insight on this in a future blog.

Building Cloud-Native is an approach that works for smaller, greenfield projects. Application development teams that have budget allocated and want to innovate fast can use this model to build their application in the cloud directly. Google Cloud was built with the developer in mind, making it the chosen platform for those looking to build their own cloud-native applications. App Engine is a great choice for those looking for a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to abstract away the complexity of infrastructure and focus on your application development.

2nd Watch applies our proven cloud migration methodology to each of these models ensuring we reduce any downtime in your move to Google Cloud, with a predictable schedule and reliable OpEx forecast. All of our cloud migrations include a thorough Cloud Modernization Readiness Assessment, design and build of the foundational cloud architecture, and the planning, migration, and testing of workloads in the cloud.

Download our datasheet to learn more about our Google Cloud VM Migration service.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

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The Playbook for Migrating to Google Cloud

Moving to the public cloud is a complex and time-consuming endeavor. A recent survey published by 2nd Watch found that nearly half of IT Directors felt that migrating to the cloud took more time and was more costly than they expected. Deciding how and when to transition your mission-critical applications to this new architecture is essential to optimizing cost and enhancing business agility.

When working with large enterprises on their cloud transformations, 2nd Watch has experienced first-hand how important assessment and planning are to achieving the benefits of cloud, including increased speed and business agility while reducing operational costs.

Companies moving to Google Cloud expect to realize these benefits quickly, but will suffer the same fate as many IT Directors if they don’t complete a full assessment covering the following phases:

  1. Application Assessment
  2. Application Categorization
  3. Technology Assessment
  4. Cost Assessment
  5. Organizational Assessment

Application Assessment

This area includes in-depth discovery surrounding your applications and is typically done in both interview format and using automated application discovery tools like StratoZone or CloudPhysics. During this assessment, teams take note of their dependencies between applications and components as well as any licensing and compliance requirements.

Application Categorization

Once you complete the assessment of each application, it’s time to determine the best method for migration. There are 7 methods that could be employed:

  • Rehost:  Applications that will be migrated as-is without infrastructure or application refactoring are known as Rehost migrations. Changes are limited to configuration only.  This method is typically considered a lift-and-shift migration.​
  • Re-platform:This method refers to applications that undergo minor modernization to leverage core cloud-native capabilities. This may include minor code changes, upgrading platforms, or adopting managed services to better take advantage of a cloud feature.  This may also include actions such as upgrading the operating system or database or reinstalling the application on the target cloud environment.  In this case, storage migration will be needed but without any conversion. ​
  • Refactor:Also known as rearchitect, this method focuses on modernizing portions of the application to leverage cloud-native technologies such as autoscaling, immutable infrastructure, serverless functions, or containerization.  This may include rewriting the application code. ​
  • Rewrite:This method is for applications that are being re-written from scratch or are greenfield projects.  This often means the application is not moving to cloud and it is rewritten as microservices and deployed to cloud when complete.  Sometimes this method is more cost effective over time, although the upfront work effort can be substantial.​
  • Retire:Retire refers to applications that have been retired or will be retired soon, meaning they will be turned off and removed.  They may either be re-written or retired completely.  This may include servers running an unsupported operating system, servers running that are no-longer needed, and/or servers that are turned off for disaster recovery and are unused.​
  • Retain:The Retain option is for workloads that will remain in the co-location facility or on-premises datacenter. These applications may run on legacy infrastructure until the end-of-life or move to another co-location facility. ​
  • Repurchase:  Conversion to a SaaS-based offering to replace existing in-house or 3rd party applications.  Instead of migrating the application to the cloud, in this situation you’ll instead convert your existing business process and data to a new, 3rd party application operated as software as a service (SaaS) application. (For example, moving from on premise CRM to SalesForce.com).

Some applications may need different tiers to be addressed with different migration paths. For example, the Web tier may be rehosted, the application tier may be refactored, and the database tier may be re-platformed.  In this case, multiple migration methods may be applied to a given application to best support its migration to the cloud.​

Technology Assessment

Understanding your applications is only one part of the puzzle. The technology you use now will need to evolve to include Infrastructure as Code (IaC), Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), and Configuration Management. In addition, understanding how your existing security and compliance tooling will work in the new environment is key to ensuring your success. Areas like network design, storage and database needs, and authentication should be assessed to ensure proper cloud architecture. Last but not least, ensure you are looking into your current business continuity plans and how those may have to change to support the cloud.

Cost Assessment

Many companies center their move to the cloud around cost, but if you only work on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), you’ll miss the opportunity to save. Optimizing resources and creating a cost spending plan up front will help your finance team better understand the upfront and ongoing cloud investment. With Google Cloud, you can leverage Automated Rightsizing and Sustained Use Discounts to save, on average, 60% relative to what you’d pay on other clouds.

Organizational Assessment

Last but not least, understanding how your team will need to upskill or reskill to support cloud is essential to your success. Take the time to assess your teams’ skills and put together an education plan that will support their development. Upskilling and reskilling are both a smaller investment and quicker return on investment than hiring and training new employees.

Your team understands how your business works, and by providing them with the opportunity to learn how to marry their existing skills with cloud technologies will shortcut the skills and knowledge gap when moving to the cloud.

Yes, this process of assessment is not only comprehensive, but it can be complex, taking valuable time away from your migration efforts. The 2nd Watch Cloud Modernization Readiness Assessment (CMRA) covers all of these areas, helping you evaluate your company’s IT estate to determine application fitness and optimal migration methodology for your workloads and team.

If you’re interested in working with our certified cloud engineers and architects to analyze and assess your workloads, tools, and team, schedule some time with us today.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

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5 Questions You Need to Answer to Maximize Your Data Use

Businesses have been collecting data for decades, but we’re only just starting to understand how best to apply new technologies, like machine learning and AI, for analysis. Fortunately, the cloud offers tools to maximize data use. When starting any data project, the best place to begin is by exploring common data problems to gain valuable insights that will help create a strategy for accomplishing your overall business goal.

Why do businesses need data?

The number one reason enterprise organizations need data is for decision support. Business moves faster today than it ever has, and to keep up, leaders need more than a ‘gut feeling’ on which to base decisions. Data doesn’t make decisions for us, but rather augments and influences which path forward will yield the results we desire.

Another reason we all need data is to align strategic initiatives from the top down. When C-level leaders decide to pursue company wide change, managers need data-based goals and incentives that run parallel with the overall objectives. For change to be successful, there needs to be metrics in place to chart progress. Benchmarks, monthly or quarterly goals, department-specific stats, and so on are all used to facilitate achievement and identify intervention points.

We’ve never before had more data available to us than we do today. While making the now necessary decision to utilize your data for insights is the first step, finding data, cleaning it, understanding why you want it, and analyzing the value and application can be intensive. Ask yourself these five questions before diving into a data project to gain clarity and avoid productivity-killing data issues.

1. Is your data relevant?

  • What kind of value are you getting from your data?
  • How will you apply the data to influence your decision?

2. Can you see your data?

  • Are you aware of all the data you have access to?
  • What data do you need that you can’t see?

3. Can you trust your data?

  • Do you feel confident making decisions based on the data you have?
  • If you’re hesitant to use your data, why do you doubt its authenticity?

4. Do you know the recency of your data?

  • When was the data collected? How does that influence relevancy?
  • Are you getting the data you need, when you need it?

5. Where is your data siloed?

  • What SaaS applications do different departments use? (For example: Workday for HR, HubSpot for marketing, Salesforce for Sales, MailChimp, Trello, Atlassian, and so on.)
  • Do you know where all of your data is being collected and stored?

Cloud to the rescue! But only with accurate data

The cloud is the most conducive environment for data analysis because of its plethora of analysis tools available. More and more tools, like plug-and-play machine learning algorithms, are developed every day, and they are widely and easily available in the cloud.

But tools can’t do all the work for you. Tools cannot unearth the value of data. It’s up to you to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. What is the business objective you’re trying to get to? Why do you care about the data you’re seeking? What do you need to get out of it?

A clearly defined business objective is incredibly important to any cloud initiative involving data. Once that’s been identified, it’s important for that goal to serve as the guiding force behind the tools you use in the cloud. Because tools are really for developers and engineers, you want to pair them with someone engaging in the business value of the effort as well. Maybe it’s a business analyst or a project manager, but the team should include someone who is in touch with the business objective.

However, you can’t completely rely on cloud tools to solve data problems because you probably have dirty data, or data that isn’t correct or in the specified format. If your data isn’t accurate, all the tools in the world won’t help you accomplish your objectives. Dirty data interferes with analysis and creates a barrier to your data providing any value.

To cleanse your data, you need to validate the data coming in with quality checks. Typically, there are issues with dates and time stamps, spelling errors from form fields, and other human error in data entry. Formatting date-entry fields and using calendar pickers can help users uniformly complete date information. Drop down menus on form fields will reduce spelling errors and allow you to filter more easily. Small design changes like these can significantly help the cleanliness of your data and your ability to maximize the impact of cloud tools.

Are you ready for data-driven decision making? Access and act on trustworthy data with the Data and Analytics services provided by 2nd Watch to enable smart, fast, and effective decisions that support your business goals. Contact Us to learn more about how to maximize your data use.

-Robert Whelan, Data Engineering & Analytics Practice Manager

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6 Key Findings from 2nd Watch’s “Enterprise Cloud Trends” Survey

Does your organization have a glass half full or a glass half empty view? In the recent Enterprise Cloud Trends survey sponsored by 2nd Watch, one half of respondents was confident in their IT organization’s ability to deal with COVID-19 related uncertainty. Which means the other half has concerns with their organization’s ability. So where do you stand? Half full or half empty?

IT has felt the impact of COVID-19 to their business as acutely as any other department. Yet, the latest Enterprise Cloud Trends survey conducted by 2nd Watch indicates that IT has proven to be the most resilient and adaptable of all organizations. Although clear that IT leaders have had to adjust their priorities, they are embracing big-picture efforts that lead to true business transformation and position their companies for long-term success, in spite of the challenges.

The report sheds light on a variety of topics important to IT including the roles of IT in supporting the business due to COVID-19 impact, post pandemic budgets, and how IT is positioning itself to be successful over the next 12 months. Six key findings the report highlights include:

  • Support for remote workers is the top enterprise IT challenge
  • Companies are accelerating digital transformation and cloud use
  • Pre COVID-19 cloud budgets remain mostly intact and are expected to grow
  • Cloud security is a growing concern
  • There is a shift to more permanent remote workers
  • Some cloud related technologies will emerge stronger than ever

Support for remote workers

Have you felt the impact of supporting remote workers? Survey respondents indicated that remote worker access into corporate systems and managing the complexity and support of remote workers were the biggest challenge they have faced. The shift of supporting a growing number of remote workers is a recurring theme through out the report.

Accelerating digital transformation

Surprising to the authors, enterprises are accelerating digital transformation and cloud use. Survey responses indicated that 40% of IT departments are accelerating their digital transformation efforts. Progressive companies see this time as a way to embrace tools to better connect with customers and achieve faster time-to-market.

Cloud budget impact

How has your IT budget been impacted by COVID-19? A majority of the respondents indicated that their budget has either remained the same or grown, with more growth forecasted over the next 12 months. IT is seen as the organization that can lead.

Rising security concern

With growth in supporting remote workers and cloud spend comes a growing concern in cloud security. Over 75% of respondents indicated that cloud security is a top priority. It’s only logical that the increased access provided to employees will lead to additional security concerns.

Shift to remote workers

Although security is of concern to supporting remote workers, businesses are moving more employees to permanent remote status. Survey responses indicated that there will be an 11.8% increase in permanent remote workers. And IT is at the forefront of supporting this shift.

Cloud related technologies are the focus

Four distinct technologies seem to be getting more focus as we shift to a post-COVID-19 environment, including:

  • Data Management / Analysis
  • Edge Computing
  • Content Delivery Networks
  • Multi-Cloud Solutions

Conclusion

IT is being called on to enable their companies to not only survive the business impact of COVID-19, but to thrive. Download the 2nd Watch Enterprise Cloud Trends report to gain insight from your peers and justification for making the strategic moves to support your business’ strategic initiatives going forward.

-Michael Elliott, Sr Director, Product Marketing

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The 4 Phases of a Business Transformation

A business transformation, when a company moves from traditional IT to modern IT, typically includes migrating to the cloud. The driving factor behind a business transformation varies from company to company, but it’s common to start a transformation in order to become more competitive in the marketplace, more digital, more reactive to customers, or more automated. Whatever your reason, there are four distinct phases you will go through during a business transformation, from the initial idea to ongoing optimization.

Phase 1: Getting started

The best place to start your transformation is with an in-depth business case. Depending on your goals, your business case will most likely include multiple elements, such as competitiveness, speed to market, and cost savings. Once you’ve determined your business case, it’s easier to understand your total cost of ownership in the cloud. It also provides structure to analyze compelling events and the moving parts around it, including contract terms and assets.

It’s important to bring all your key stakeholders together. We recommend following the Amazon Web Services Cloud Adoption Framework (AWS CAF) that incorporates six different perspectives from throughout the organization. These perspectives include business, people, governance, platform, security, and operations. This practice gives you a chance to evaluate the skills in your central IT area, understand existing governance from your chief commercial officer (CCO), evaluate security needs, and invite discussion between platform engineers, among other benefits. There’s a learning curve when it comes to operations in the cloud, so it’s important to get these perspectives together often to review the strategy, revise where necessary, and voice concerns together.

Phase 2: Six months into the transformation

The most important thing to remember at this stage of your business transformation is to keep listening. Invite feedback from the workforce and your users as things begin and continue to evolve. Establish a strong Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE), a multi-stakeholder group of subject matter experts from various areas of the business, to drive communication from the top down. This will help breed an environment of inclusiveness throughout the transformation to avoid barriers and maintain your timeline.

At this point, you’re getting more interaction with the cloud and it’s easy to get distracted by all the cloud native services available. Continue to focus on your business objectives first – there will be plenty of time and opportunity to modernize, implement new services, and monetize data along the way. Moving too quickly without sticking to the established governance can lead to cloud sprawl, high storage and backup costs, and other budget overages. Get through these initial phases first to make sure everyone has the cloud skills they need and understand that the IT organization is there to enable business first and foremost. Once these new skills have been mastered, you can encourage experimentation and move faster.

Phase 3: Nearing the finish line

During this ending phase, focus is less on the technology and tools and more on evolving. Technical teams are more effective and efficient and the workforce throughout the organization is getting smarter. Evolution within the cloud is speeding up among both legacy technicians and newer technicians who are cloud native. Observe these progressions among your technical team and be ready for change. It’s common to lose team members with experience to other organizations just beginning their own cloud transformation.

Avoid knowledge loss with strong governance around run books, automation, documentation, and a deep understanding of how systems and processes work in the cloud. This is important to avoid gaps associated with turnover and to support a comprehensive onboarding process as you train new employees. Processes that used to take two to three days are now happening in hours, with the goal of getting them down to minutes. As you move faster, don’t forget these important documentation steps to keep up with the speed of business for the long-term.

This is also an especially exciting phase because now you’re moving at a pace where you can experiment and fail fast. New opportunities are created to monetize incoming data and analysis for additional revenue streams. Automation in the architecture, solutions, and management let you pivot and react quickly. Things become repeatable and the tedious manual processes of the past are greatly reduced, if not eliminated completely.

Phase 4: Post transformation

Post transformation includes anything above and beyond the scope of the original transformation project, including continuous optimization – constantly incorporating new instance types, payment models, and other relevant technology as it becomes available for the cloud. Evaluate how your applications are working and decide which should be refactored into a cloud native environment or move toward containerization. Post transformation you should continue innovating, watching your costs, and taking advantage of new cloud products and services.

2nd Watch invites to embrace your business transformation with cloud technologies and our strategic and tactical approach. Guaranteeing quality, consistency, and completeness, our experts work with you to determine your objectives and create tailored services to help you meet them. Contact Us to see how best to meet your transformation goals.

-Chris Garvey, EVP of Product

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Are you ready for a business transformation to the cloud?

Taking on a business transformation to the cloud can seem like a huge endeavor, but it’s a necessary strategy for any modern business organization that wants to create a competitive advantage. Understanding some basics and common challenges before diving into your transformation can alleviate your concerns.

What is a business transformation?

A business transformation is any move from traditional, legacy IT to modern IT. The business is trying to become more competitive in the market, more digital, more reactive to customers, and more automated. Today, that typically includes a migration to the cloud.

Why do you want to transform?

When considering a business transformation, you need to know why you’re making the move. What is causing the need for your business to transform? Often times it’s your board putting on the pressure or a race to cloud because “everyone else is.” Those reasons can be motivators, but you need to take a step back and ask yourself, “What is the outcome I’m trying to achieve?”

If you’re only taking on a transformation to satisfy your board or keep up with peers, you haven’t clearly defined end objectives and won’t be successful in effectively and efficiently galvanizing outcomes. You need to understand your business needs and drivers and assess your ability to compete from a technology or digital standpoint. For example, if your business isn’t agile enough to meet customer demands, sales might be shrinking. In that case, new ways to interact with customers is the desired outcome. Moving to the cloud enables businesses to deliver services faster, and the transition facilitates that outcome.

Always keep your eye on delivering value. A business transformation to the cloud can help your business be more competitive, save costs, innovate, accelerate your time to market, and modernize, but the entire organization will need to mold and adapt as well. Consider how those outcomes will be achieved and where the business will be affected before beginning your transformation.

Understanding transformational challenges

The real challenges to a successful business transformation are usually organizational. It’s essential that leadership buys in from the top down. The board needs to understand how you’re going to accomplish their goal of getting into the cloud and what the outcomes will be as a result. These transformations can last years and require resources that need to be accounted for. Managers need to know how to train staff, and departments will need to alter their processes and procedures. Often times, businesses focus on avoiding technology challenges, but people-oriented problems can create bigger barriers to reaching your goals.

That is why a business transformation must be inclusive of everyone in the organization, because everyone will be affected. These changes are ongoing and there will be multiple phases of transition before the final implementation. Make sure you’re communicating regularly and clearly, from your initial migration assessment through migrating, running in the cloud, and adjusting to the new normal.

Gaining stakeholder support before and during the transformation can prevent the common problem of taking on too much too soon. Focus on a progression to transformation rather than implementing as many cloud services as possible right away. It can be overwhelming trying to get everyone in the organization to DevOps, containerize everything, use every micro service and modernize to cloud native. Instead, identify where you can get the biggest impact. It’s about providing the best services to your business units and speeding them along.

COVID-19: Unpredictable business transformation

While best practices tell you to spend a significant amount of time planning and implementing a business transformation, the COVID-19 pandemic thrusted businesses worldwide into a rapid transformation we never expected or planned for. The requirement for businesses to send their employees home to work remotely put a spotlight on everything from IT security and file sync and share to disaster recovery and business continuity.

As in any business transformation, an unpredictable transformation forces you to define where the business value lies. Some projects can be put on hold without a huge impact to the business, while others, specifically those supporting profits, must be accelerated. Remote work enablement, for example, is paramount to most businesses operating successfully during the pandemic. Organizations that previously used virtual workspaces already had the infrastructure in place to quickly establish at-home workers. More traditional businesses, those who hadn’t yet modernized, needed to first deploy those setups in order to not just continue business immediately, but also be ready for whatever comes next.

Whether it’s a well-planned, multi-year business transformation, implementation of a new service, or an unexpected demand to transform, your business must be ready for change. Our Business Transformation experts can help you create and execute strategic IT initiatives that support business transformation and deliver the right insights and services to ensure your success. Contact Us to discuss beginning your business transformation.

-Chris Garvey, EVP, Product

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Building a Continuous Learning Culture for Cloud

In my last blog, I spoke about how your existing team’s skills and knowledge are assets in your cloud transformation. Upskilling and reskilling are both a smaller investment and provide a quicker return on investment than hiring and training new employees. Today I will highlight a path to help your team both develop the necessary skills for cloud as well as maintain and grow that knowledge over time.

This growth mindset is a continuous learning culture. Continuous learning is self-explanatory -the process of learning new skills and gaining knowledge on an ongoing basis. Skills and knowledge can be acquired in many ways from learning on the job or online education, to formal courses and certifications.

A continuous learning culture requires individuals to be self-starters, to voluntarily share information, to feel safe sharing their failures, and to constantly adjust based on new information. These values also need to be enabled by the organization in a variety of ways, including making space for experimentation, learning, and sharing.

Develop a culture of continuous learning that is initiated and led by technical professionals, and that is encouraged and sponsored by organizations. (Gartner – The Cloud Engineer: Skills Guidance for Modern Technical Professionals, by Elias Khnaser – October 2019)

6 Ways to Foster Continuous Learning for Cloud

Building a strong but flexible structure for upskilling and reskilling for cloud can be the catalyst to launch your team into the transformation effort. Here are 6 key tips that have proven successful for enterprise cloud teams in creating the support for continuous learning:

1. Perform a Skills Gap Analysis

A first step in your cloud upskilling and continuous learning journey is determining what skills are necessary now and in the future, and what skills your team already has. This baseline isn’t meant to police the team, but to help provide clarity to all as to where you are today and where your team needs to go. Some of the skills to evaluate are:

  • Technical Skills like scripting/coding, automation and orchestration, cloud networking, security & governance, database, application architecture, cloud account management, and specific cloud platform and tooling expertise.
  • Interpersonal Skills such as collaboration, communication, the ability to work globally and cross-functionally, and how to receive and provide mentorship.
  • Business Skills – technical teams should be able to translate business goals into development terms and know how to be a customer champion at any level of the organization. Cloud financial analysis skills are also important for your team to reap the scalability benefits of cloud.

2. Publish a Cloud Skills Roadmap

One way to enable self-starters in your organization is to be clear and transparent about your company goals and how they can support those goals. By aligning your tech skills gap analysis with your cloud and product strategy, and then publishing this as a roadmap for your team, they will be able to take clear actions to help fill the gaps. In addition, by keeping the roadmap up to date and rewarding those who help ‘fill the gaps,’ you will encourage both transparency and learning throughout your organization.

3. Build Individual Education and Development Plans

A learning management system (LMS) or similar tool can help both management and employees track progress at an individual level. This not only adds a bit of accountability but helps ensure no one gets left behind in the transformation. Be sure to not only include the formal or online training available in these plans. Give your employees the flexibility to learn in other ways such as writing internal documentation, attending industry events, writing papers or books, joining online communities, public presentations and webinars, or starting a growth project. Make sure there is a way for peers to regularly share feedback on what worked and what didn’t work in their individual education plans.

4. Support and Fund Certifications

Certifications are an essential way to educate your team while helping support their careers. Additionally, many cloud certifications come with hands-on labs and experience requirements, proving that they can perform the tasks necessary to support your business. One way to encourage certifications is to allow reimbursement for the test and/or provide a bonus to those who achieve certification. Promoting their accomplishment can also encourage others to follow suit.

5. Build an Apprenticeship Program

It’s not always easy for individuals to become self-starters. To encourage cross-training and reskilling, teams can build a mentoring program that partners experts with those who are just learning a new subject or skill area. This empowers early adopters to learn to mentor and share their knowledge while giving those who are newly acquiring the skills somebody to learn from and work with directly.

6. Support Internal Communities

After a few teams have successfully upskilled or reskilled and moved their applications to the cloud, it’s time to build some momentum. Encourage teams to build a resource center where they can share best practices, lessons learned, education plans, etc. This can be an informal or formal Cloud Center of Enablement (CCOE) that helps propel your team into the growth mindset.

Supporting your team to develop the skills for cloud by building a framework for success can help launch and sustain your cloud transformation long term. This also helps you retain talent while building an innovative culture that will be ready for the next big thing.

2nd Watch has supported thousands of enterprise cloud migrations with a cloud migration and modernization acceleration program designed to get you up and running in the cloud fast while maintaining business continuity. Our comprehensive methodology focuses on understanding your current state and goals and moving you to the cloud in a productive way. To learn more, visit https://www.2ndwatch.com/services/cloud-migration-application-modernization/.

-Stefana Muller, Sr Product Manager, DevOps & Migration

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Upskilling for Cloud: Your Existing Team is an Asset in Your Cloud Transformation

Cloud migration can revolutionize the way your business creates products, delivers its services, or connects with its customers. People and processes must also transform to meet this new demand.

One of the major reasons cloud transformations fail is that companies lack in-house cloud skills. Gartner predicts that through 2022, insufficient cloud IaaS skills will delay half of enterprise IT organizations’ migration to the cloud by two years or more.

It’s obvious now that after 15+ years in cloud, new technologies do not make infrastructure and operations teams obsolete but, instead, their role evolves and the skills necessary have expanded exponentially.

Your Tenured Team is an Asset

You’re probably well aware that your organization has a wealth of institutional knowledge and cultural practices that are well established. Your staff members that have been around for a while have an understanding of how to get things done efficiently and effectively for your company. This can be a positive and a negative. Positive if the team is willing to change to meet the new demand – or negative if they are resistant to change.

Stephen Orban from AWS has suggested that having a tenured staff is truly an advantage to your organization’s cloud transformation. In his blog, “You Already Have the People You Need to Succeed with the Cloud,” Orban states, “Everyone you need to move forward with the cloud is already there, you just have to enable them.”

Your team understands how your business works, and providing them with the opportunity to learn how to marry their existing skills with cloud technologies will shortcut the skills and knowledge gap when moving to the cloud.

Upskilling + Reskilling vs. Hiring New Talent

Upskilling is teaching your employees new skills so they can thrive in their current position. This is really helpful if your team members are going to remain in their current position, and maintain their current responsibilities, plus have to take on new technologies.

Reskilling is teaching existing employees new skills to do a different or new job. This is something we seen often in larger organizations. It often takes the effort of the employee to identify the need, attain the new skill(s), and then move on to the new role.  However, with Cloud transformation, you should be pinpointing the right employees to be reskilled and providing them with a path to obtain this new knowledge and experience for the cloud.

Hiring new employees is possible, but it’s not a quick fix. It is very difficult to find, recruit, and onboard highly skilled cloud architects. Not only are these individuals in high demand, but they warrant a higher salary and may not be skilled in helping your team transform in the process. Many times, these individuals are solely skilled in cloud and don’t understand the on-premise architecture that exists in your environment today. In addition, someone from outside your company also requires onboarding into your existing culture and time to understand your legacy processes.

Upskilling and reskilling are both a smaller investment and provide a quicker return on investment than hiring and training new employees.

Skills and Job Shifts in Cloud

There are three types of skills that are important to develop for Cloud:

  1. Technical Skills – Strong and broad technical skills in cloud, cloud architecture, and cloud tooling is important. In addition, the ability to think analytically, work in an agile way, and understand the perspectives of development, operations, and security are key.
  2. Interpersonal Skills – Due to the rapid nature of change in cloud, collaboration and communication skills are in high demand. The ability to work globally, evangelize ideas and persuade individuals that don’t report directly to you is also important in the agile structure of cloud. In addition, helping team members learn to mentor others and receive mentorship can build a better structure for continuous learning.
  3. Business Skills – Technical teams that can translate business goals into development terms can help your organization succeed in cloud. Having goals align and enabling teams to identify business value in all their interactions can help create the necessary customer champions at all levels of your organization.

Here are some examples of jobs pre-cloud to post-cloud.

Cloud transformation is not just a technology change; it forces a change to your organization structure and the way people work. It requires an evolution of your people and their skills and will not tolerate the traditional siloed method of building and managing your applications on-premise. Your existing team can be a true asset to your cloud transformation if you enable them to upskill and reskill in the process.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to upskill and reskill your team to enable a successful cloud migration, contact us.

-Stefana Muller, Sr Product Manager, DevOps & Migration

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