UPDATED 12:58 EST / AUGUST 07 2020


Cloud-first is not enough: Five best practices for a cloud-smart journey

For nearly a decade, cloud-first has been the dominant approach to cloud adoption initiatives as organizations sought to drive digital transformation and modernization.

As with most technologies, cloud services have evolved over the years, adding features and complexity that can muddle the rush to cloud with additional potential risk. Cloud technologies are also at the root of transformational, cultural and organizational shifts, requiring organizations to review and align their strategies with current realities.

The dynamic nature of cloud requires organizations to shift their approach from cloud-first, which prioritizes cloud adoption and legacy modernization above other considerations, to cloud-smart, which balances cloud adoption with the organization’s unique circumstances, goals and business value. By 2023, more than 60% of organizations that have adopted a cloud-first strategy will replace it with a cloud-smart strategy.

Infrastructure and operations or I&O leaders can ensure successful cloud adoption initiatives that align with business priorities by keeping the following five best practices common to cloud smart initiatives in mind.


Best Practice 1: Close the gap between cloud expectations and reality

Having goals and expectations for cloud is not synonymous with successful execution of such. Through various client interactions, Gartner has observed the following gaps are common in organizations’ cloud journeys:

  • Gap between the organization’s aspirations and the ability of in-house staff to execute
  • Gap between the expected gains from cloud and the reality of what cloud can deliver
  • Gap between the organization’s business strategy and its cloud strategy
  • Gap between the existing and required operating model, or between the existing and required foundational practices such as governance, compliance and security

I&O leaders must make business decision makers aware of any existing technical or local cloud limitations and the potential for the above gaps to arise. Addressing them enables organizations to set more realistic goals for cloud initiatives and refocus the proper resources on true business value gains.

Best Practice 2: Create an automated governance strategy

Cloud services have evolved to the point that they offer 10 times, or even 100 times, more configuration options than on-premises equivalents. Naturally, it is nearly impossible for existing practices to keep pace with such change, putting organizations at risk for security breaches, data loss, compliance issues and even budget overruns.

In order to reduce the risk of losing control of their cloud environment, I&O leaders should focus on creating and automating a governance strategy. Establish a cloud center of excellence or CCOE, which enables central information technology organizations to express the chief information officer’s cloud strategy and the business to choose the best solutions.

The CCOE should have three core pillars:

  • Governance: The CCOE creates cloud-computing-related policies and selects governance tools. In collaboration with a cross-functional team, it creates policy enforced by the organization’s mixture of tools and approved organizational processes. This approach provides appropriate risk management as well as financial management.
  • Brokerage: The CCOE assists users in selecting cloud providers, architects cloud solutions and collaborates with the sourcing team for contract negotiation and vendor management.
  • Community: The CCOE raises the level of cloud knowledge in the organization by capturing and disseminating best practices. It does this through a knowledge base, source-code repository, cloud community of practice councils and training events, as well as through outreach and collaboration throughout the organization.

Best Practice 3: Develop a cloud-smart “FEVER”

Shifting from cloud first to cloud smart should not sacrifice speed. Instead, it is an approach designed to deliver results quickly by leveraging previous cloud experiences. It focuses on creating sustainable business value by aligning fundamental cloud attributes such as agility, innovation and cost-efficiency with the attributes and goals of the overall organization.

To achieve that, I&O leaders can prioritize the workloads to move to cloud by using a “full circle” continuous loop selection process: faster, easier, valuable, efficient and repeat, or “FEVER” as Gartner calls it. Select the workloads that prioritize speed, simplicity and business value when migrating to the cloud.

This can be done in multiple waves: In Wave One, move the “lowest hanging fruits,” or the easiest and most cost-efficient workloads. In Wave Two, move the second easiest workloads, and repeat until all that remains are workloads that cannot be migrated quickly or in a manner that would incur higher operating costs in the cloud.

Best Practice 4: Focus on simplicity 

Major cloud providers introduce hundreds of new features to their cloud offerings every year, which adds a layer of complexity that slows down many journeys to the cloud.

To address that complexity, adopt a “keep it simple and safe,” or “KISS,” approach. It reflects the design principle that most systems work best when complexity is minimized and considers new challenges and undesirable security impacts in the cloud. I&O leaders should avoid an excessive number of components or integrations and use proven frameworks and architectures to keep it simple.

Best Practice 5: Reflect your organization’s unique context and cloud realities

There is no denying that cloud is a great fit for many use cases, but not all applications and workloads benefit from the cloud. There are a number of regional and local differences that cloud exhibits, for instance network latencies, local services availability, regulatory requirements and more. Priorities and circumstances also vary across enterprises and the journey to the cloud must be tailored to those situations.

Champion cloud initiatives that align not only with the context of the organization but also with local cloud realities. Ensure a successful journey to cloud by protecting your organization and its investments while supporting cloud initiatives that enable speed, agility, innovation and cost efficiencies.

Henrique Cecci is a senior research director at Gartner, focusing on providing strategic advice to chief information officers and information technology leaders on infrastructure cloud strategies, with an emphasis on strategies, technologies and trends. He wrote this for SiliconANGLE.

Image: TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay

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