Is Yours an Accidental Cloud Company? Here’s How to Control the Chaos.

By James Scott, CTO & NeuEon Cloud Strategy Practice Lead

Every company is now a software company,” or so said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, a couple of years ago. This transformation has been building for decades, and software is now a critical component of virtually every product and service.

Similarly, more than a decade into the cloud computing revolution, it’s clear that cloud services have become the de facto standard for delivering software. Today, businesses depend on cloud technology as much as they depend on software. Just like many companies became software companies by accident — as applications crept in, grew, and evolved without a cohesive strategic plan or enterprise governance — many now find they have become accidental cloud companies. The use of cloud technologies started as a grassroots initiative and is now spreading like wildfire with little attention to systematic implementation.

Today, every company is indeed a cloud company, but if yours still lacks a clear cloud strategy, it’s time to get ahead of expansion to give your organization a solid foundation for growth. No matter who your preferred cloud provider is — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or some other solution — here are five items you should include in your strategy to maximize the potential of these powerful platforms.

1. Project Governance

Everyone in the business needs to understand why you’re promoting cloud adoption and what the business expects to gain from using cloud technologies. Articulating these expectations helps teams create a cloud-first mindset, keeps efforts on track, and minimizes the need for senior leaders to manage the details of every project. The company should also specify and publish standards, including those for authorized cloud providers and services, compliance and security requirements, and approval processes for new projects.

2. Cost Monitoring

Public cloud services’ pay-as-you-go models provide tremendous flexibility and make it simple to get started, but they also introduce risk. It’s easy to turn a service on and forget it’s running or accidentally provision more capacity than you need. Stories of surprisingly large bills are common across all cloud providers. AWS, Azure, and GCP all provide budgeting tools that will send alerts when spending exceeds (or is projected to exceed) specified thresholds. However, these need to be configured so the right information goes to the right person at the right time.

Related Reading | The Cost of Cloud: How to Reduce AWS Overspending

3. Solution Patterns

The cloud toolbox is large and cluttered. For any given business challenge, each of the public cloud services will provide more than one way to solve the problem. Organizations that let implementation teams pick their own solution architectures frequently end up with myriad variations that present challenges for security and performance monitoring and end up adding to your development team’s technical debt. Defining solution patterns will make it easier for your teams to do things the right way, accelerate implementation, and avoid many operations-related headaches.

4. Monitoring and Alerting

You’ve fielded your cloud-based solution. Congratulations! Is the environment healthy? Have you provisioned the right resources for your workload, and can those resources scale up and down with demand? Do you have appropriate security measures in place? Every project should plan to address operational concerns like these by using the monitoring and alerting features built into the cloud platforms, augmented by thoughtfully selected third-party tools as needed. Putting effort into creating a “just enough” monitoring solution will highlight performance issues while avoiding alert fatigue.

5. A Feedback Loop

Every project is a learning experience, so every team should make opportunities to identify, document, and disseminate lessons learned to others. Doing so will drive best practices through the organization and help your teams keep up with the ever-changing cloud landscape (or should that be “cloudscape”?). Informal communication between groups is a good place to start. Adding structured retrospectives to your process will cue teams to look at how things are going and make corrections to improve their outcomes. The best teams measure their own progress against goals and figure out solutions for what’s not working, and that’s where you want them to be.

Bottom line, every company needs to take control of its use of cloud technology, so that ad hoc adoption of less-than-ideal solutions doesn’t saddle the business with oversized costs or underperforming solutions. No matter how far along your company is in its cloud journey, take stock. Examine where you are and where you want to go. Bring in experienced cloud professionals to provide strategic and tactical advice. And embrace the fact that your company is now a software and cloud company, regardless of your industry. The potential for growth and innovation is high, which makes it an exciting place to be!

For over a decade, NeuEon has been advising organizations of all sizes to help them accelerate the delivery of business value with cloud technologies. Please reach out to us to learn how we can help you get the most from your migration.