Cloud Migration Lessons Learnt: A LinkedIn Live Event with AppScore

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In a recent LinkedIn Live Event hosted by AppScore  I chatted with the platform’s Co-Founder and Director Geoff Davies about cloud migrations. We covered a lot of ground, from the importance of good planning to the inevitability of trade-offs. I shared our favourite graphic for illustrating the various cloud migration pathways (see below) and we talked about critical success factors.

Sourced Group Three routes to cloud migration diagram

Of course, the question everyone really wants the answer to is ‘how do I make my cloud migration a success?’.

There’s no simple response to this. Specifics vary from case to case depending on your organisation’s goals and existing set-up. And there’s always more than one way to go about things. Nevertheless, certain steps can be taken to ensure your cloud migration and longer-term transformation get off to a promising start. Here’s a summary of ten key points that Geoff and I talked about. You can also watch a recording of the full webinar.

Ten Factors for Successful Cloud Migration (and Ongoing Transformation) 

1. Collaborate from the Outset  

It’s important for anyone who’ll be involved with the cloud migration at any level to be engaged upfront. Ensure everyone has a top-level understanding of what’s happening and an opportunity to provide input. You need to think strategically about who to involve at different stages, so you don’t waste people’s time. However, holding an initial inception workshop with everyone present helps hammer out the vision. We generally ask people to identify two out of three priorities for the migration – choosing between speed, scope and budget. This enhances visibility and enables conversations about trade-offs to happen upfront.     

2. Get Senior Stakeholders On-board  

Naturally the CIO is a crucial ally, but security and finance leaders need to be closely involved too. Talk to the CSO and CFO to elicit any concerns they have about security and costs. Once you have this understanding, any potential barriers can be addressed in the cloud migration plan. Listen to their worries and show how you’ll mitigate against them. They’ll be more likely to champion the migration if you do. 

3. Involve Application Owners and Infrastructure Teams  

This needs to happen in the right way, at the right time. Build a clear picture of the wider organisational goals and constraints before looking at the detail. Application owners and infrastructure teams should be included in the inception workshop. However, more direct involvement can happen after senior stakeholders are on-boarded. Their in-depth knowledge of applications will help shape decisions about what should be migrated when, and how. 

4. Use Cloud Vendor Frameworks  

Vendors’ cloud adoption frameworks have a lot to offer in terms of guiding cloud migration and transformation. Use them to build a better understanding of your organisation’s cloud readiness so you can take steps to improve your position, avoid potential problems and leverage cloud benefits faster. We’re big advocates of AWS’ Migration Acceleration Program too. The ‘Assess’ and ‘Mobilise’ phases play an instrumental role setting you up for success. They can also prevent you falling into the analysis-paralysis trap. 

5. Identify Your Constraints  

Use the processes and conversations outlined above to define your constraints, then focus on how to overcome them. This is a great way to bring clarity and decisiveness to migration planning. For instance, if your biggest constraint is time, a lift and shift is going to be the best way forward. Modernisation can happen later. If your team lacks cloud skills and confidence, external support will be needed alongside training. This might lead to a phased approach where external support scales back as internal skills are established. 

6. Upskill People 

Your team holds a wealth of vital knowledge about your organisation’s applications and infrastructure. But many of their existing tools and approaches will be redundant in the new environment. Support them, show you believe in them and provide opportunities for training and mentoring to build their confidence and expertise.  

7. Lay Strong Foundations  

Whichever path you choose for cloud migration, you need to provide resources for your application in the new environment. This is where cloud landing zones add value, offering a pre-configured set-up for critical factors like security, governance and logging. Think about which components are essential and which are optional. Don’t assume you’ll have to mirror what was needed in the datacentre environment. 

8. Set up a Cloud Centre of Excellence  

If you’re adopting cloud at scale, a CCoE will bring consistency to cloud migration and ongoing transformation. It’s essentially a governance function that sets cloud policy and goals to improve outcomes and manage risks. The individuals forming the CCoE should represent various aspects of the organisation and they don’t need to be cloud experts. Together they steer the strategy and ensure matters like security and governance are properly accounted for. 

9. Do Cloud Certifications Properly  

It’s good practice to align your certification strategy with organisational need. For instance, anyone directly involved with cloud should complete a foundational certificate. However, once you understand the basics, classroom-based or theoretical activity is no match for hands-on experience. Certification schemes work best when they’re used to validate and enrich cloud learnings developed in real-world scenarios. 

10. Take a Well-Architected Stance  

Finally, whatever stage you’re at in your cloud transformation journey, pay mind to Well-Architected principles. This is the single most effective way to pinpoint immediate concerns and establish priorities for ongoing improvement. 

Prepare for the Long Haul 

In the webinar, I described cloud migration as being a bit like a family road trip. You need to take everyone with you. If you don’t prepare properly there will be problems along the way. It can also end up costing far more than you’d intended. And, if things get really bad, you might end up having to turn back. 

The best way to ensure a good outcome without delaying progress is to do ‘just enough’ planning. Our ten factors will help set you up for a smooth and successful journey. 

As a Lead Consultant with almost a decade’s experience in cloud, Colin has extensive knowledge of DevOps, IT Operations, and Cloud technologies. He is generous about sharing his expertise and is recognised as an AWS Certification Lead Subject Matter Expert, an AWS Community Builder, and an AWS Ambassador.