Part 1. PLAN: Magnus Mårtensson, Azure MVP, Microsoft Regional Director, and Chief Product Officer of Devoteam M Cloud DK guides us through the first phases of the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework and gives advice on best practices, dos and don’ts when you plan and strategize for Cloud Adoption and Innovation.
We aspire for innovation and deliver excellence in the Cloud. In this four-part series of articles, we interview our Chief Product Officer and Microsoft Regional Director Magnus Mårtensson on Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF).
The Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure is a comprehensive source of guidance and information on how to PLAN, ADOPT, BUILD, GOVERN, and INNOVATE in the Cloud. The framework covers the Cloud Journey from both technical, financial, HR, and innovation perspectives. Because CAF addresses general concerns, tips, and processes, it is just as relevant to use as a guideline for experienced Cloud users as for novices who are just starting out.
As Magnus says, CAF is a “wealth of information”, but it can also be “overwhelming and difficult to relate to”. In these four articles, we try to make that easier for you: we tackle the central phases and points of CAF and ask Magnus all the questions you want answered if you are trying to excel in the Cloud.
This week’s headline is PLAN because that is the place all healthy Cloud Journeys should begin: in combining business strategy and technological advances with a readiness for change in the organization.
Underestimating the impact on the organization
When I ask Magnus about how to approach the Cloud Adoption Framework, he smiles: “Don’t take it too literally. It’s impossible to implement and understand everything at once, but CAF can and should be used as guidelines – a roadmap for your Cloud Adoption journey”.
Central for CAF is its emphasis on alignment between the technological, HR, and business sides of the organization. The success of a Cloud Journey depends significantly on the ability of different parts of the organization to work together in the transition from on-premises IT to Cloud or Hybrid Cloud. The IT department must be able to understand and communicate the consequences of the digital transformation on the organization – both short term and long term.
At the same time, the other parts of the organization – management, finance, marketing, and so on – must participate in the change by understanding the challenges that rise with new procedures, and the possibilities that they represent for the entire organization.
Too often, companies underestimate the scope of a transformation process like Cloud Adoption and do not prepare or include the different departments properly. As Magnus says: “Innovation has to be part of the entire Cloud Adoption process. I don’t care too much about just moving servers – I want the entire organization to think about how the Cloud can make things easier and more effective, whether in security, application management, or by automating procedures that were previously done manually”.
They already started flying to the Cloud on their own – now they are crashing all over the place
One of the challenges most companies face in the initial stages of Cloud Adoption is the fact that, while they might have a competent and well-driven IT department, few of the employees have Cloud experience and expertise.
Getting qualified help in a field where Cloud Engineers, Cloud Architects, and other experts are highly sought after can be difficult, and as a result Magnus often meets companies who initially overestimate their abilities to tackle a Cloud transition and try to fly alone and before their wings are fully grown:
“Maybe the companies have a few people with Azure experience – but not enough. That is a real problem, because they might be going wrong in various ways without even knowing it! Often, I meet companies who have already started trying to fly to the Cloud on their own – but they really don’t know what they are doing, so they are crashing all over the place: costs are running amok, and nothing is compliant. It might sound self-serving, because that is part of what puts food on my table – helping people fix their messes. But I would honestly appreciate the customers even more if they had foresight and were humble enough to respect the scope of their IT transformation early on. If they would say: ‘Hey, we are trying to do something that is exceedingly difficult here – we are trying to fly to the Cloud, but we have never flown before. We need a pilot!’.”
Retraining is central and can be hard
While consultancy and outside help can be a great support in the initial phases – and provide guidance throughout the digital transformation journey – Magnus also sees retraining and upskilling as central ways a company should support and develop their future potential in the Cloud.
Part of CAF is a Skills Readiness Plan that outlines the translation of legacy IT skills to complimentary Cloud era skills. Microsoft provides comprehensive materials for retraining on such different ‘Learning Paths’ in Microsoft Learn and makes it attainable for legacy IT employees to qualify for certifications in Azure.
However, as Magnus emphasizes, transitioning to a new era of digital prowess where the keywords are Cloud, automation, and flexibility can be daunting if you as an employee feel that your position in the company and your IT skills lose value. Some employees will take up the challenge of ‘learning to fly’ and be able to adapt – others will get frustrated and resist the change.
Magnus likens it to the different reactions to change presented in Spencer Johnson’s famous business fable Who Moved My Cheese? and adds: “By retraining your employees, you are giving them a future within the business, and while they might feel anxious and resist it in the beginning, getting as many people on board as possible can be good value for money in the long run. The retraining is central and can be hard”.
Balancing speed and control
Learning to navigate Cloud environments by using CAF is about balancing the speed and agility that Cloud can offer with careful control and management by skilled employees.
The tagging and documentation procedures can help automate and optimize processes and applications: “You have to learn to take advantage of the Cloud and its scalability and opportunities for automation”, Magnus says, and because it takes time and expertise to learn to do it sustainably and safely, he recommends starting on a small scale and migrating a chosen few project that have potential to fully benefit from the transition to Cloud.
A forbes.com article from 2019 underlines this by stating that a staggering 70% of digital transformation efforts fail, the main reasons for failure being: 1) Not integrating the transformation in the entire organization and 2) trying to transition everything in the company at once. The article concludes that initial failure to transform the business is not definite failure, but it can be costly in money and time – and can be avoided with the proper respect for the transformation process and the right resources at hand.
How much is it going to cost? Well, it depends…
These pitfalls are also represented when discussing the financial mindset and resources needed for a good Cloud Adoption. According to Magnus the entire organization undergoing the Cloud journey must be part of a fundamental change where they “challenge and rethink all the old truths – like the truth of how an IT budget works”.
While Cloud can be cheaper and a lot more cost-effective than on-premises IT, getting there requires an understanding of the automation potential of Cloud:
“Your finance department needs to be both brave and patient. It might be impossible to give them an answer if they want to know the precise cost of moving to Azure from the beginning. It depends on what capacity you need – and you might not be able to say before you really begin moving things. So, in the beginning it is hard to plan for the costs – but that is in fact a strength if you understand how to take full advantage of it. If you start migrating a couple of things and getting some monthly bills, and then adjust your calculations, you should quickly be able to improve your predictions. That’s also the way to get better at saving money: automating, shutting down unnecessary resources, and only paying for the consumption you truly need.”
Magnus also suggests easing the communication and increasing the understanding between finance and IT by building stable tagging procedures that make it easier for the finance department to see where the money goes and what it benefits.
How far does the organization need to move – to the Cloud or to the stars?
When I ask Magnus about the details of the planning phase itself – what is the expected timeframe? Where should the organization begin? When should they start thinking innovation into the process? – he laughs and admits that they are hard questions, almost impossible, to answer with certainty: “It depends on how far away from the Cloud the organization is at the beginning and what their level of ambition is. Do they need to be moved to the Cloud or to the stars? It is easy to underestimate that journey for a non-technical person – if you just see all of it as IT, you miss both the possibilities and the challenges of Cloud Innovation”.
Some of the hurdles, like getting used to tagging, automating, monitoring, making things compliant and secure, can be hard to overcome in the beginning before the staff gets more experienced with Cloud. As Devoteam M Cloud DK’s CPO Magnus is working with a team of developers and Cloud architects to ease those challenges by creating a catalogue of Managed Services and Cloud Center of Excellence Offerings that can assist IT departments in Cloud Adoption Journeys: “They are tools that work the same way for every customer and empower them do things according to best practices”.
Planning a good Cloud Adoption process is about getting the right people to help, about patience, timing, cooperation, and investment from all parts of the organization, about learning the best practices, and about willingness to change. CAF can help structure this journey and help clarify the steps a company needs to take to go forward with maximum potential for innovation and effectiveness.