In this post, I’d like to share the five most common (and severe) pitfalls that I’ve seen when it comes to Microsoft Azure cloud adoption. I’ve actually been bitten by a few of these, and I hope that by sharing my experiences you can have a smoother cloud adoption.
Deploying to the cloud is easy. Because of this, sometimes it’s easy to skip all the important steps you should take prior to deploying your first cloud workload. Let’s take a look at some of things you should do (and not do) prior to — and alongside — deploying your first workload.
1. Not understanding and communicating your motivations for cloud adoption
When your company decides to adopt or migrate to the cloud, it may be due to a significant business change like acquisitions and mergers or expanding to a new market.
But not always! Sometimes a decision is made to adopt the cloud without a “good” reason. It might be something like “the CIO told us to,” which is quite possibly the single worst motivation for cloud adoption.
Of course, the CIO might have a good reason for shouting, “To the cloud!” But the real reason needs to be discovered and communicated.
When you’re starting to formulate your cloud strategy, you need to define concrete measurable and achievable goals. (This is key to measuring your cloud success.) You also need to understand the motivations for cloud adoption.
You want to determine:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What problem are you trying to solve?
The best motivations for cloud adoption are the motivations that will deliver the best business value. Partner with the people that provided those motivations. They’ll be your stakeholders and will be very handy during cloud adoption.
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2. Loading up your internal IT teams with a cloud migration
When it comes time to actually start deploying workloads to the cloud, companies typically take one of two approaches.
- The first is to outsource the migration or deployment of new workloads to a Microsoft Partner.
- The second is to give the work to an existing internal operations team.
In my opinion, neither of these are ideal. If you outsource the deployment or migration of cloud resources to a third party, you’re losing out on the growth and learning opportunities that come with cloud adoption. You’re also probably going to get your operations teams offside — they’ll feel like they are being replaced.
The second option is probably even worse. Your internal teams are probably already working at capacity, or more commonly, they have a lot more work to do than they can achieve. Loading them up with the work of cloud migration will lead to slow cloud adoption or operational issues.
Instead, I suggest a different approach: grow your team for cloud adoption.
You can do this a few ways, but I recommend filling gaps. Try getting some high-level technical or architectural expertise to help drive adoption, and then get some additional support to deal with ongoing operational support for the existing infrastructure. That way your team can still provide operational support as required and drive cloud adoption.
You can use a Microsoft partner for this, or you can get some short-term support by the way of contractors.
Actually, if your cloud adoption is successful, you might end up growing your business through cloud adoption and innovation, and these extra hands might come in handy, permanently.
3. Not understanding the different management commitments required for each cloud service model
When you deploy workloads to the cloud, you have the choice of different service models. You’ve most likely heard of these before: things like Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
One common misconception is that each of these service models requires the same level of management commitment.
When you replace a workload with a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, what are you responsible for? Probably things like user management, maybe a few other things.
What about Platform as a Service (PaaS)? You’re probably additionally responsible for things like backup and recovery.
What about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)? You’re responsible for all of the above, but you’re also much more responsible for security. You need to make sure that you patch the operating system and applications that run on those platforms. Leaving a workload unpatched, significantly increases the risk associated with that workload.
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4. Not balancing agility and risk by distributing work between internal teams
When you’re deploying new cloud workloads to help drive innovation and grow your business, there are a couple of common methods for how you operate teams and share the responsibilities of deployment and management.
You can give the responsibility of deploying those workloads to your IT operations team, or you can give the responsibility to your workload teams. Often I see an al-or-nothing approach to this, and that’s another common pitfall.
It’s often faster if workload teams deploy their workloads directly, without having to wait for a central operations team, but it’s also more risky. They might be really good at providing business value through innovation, but they might not have the expertise or experience in deploying, securing and managing cloud workloads. Typically your central operations team will be very good at security and management. It’s their bread and butter. They’ve likely been deploying and managing reliable and secure workloads for years.
Deciding how to share this responsibility is a balancing act between agility and risk. But can you have both?
Here’s an idea: give the responsibility of security, management and governance to your central operations team and update their status to “Cloud Center for Excellence.”
They’re responsible for making sure that workload teams can easily, securely, and reliably deploy workloads that meet business requirements. If your workload teams need some assistance deploying workloads, you can choose to embed technical expertise in their team. If the size of your company permits, you could give them a DevOps engineer or a Business Analyst.
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5. Neglecting skills development
Once you have a bunch of workloads running on Azure, another common pitfall is not preparing staff for the ongoing management of those workloads.
Who’s going to support and maintain them?
I’ll tell you who is capable of doing a good job. Your current staff!
They also might have an interest in deploying or migrating those workloads too. They will also likely have heaps of tribal knowledge about your current workloads that will be super-handy when you migrate those workloads.
How can you retain these staff and get them ready for their new roles? Train them.
It really is that simple.
You can give them a subscription to A Cloud Guru (shocking suggestion, I know), but Microsoft also has a range of supplementary programs too. Talk to your Microsoft representative.
You can also provide no or low-cost incentives for getting trained. Things like additional responsibilities, or taking them out for lunch to celebrate their latest certification. Having your current staff trained and supportive of your cloud adoption will reward you with excellent results. It’s work that will pay off, and as a bonus, it will also help halt the brain drain that so many organizations are struggling with.
Learn more about Azure cloud adoption
If you’re interested in learning more about Azure cloud adoption, check out our new course Introduction to the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure. (Bonus: it’s one of our free courses for the month of February.) It covers all the major steps you need to take for a successful cloud adoption, including strategy, planning, preparation, deployment, management, and governance.
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