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Marching Orders 2019: Optimization and Modernization for Public Cloud

What are the top steps Microsoft partners can take to help their businesses succeed in 2019? We put that question to top experts, includingMike Harvath, President & CEO, Revenue Rocket.

The cloud is a means, not an end.

Success in modernizing IT in 2019 and beyond, through the cloud, will be driven by a complete standardization and through intentional growth strategies.

What we're seeing is that cloud adoption has been increasing at a rapid pace. According to research from Forbes and Gartner, cloud-specific spending is expected to grow more than six times the rate of general IT spending through 2020. Many companies, both large and small struggle to get the full value of this trend of moving their enterprise systems to the cloud, despite many organizations finding success by implementing specific software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions or adopting cloud-first strategies.

What we've found is that companies tend to fall into the trap of confusing moving IT systems to the cloud with the necessary transformational strategies centered around the full value of the cloud. Simply  taking legacy applications and moving them to the cloud through a "lift-and-shift" mindset won't automatically yield the benefits that cloud infrastructure and systems can provide. In most cases, that approach can result in IT architectures that are more complex, cumbersome, and costly.

The real value of cloud doesn't come from an approach that's focused on tactical decisions. Instead it's one that's part of an overall strategy that pursues digital transformation through the enablement of standardization and automation through an open API model. This strategy must be focused on aspects like developing a modern security posture, working within automated agile constructs, all the while leveraging new capabilities to drive innovative business solutions. The cloud certainly isn't a prerequisite for any of these features, but it does enforce them. Firms who embrace cloud capabilities using these methodologies will create a next-generation IT culture where the result is business growth and innovation in this rapidly evolving digital era.

Cloud solution providers such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google will appeal to many firms because of their platform benefits such as pay-per-use, scalability, network resiliency, and self-service. In 2019, we're expecting that these platforms will lead to much lower IT costs, quicker go-to-market, and better Quality of Service (QoS) when compared to traditional IT offerings.

As firms begin to adopt new methodologies in cloud optimization and modernization, there will be two major issues.

One, business applications created using the traditional IT paradigm won't automatically function with all the dynamic features of the cloud. Because of this, applications must be configured for fixed and/or static capacities in data centers.

Second, the current typical technology workforce is well versed in developing business applications in a traditional IT framework and will have to be reskilled for the trending cloud environment shift. A great example of this is IT security. Traditional IT environments are ones that adopt a perimeter-based "castles and moats" approach to security. Ideally, they should be creating cloud environments that are more like modern hotels where a keycard is necessary to access floors and rooms. Moving and migrating to the cloud, based on the traditional approach, will most definitely have an adverse impact on cybersecurity unless legacy applications are developed, deployed, and reconfigured for the new security model. As a result of the lift-and-shift dynamic, we've found that many firms are stuck supporting both their inefficient traditional data-center environments or inadequately prepared for trending cloud implementations.

Best process to cloud optimization and transformation
Perhaps the best process in executing cloud optimization and transformation is understanding the upside and investments needed.

This is because this long-term approach needs active commitment and a clear mandate from the CEO, technology leaders, and stakeholders. Specifically, there's four key points companies should address for successful cloud adoption.

1. Sourcing

The struggles are that most companies won't build their own cloud technology stack, and these same firms will find it even more difficult to maintain it. Partnering with public cloud providers and their partners through sourcing relationships in order to build/manage the cloud stack is much more practical.  By doing this, the end user clients will find that achieving success will be much more scalable.

2. The right cloud operating model

Public cloud requires IT to manage infrastructure as code, unlike most traditional operating models.

This requires software architects and engineers who understand coding, storage, and security protocols of public cloud. This equates to a massive upskilling of the infrastructure organization as well as the operating model in which they work. Specific teams need to be assigned to configure and manage the production environment, and this will be the foundation of the future cloud operating model.

3. Remediation of legacy applications

In order to align with security and capacity requirements, existing applications will need to be refactored at the infrastructure level. Security must be built into these applications, and must work in a more automated fashion, which will require significant attention from application teams. There will be challenges in this and companies can address this hurdle by creating a clear business case for modernizing legacy-applications by aligning migration schedules with major application upgrades or replacements aka modernization of said applications. Adopting foundational solutions with open API's will make these remediation efforts much easier.

4. Building IT teams with the right skills

IT and technology professionals must be able to build and code applications on the cloud in a secure and timely manner. Companies won't be able to do this without hiring and training the right cloud experts, then introducing them into development teams for retraining or upskilling their existing workforce. The expectation is that this aggressive approach will reply on commitments from leadership in the form of money and time. Typically, these types of approaches can take two to three years and that's because multiple things need to happen for cloud transformation to take place with the right people and right skillsets. This approach has significant management challenges, but with strong leadership, it's the fastest path to transformation.

We're seeing both an excitement and reluctance as many partners take the plunge into cloud. The reluctance is usually driven by concerns from a lack of buy-in, or a reluctance to invest the required resources in a multiyear effort. Conversely, organizations who embrace the new methodology of optimization AND modernization of the cloud achieve significant benefits in the medium to long term, by adopting the cloud's agile and automated operating model within their traditional IT approaches. Our prediction for 2019 as part of our Marching Orders will be that partner organizations who approach their cloud strategies this way will be ready and prepared for a very bright future indeed, in helping their clients with successful cloud transformation efforts.

Mike Harvath has spent his entire 30-year career advising partner companies on implementing winning growth strategies and facilitating mergers and acquisitions. As president and CEO of Revenue Rocket, he and his team have advised over 500 partner companies on reaching their growth goals.

Posted by Mike Harvath on January 22, 2019