The Three Key Steps to Successful Cloud Onboarding
Enterprise organizations are looking to partner with MSPs as they move to the cloud. The key for success is to develop an engagement plan using a high touch process to ensure a smooth onboarding experience during all three phases of the on-boarding process: The Assessment, Transition Plan and Cutover, and Ongoing Performance Analysis. Like most new technologies, cloud computing can require significant changes in business processes, application architectures, technology infrastructure, and operating models that must be properly understood before embarking on any new initiative. Having a well thought out strategy can mean the difference between success and failure.
Step 1: Assessment – Business and Technology
The first step to understanding these challenges is the Assessment. The purpose of the Business and Technology Assessment is to scope out the project taking into consideration the complexities and nuances of the client’s business environment as well as its current technical situation. At this stage a multi-disciplined team including sales, solutions architects, operations, finance, and executive management is assembled to conduct the analysis.
The complete assessment includes a technical analysis, an economic analysis and a business and application analysis. The result of the assessment is a clear roadmap of the scope of the project so that the client can clearly evaluate whether they want to take a “do it yourself” approach or select a partner to assist with the transition. Let’s take a closer look at what is included at each stage of the analysis:
- Technical Analysis: Existing infrastructure and applications are reviewed to identify the services best suited for the cloud. The assessment covers key scalability and architectural issues, including server and application processes; and database transactions and scalability. Critical application interfaces also need to be assessed to determine the optimal cloud migration path.
- Business Analysis: Business and economic considerations play a major role in the decision to migrate to the cloud. Comprehensive ROI and TCO models are developed that provide economic justification for cloud migration.
- Business and Application Analysis: This analysis determines whether customers need to re-engineer business processes to leverage the cloud and whether their application needs to comply with specific regulations, such as PCI, HIPAA, and SOX.
Step 2: The Transition Plan and Cutover
Assuming that the client wants to move forward after the assessment and its cloud level of business and technology readiness is understood, a transition plan is developed that includes the details of on-boarding, cutover, and steady state management. The plan is essentially a blueprint that defines what the client can expect, contingencies if problems arise, and a detailed project plan of when and how it will be delivered. It includes a detailed custom network design, phased in implementation, escalation procedures, security and compliance considerations, SLA options, training, reporting, a timeline as well as when and how the team will get the environment in a steady state once the cutover is complete. This plan will also include the change of technologies, processes and policies to transform the organization.
The Transition Plan focuses on the impact of the customer, which includes the processes, policies and adjustments needed to move them from their current state to the cloud. Some examples included in the plan are Service Transition, Change Management, Service Asset and Configuration Management, Release and Deployment Management, Service Validation and Testing, Evaluation, and Knowledge Management.
This is where choosing the right MSP can really make a difference. The best MSPs will have the following capabilities;
- multi-disciplined teams with touch points at all levels within the organization,
- tried and true migration methodology,
- experience in migrating infrastructure and applications to a cloud delivery mode,
- can specifically address a range of requirements including physical to virtual migrations project management and on-boarding,
- the ability to implement a hybrid cloud model if customers want to migrate some, but not all, of their IT infrastructure and services to the cloud, and
- the ability to customize services to meet the need of the enterprise.
Once the transition begins, the engagement manager and the operational implementation manager play critical roles during this phase. The dedicated engagement manager works directly with the client and harnesses the service provider’s internal resources as issues arise while the implementation manager manages the day-to-day operational implementation. It is critical that these two functions become synchronized during the transition to ensure a smooth onboarding experience. When these two functions are working in tandem, unforeseen issues can usually be worked out quickly before they impact the overall migration and cutover.
At the conclusion of this phase, approximately 98 percent of the project is complete. It is over the next several months where operations fine tunes the remaining 2 percent of the project.
Step 3: Ongoing Performance Analysis
With a cloud platform, monthly charges are based on actual compute resources used, therefore it is critical that cloud-enabled applications run efficiently. Periodic performance tuning and load testing are necessary to optimize applications in the cloud.
Reporting to the engagement manager, the delivery manager and his or her team prepare a weekly report that identifies operating trends and specific incidents. The team will review these issues on a weekly call with the customer and develop additional operating procedures in response to the trends and incidents.
For example, a customer’s service on a server goes down on Wednesday at 4:00 am. The immediate problem is handled by the incident management process. Through the post mortem process trend analysis, the service delivery team notices that it has happened every Wednesday at 4:00 am for the past several weeks. This is when the team may develop additional standard operating procedure that mitigates the risk of the service going down regularly.
On a monthly basis, the delivery team will take a more holistic approach. They will be able to look at the usage patterns and determine how best to utilize the current resources using a number of parameters including consolidating under-utilized resources, optimize based on time of day usage, on seasonal demand, and on business process usage variations.
Quarterly, the teams meet and take a look forward at the initiatives for the upcoming next quarter as well as revisit the business plan. It is at this time the teams determine the ongoing readiness to scale and support the upcoming initiatives.
Enterprises need to select an MSP that will partner with them through the entire on-boarding process. The key to a smooth, secure and compliant implementation is a high touch engagement process from beginning to end.