July 20, 2022
By Cameron Hatten
As a CIO, you know that making smart decisions about technology is key to business success. Determining which decisions to make can be a significant challenge – especially when you’re dealing with a complex, constantly evolving domain like cloud computing.
That’s why CIOs routinely turn to cloud consulting firms, which offer the expertise that businesses need to make the right choices about which cloud platforms and services to use, how to architect cloud workloads, how to evolve cloud environments over time and – most important – how to align investment in the cloud with business outcomes.
While providing insights like these is the goal of most cloud consulting relationships, the value that CIOs receive from cloud consulting firms depends on the specifics of their interactions. It’s just as important to be strategic about how you work with cloud consultants as it is to make strategic decisions about how you ultimately use the cloud.
Tips to Maximize Consulting Value
That’s why we’ve put together this list of best practices for maximizing the value that CIOs get from cloud consulting firms. No matter where your business is on its cloud journey, or what level of experience you have working with cloud consultants, these tips will help to optimize the outcomes of your consulting relationship – from both a technological and business perspective.
What does expert cloud consulting offer my organization?
Before diving into best practices for engaging with cloud consultants, let’s cover the basics of what CIOs should expect to get from cloud consulting services.
The main purpose of cloud consultants is to deliver cloud adoption expertise that businesses lack in-house. Except in the case of very large companies – Google, Amazon and the like – most organizations don’t have the deep knowledge of different cloud platforms, architectures, deployment and management tools and so on that is necessary to make the best decisions about when and how to take advantage of cloud services. Cloud consultants, who specialize in mastering cloud technology and staying up-to-date as it constantly evolves, fill this knowledge gap.
But providing information and guidance is only one role of cloud consulting firms. Consultants should also be able to help CIOs align cloud computing strategies with their businesses’ unique needs. Every company’s IT stack and requirements are different, and everyone should therefore take a different approach to the cloud.
Equally important is helping companies learn the cloud technologies they embrace. Consultants shouldn’t simply tell businesses which cloud services to deploy. They should educate their clients about how to make the most of those technologies. Enablement, knowledge transfer and upskilling are essential components of any effective cloud consulting engagement.
Making the Most of Cloud Consultants
All cloud consulting relationships have the potential to deliver the value described above. Whether CIOs fully unlock that value depends on …
… their ability to adhere to best practices for maximizing the impact of cloud consulting.
Start your consulting relationship early. In general, the sooner you start working with a cloud consulting firm, the better. If you engage a consultant as soon as you identify a potential need to adopt cloud services, or to evolve or expand the cloud resources you’ve already deployed, the consultant will be able to help you not just to implement changes, but also to identify the best platforms and services for your needs and to design a service architecture and business process tailored to your needs. That said, even if you already have a cloud strategy in place, it’s not too late to seek the perspective of a consultant, who can help to validate whether the strategy is optimal based on your business’s requirements and resources.
Think beyond migration and implementation. Migrating legacy workloads to the cloud or implementing new types of cloud services (such as containers) to double-down on the value of the cloud, are often the focal point of cloud strategies. However, migration and implementation represent only a narrow part of a total cloud operations strategy. Equally important is designing, documenting, measuring and managing the investments that businesses make in the cloud. For that reason, it’s critical to think of your cloud consultant as a resource not just to tell you how to launch cloud resources, but who can also take a step back and help you assess your cloud strategy from a more holistic angle.
Focus on business outcomes, not technology outcomes. The goal of a cloud consulting relationship should be to create business value, not just deploy new technologies. To align with that mindset, CIOs should treat cloud consultants as business partners, not technology partners. In other words, they should ask their consultants to answer questions about how to leverage the cloud to solve business problems. That’s very different from asking consultants how to implement a certain type of cloud architecture or service. Questions like these (which focus on technology) are but a means to an end (which is business success).
Measure cloud consulting success. CIOs must identify key milestones that they expect their cloud consultants to help them accomplish, then track progress toward those milestones. Cloud projects are complex and demanding, and measuring effort toward completing milestones helps to ensure that cloud consultants are delivering their intended results. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate successes of both your consultants and your own team as they work collectively toward your cloud goals.
Ask for opinions and recommendations. Last but not least, CIOs should expect their cloud consultants not just to explain cloud technology options, but also to make recommendations about which solutions are best. Enterprises could choose to proceed in a number of directions. The best cloud consulting relationship is one that helps CIOs understand the nuanced differences between the various cloud technologies available, and for consultants to make specific recommendations about which solutions are best for their businesses’ needs.
Just as you should have a deliberate, structured approach to planning and implementing cloud services, you should follow specific operational imperatives when working with cloud consultants. To capitalize fully on the value that cloud consulting firms can offer to you and your team, it’s crucial to start the relationship at the right time, ask the right questions of your consultants and make sure the key focus remains on optimizing your cloud strategy to meet your business’s needs.
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