The Turbulent Move to the Cloud

By Christian Buckley posted 11-13-2012 12:29


We can all see that our organizations are getting to be more mobile -- whether than means people doing more from their smart phones and tablets, or just that teams are more geographically dispersed is really a moot point: how we access our content and tools is changing as technology advances. The traditional model of going to a workspace, logging into a desktop PC, and from there accessing all of the content and productivity solutions you need is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, regardless of industry or regulatory concerns. Amidst all of this, IT departments are looking to reduce costs.


The two don't seem to fit together -- give people more ways to access their content and tools, and the costs should go up, right? More platforms to support with this whole BYOD (bring your own device) movement, much less just supporting multiple browsers. Herein lies another reason why SharePoint has such broad adoption, and many more organizations are thinking about the cloud – and specifically Office 365. The SharePoint platform does much of this hard work for you, providing a centralized location for all of your content and business processes, which can then be accessed through the various browsers and devices.


Here's the rub: moving everything to the cloud is hard. It's not just a matter of pushing content to a hosted server. Ok, maybe its just that easy for some – but for those who have customized their platforms and have rich functionality and productivity solutions built into their platforms, the jump can be quite complex, and the cost savings questionable. It's why any consultant worth their pay rate will tell you it’s a matter of understanding your requirements, the return on investment for the business, and the risks involved (both the risks of doing something, and the risks of doing nothing).


But people don't like to have that conversation. It's hard. It forces them to think about the value of what they've already delivered, and doesn't allow them to push back on that reality and instead look to the nirvana of the shiny, new technology platform. This may sound snarky, but the unfortunately reality is that many organizations will kick the can of ROI reality down the road, going with their "gut feel" rather than hard data. But I digress.


For those who are considering the cloud, the best path is to baby step it. Hybrid solutions are the logical, realistic path forward – a combination of on-premise, private and/or public cloud offerings. Companies need to ease their way into the cloud by understanding what aspects of their business can logically move first. I always point out Office365 as a powerful, flexible, and inexpensive extranet solution for companies to collaborate with partners and customers. And for organizations that want to decrease IT costs on premises but have concerns about rich, complex functionality that may not scale or perform well in the pure cloud (or, more importantly, could open up intellectual property risks), you may want to define a hybrid computing model for SharePoint that includes a dedicated hosting solution -- retaining control and customizations, but also gaining the benefits of scale from your hosting provider to reduce IT costs.


Underneath all of that, the real secret to success in making the cloud transition always comes back to the end user experience. You need to think extensively about how end users can be / will be transitioned. Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much money you think you've saved, if your users are not happy and do not adopt the new platform, you will have failed. How much will that cost you? 

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