Stepping into the cloud – what to consider when migrating your workplace

By James Mercer, - Future WorkplaceService Intelligence

So much of what we do on our devices now depends on the cloud in some way, shape or form. You’ll almost certainly have backed up a few photos from your smartphone, even if you’ve never seen or heard of a Google doc.

It can therefore seem odd to an IT professional that so many of us still depend on traditional operating systems at work.

But there’s a reason for this. It’s difficult for the workplace to be the first thing you move to the cloud. It’s simply not possible to isolate it from your core applications, meaning a total workplace transfer is just that: total.

It’s a big move. Think about trying to move your house without tying down the furniture or disconnecting from the water main.

Most companies today operate with plenty of modern applications, including software as a service (SaaS) apps. They’ll also the required strength and consistent connectivity.

This is an ideal position to be in when considering a full workplace shift.

In many cases, however, there will be legacy applications and devices still in use that prevent an immediate and straightforward move to the cloud.

Built to flex

This might all sound quite daunting, and not unreasonably so. As I said before: it’s a big move.

But should that be enough to put you off entirely? Ultimately it’s a case of understanding what your business objectives are and then assessing whether a move to the cloud might help.

I’d wager that in most cases the move will be worth it.

Are you trying to reduce costs? Improve productivity? Attract and retain ‘Gen Y’ staff? Improve security?

The beauty of the cloud is that it’s flexible, so a digital workplace can be cut to fit business needs.

Previously, companies would be locked into a ‘build & refresh’ cycle that meant having an IT infrastructure built to cope with peak-time operation. This would remain in place until a full system upgrade was available.

This is a wasteful approach and means appealing to your highest common denominator all year round. A courier service, for instance, will not be running at the same capacity in June as it will in the run-up to Christmas.

Cloud customers can peak as and when they want to – and pay accordingly.

Upgrades are rolling, too. Pre-cloud, IT buying cycles might have run over three or four-year periods. Systems might have gone without an update whether the vendor was offering it or not.

Difficulties justifying the business case for upgrading in the past would stall the process and with it the business.

Upgrades to the cloud workplace can be delivered on an ad hoc basis, which also crucially means staying updated with the latest security patches.

Step by step

Perhaps fittingly for its name, however, the cloud isn’t something you can just jump into.

Before you migrate you need to have done the required analysis to ensure you’re ready for the move. Your plan needs to map to previously identified business objectives. It’s worth taking on the counsel of someone who can help you with this.

You should consider, particularly, the company’s specific data security needs too. If the company has restrictions around data and the public cloud then you’ll need to use tracking tools to make sure files can be synced and found by users easily.

This helps to mitigate the risk of spiralling costs for non-optimised cloud storage, as well as limiting user frustration in cases in which data is located in different places across cloud-based applications.

Once a cloud platform is deemed sufficiently secure, security becomes more about the user’s rights and access to apps and data, as opposed simply to end point devices themselves. This puts increased importance on biometrics, identity management and role-based access permissions.

Communicating the benefits

With all of this in hand, it’s important to get your key stakeholders on board. Communicating the future benefits will be vital to helping people through any teething problems they might encounter when first experiencing a new way of working.

Then, it’s time to dip a toe to test the waters.

Take your solution through a full programme from proof of concept to pilots. The point of this is to prove the business benefits of migration, so pick use cases that will best illustrate that.

Invest in your pilot programme, bring your stakeholders along for the ride with you, and make sure that you capitalise on those users within the pilot who can act as advocates for the programme – people who want to be part of the transformation.

Lay your foundations

For all of this to work, you need to be well prepared and have a solid plan to provide the best, optimised outcome for the business.

Failing to do so is needlessly risky on two counts.

Not only will a lack of planning mean you come up against more technical issues than otherwise, but it will also limit your ability to accurately set expectations for your stakeholders.

Being able to fight the perception of slowness with benchmark data for comparable migrations is vital.

It’s particularly important because, ironically, if you can’t get people onside and making full use of the new solutions it will slow the workplace migration process, effectively reinforcing the appearance that things aren’t moving quickly enough.

Ultimately, a successful cloud-based workplace transformation will see staff volunteer  to be part of the change program. They’ll be prepared to drop the ‘old ways’ of working to gain the new features and benefits of cloud based Fast IT – namely, agility, autonomy, smart access and satisfaction.

The shock of the unknown is nothing new, but in the case of the cloud it should be a positive one – and one which can have long-lasting impact on all aspects of just about any business.

Sign up to our regular newsletter and get all the latest articles straight to your inbox

Our newsletter contains some of the latest content and includes a recap of the top posts you might have missed as well as a peek at what's coming up before it's published.