7 Essential Factors for a Successful Cloud Migration: A Non-Technical Guide

Are you looking to modernize and migrate your data but have questions about the complex organizational challenges? We recently hosted the webinar: Overcoming Organizational Challenges in Data Modernization and Cloud Migration: A Guide for Senior IT Leaders. Featuring industry experts Matt Gordon and Dustin Dorsey, there was a wealth of information packed into this hour-long conversation, covering all aspects of data modernization and migration that senior IT leaders should be aware of, from organization culture, communication, and politics. The blog post below summarizes the conversation into 7 key points.

  1. Ensure everyone is clear on your goal for this project

Defining the business need for a huge project like a cloud migration is crucial to success; simply following a trend – e.g. “everyone else is doing it” – will not go down well with the team. It’s important to establish clear goals and ensure that everyone is aware of them. The main motivations behind cloud migrations are usually cost savings or consolidation, and everyone should know what the ultimate end goal is.

Starting project conversations with a clear understanding of the motivation behind it, whether it’s driven by vanity, cost-saving goals, or other factors mean that there will be fewer obstacles and disagreements during the implementation phase. Which leads us to point number 2…

  1. Be transparent about what is required from the team

It seems like a no brainer, but gaining buy-in from the teams who will be executing the project is crucial for a successful cloud migration.

Dictatorial approaches are not effective; people perform their best when they are excited and engaged. This requires transparency and honesty about the requirements and potential challenges of the project, especially when operational teams are expected to handle existing responsibilities while working on the new project and may be working over time for a few months.

Simply stating that the project is being done without considering the impact on the team’s workload will not generate enthusiasm or cooperation. Open and two-way communication is necessary to address concerns, revise goals, and determine resource needs.

  1. Ensure the right stakeholders are involved from the start; co-ordination is key

Cloud migration projects often start with the data team because everyone sees it as a technical project. It is crucial to include several teams, such as developers, application teams, database teams, sysadmins, and security, early in the conversation. Matt has seen that when it only sits with the data team, and they then have to coordinate with other teams; operations, security etc., then there can be issues when they don’t all have the same boss or objectives.

Finding a leadership sponsor or executive sponsor can be one way to bridge gaps between all the teams. There are typically two important people in project sponsorship: the official executive sponsor who has the authority and budget (and maybe non technical), and the person who gets things done, often not at the highest level in the organizational hierarchy but has the technical know-how. Identifying the person who can make things happen and who is well-connected within the organization is crucial for progress.

Certain teams, such as security, are often overlooked in the project planning process, which can lead to significant issues later on. Security teams have the power to stop projects if they are not involved from the beginning to evaluate and approve the project’s security implications.

Failing to address security concerns and engage wider teams early on can derail the entire project. Doing your homework and educating skeptical teams about the security certifications and measures provided by cloud providers like Microsoft, Amazon, and GCP can help build trust and address any concerns early on.

  1. Communicate as much as possible

Communication was a major theme in the webinar. Good communication is crucial for any major project, but particularly for one as complex as cloud migration.

Company culture often determines how communication is conducted – it might be through meetings, email, or platforms like Slack. Understanding the communication preferences of team members and adapting to different company cultures is important.

Taking the initiative to establish communication channels, set up regular meetings, or share notes can help maintain effective communication. Don’t be afraid of going overboard, either; overcommunication is preferable to under communication in the case of large scale migrations and it is better to provide too much information and have someone say they don’t need it than to provide insufficient information and leave people uninformed.

  1. Planning is key!

The planning stage of a migration is crucial and should not be skipped; it is as important as the actual implementation. Proper scoping, budgeting, and testing should be done during this stage.

Having a project manager, especially someone less technical, can help keep discussions on track and avoid getting caught up in technical details too early. A dedicated PM can be a luxury, however, and in previous migrations, Matt and Dustin have had to take on the role of project manager in addition to leading the design and migration.

Considerations during the planning phase include network, security, resource organization, and infrastructure-as-code practices. Cost analysis and accurate budget estimations should also be performed before starting the migration process.

The most overlooked aspect of a cloud migration is often the cost management side, specifically the understanding of costs before the migration and effectively managing them once in the cloud. Many organizations assume they will automatically save money but end up being disappointed. Another overlooked aspect is the importance of taking a holistic approach rather than piecemealing the migration, ensuring that all applications and components are considered for a successful transition.

  1. Ensure you have the right skill sets in the team

Before embarking on a migration, it is important to identify the skill sets that your organization may lack or need to strengthen. Assessing your team’s skills upfront allows you to plan and budget accordingly, rather than realizing the need for additional expertise during the migration process. If you lack certain skills, you can consider hiring contract consultants or full-time employees, or you could focus on upskilling and training your existing team members.

If you go with the latter approach, Matt and Dustin recommend starting with smaller application migrations to gain experience and build confidence before undertaking larger projects. Starting small allows for easier reversibility and better evaluation of variables, as well as helping the team become comfortable and prepared for larger migrations in the future.

7. Use your Cloud partners – and the community – as a resource

One final bit of advice from Matt and Dustin is to utilize your cloud partners and account representatives when migrating to the cloud.

Cloud providers offer a range of free resources and support to help you navigate the migration process and they are often eager to assist and provide resources to ensure a successful transition. Building a relationship with your cloud account rep allows you to communicate your needs and receive guidance on migration challenges, while providing you with the confidence and expertise needed.

Secondly, engaging in community events, virtual events, SQL Saturdays, Data Saturdays etc. can provide a wealth of technical insight. They are also a great opportunity for you to meet teams who have already completed projects and can provide advice before and during your own project, and usually for free.

If you want to catch the full webinar, you can watch it on demand here. Or if you’d like to know more about how Redgate Tools can support a cloud migration, check out this post

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