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How to Manage the Operational Impacts of a Cloud Migration

The technical aspects of a cloud migration are complex. In planning for the migration, though, companies cannot ignore operational challenges that will ripple out from the technical changes that occur. 

Let’s explore what operational transformations are necessary to execute a cloud migration. These transformations include change management, release management and data governance.


Implementing Change Management for a Migration

If we accept that the cloud is not a place, but a change in operating models, we need a way to understand how cloud migration will impact operations, and how to smooth that transition. Change management creates formal processes for aligning “IT activities with business objectives,” developer Michiel Mulders notes for Plutora.

Most crucially for a cloud migration, change management helps organizations “update existing internal or external products or services without causing widespread disruptions,” the team at DNS Stuff writes. “Because of the interconnected nature of modern IT networks, it’s critical for IT professionals to invest time and effort in change management, so organizational infrastructure works as intended for employees and customers alike.”

In a cloud migration, a change-management plan will  outline steps for iterative progress, how to observe and verify results, and how teams can collaborate across departments to support the changes that get made.

That change-management plan needs to support user adoption, too. This means:

  • Understanding user groups. Know what systems and applications each group uses, what they use those systems or applications for, and what aspects of those systems or applications will change post-migration.
  • Mapping dependencies between applications. This ensures workflows are not disrupted during the migration.
  • Identifying champions per user group. These champions can help support the change and advocate for any changes that are specific to each group.
  • Training users on new systems, workflows and processes.
  • Providing support once the cloud-based systems go live.

Don’t ignore the bigger picture here. Part of an organization-wide change involves selling user groups, and employees in general, on your vision for the future. That’s why you put in the work to secure broad buy-in, and why you should continue to engage users during the migration. 

“For most change initiatives, it is also helpful to start with a narrative or story that clearly articulates the ‘big picture’ – why change is important and how it will positively affect the organization long-term,” says Morgan Galbraith, director at management consultancy United Minds.


Release Management

While change management is concerned with planning and reducing disruptions in the final live cloud deployment (pre- and post-migration activities), release management concerns the actual deployment of the cloud migration strategy. 

This work includes ensuring the proper versions of software and hardware are in place, the right licenses are in place, and the right supporting processes are in place throughout the migration. 

Release management involves the following core steps:

  • Setting up the cloud migration with the approved tools and processes.
  • Testing and batching the migration without interrupting existing services.
  • Monitoring events with a proactive incident response strategy.

There is a people element to this, too. Release management practices also involve managing the expectations of the customer — the organization undertaking the migration — during the rollout.

Internally, release management and product management practices share a connection. When teams switch to a release-management approach, delivery models and task priorities change a little. Dev teams then begin to focus only on features that will be delivered in the next release cycle.

Finally, it’s important to underscore that release management also works hand-in-hand with change management. “Release management seeks to create a more proactive and predictable change management process,” writes Ronit Eliav, VP of brand and product marketing at cloud platform company Bringg. “It is absolutely essential for managing the volume of interdependent changes within a company.”


Data Governance 

Tremendous amounts of data can move from on-premises storage to the cloud during a migration, and that data needs to be governed so that it moves over securely while retaining its usefulness and value to the company.

A key aspect of this is planning for disaster recovery. Teams need to understand how resilient each component of the cloud architecture is, and what requirements there are for each of those components. Then, a disaster recovery plan must be drawn up to cover services and data, should any aspect of the system go down.

There are also regulatory challenges. When a U.S. healthcare company moves its data to the cloud, for example, HIPAA requirements impact how that data is governed. 

The type of cloud environment also affects how data is governed, the team at LeanIX writes. “As cloud adoption occurs, governance over multi-cloud, single-cloud, or hybrid IT environments composed of microservices must account for speed and quality. This means implementing and monitoring custom policies, guidelines, and guardrails for cloud usage to ensure services are procured and consumed rationally.”

Operationally, this means defining roles and privileges of data access for employees, as well as things like documenting policies on resource requests, procurement and retirement.

Then come questions of data security. This involves reviewing identity and access controls, creating data backup policies, designing application-level security protocols, and making decisions about endpoint security.


Change Management Metrics to Know

There are a handful of key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be useful for assessing the operational continuity of technologies, processes and workflows. Those KPIs can break down into broad categories, which include:

  • Migration status. These operational metrics measure the time and capital investment in the cloud migration, broken down by phase (e.g. migration stages, testing) so you can measure each phase against expectations. 
  • Operational efficiencies. Monitor KPIs such as number of service tickets, downtime, latency and performance to get a feel for how well operations are running.
  • Cybersecurity and compliance reporting. The metrics help to detect and prevent cybersecurity issues and meet the demands of regulatory requirements. KPIs include indicators of compromise (IOCs), network input/output (I/O), authorized apps, sensitive data, user access and device access.
  • User experience. Application uptime and availability don’t speak specifically to user experience, whether the user is an employee or a customer. Monitoring application performance and latency and support tickets together can help inform whether there has been an issue with user experience. KPIs can include site load time, conversions and cart abandonment rates.

Change management is an iterative process that leverages these KPIs to inform improvements during and after a cloud migration. 


Preparing Your Company for Fundamental Changes

Understanding the operational challenges of a cloud migration during the planning phases will let you set the right kinds of expectations upfront so you enjoy the cloud’s benefits over the long term.

It’s important that everyone in the organization recognize that a migration is not simply moving data and software from one location to another. A cloud migration transforms every aspect of an organization, from internal operations to customer service delivery. With the right strategy, and the right partner to help execute that move, you can set your company up for future success, innovation and growth.

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