Cloud journey a few lessons!


By Christian Aboujaoude, CTO, Keck Medicine of USC

The rapid expansion of cloud services over the last decade has significantly paved the way for organizations of all shapes and sizes to accelerate their journey to innovation and efficiency. The availability of quick and compartmentalized components offered by the various cloud providers removed much of the complexities Information Technology teams faced when engineering solutions or implementing new ideas. To keep pace with market demands and not be left behind, IT executive and their respective teams rushed to the cloud to help further enable their business and many had great success in doing so. The recent events brought on by a global pandemic helped further accelerate this migration to the cloud, when many found themselves working from home and unable to tend to their on-premise infrastructure.

The presence of cloud services capabilities in an organizations’ Information Technology portfolio is important to help maintain growth and efficient evolution with evolving digital transformational needs.

Over the last decade, the change in the industry has been incredible to witness and in many cases exciting as it created a whole new way of managing and offering technology. Yet this transformation doesn’t come without its costs, especially to smaller organizations that did not have the rigor and structure of their larger counterparts. The Move to the cloud exposed for many a lack of process and governance in their environment. When on-premises, the organization could mitigate mistakes or misshapes with little to no re-precautions; however, the cloud is not exactly this forgiving. Without changing their approach and properly understanding how the “cloud” environment was structured, many organizations had to deal with the financial impacts brought on by the lack of process and attention to detail. In times like the current when most companies face tighter budgets, it is crucial that departments leverage solutions in the cloud and adopt a governance model that allows for a small percent of human error but does not create a major financial impact on the bottom line. Encouraging staff to follow a cloud management model on-premises by properly enabling services and expansion is a good first step to document the standard operating procedures of a certain organization as it pertains to its off-premises offerings.

Equally as important to the process is the need to have the right individuals managing your cloud environment and understanding properly the interdependencies that govern the services. One of the easiest moves to the cloud would be to leverage a Software As a Service (SAAS) model, which in many cases relies heavily on the providers’ environment and may simply require internet connectivity. The popularity of the SAAS model has significantly increased in the last decade with more offerings being made available to the consumer across different industries; However, there is an important element that should not be ignored in SAAS models. While true, they are easy to enable or implement and much more efficient to launch, these models tend to be a bit more expensive from an operational spend perspective and at times lack the proper security governance required in today’s connected and ever-changing landscape. Ensuring that your team is properly evaluating all the components of cloud solutions related to but not limited to security and redundancy is extremely crucial for any organization. This is an area that is not necessarily ignored or forgotten but at times thought of outside the immediate need to “worry about” because we are receiving a service that is all-encompassing.

One of the benefits most experienced by organizations migrating to the cloud is associated with the efficiency gained in purchasing services and infrastructure vs building it yourself. This relatively newer approach to providing technology has enabled many solutions to be quickly deployed in the environment and highlighted areas that need to be addressed at the local organizational level. Launching products or services in the cloud introduced new complexities such as training and downtimes management. These are items we didn’t “worry” about as much when services were rendered on the cloud but are items that must be seriously considered.

For many organizations across the vast landscape of industries, the cloud is absolutely the best choice for growing their environment and increasing the efficiency from concept to production or implementation. However, this growth; needs to be accompanied by structure and governance to ensure that we don’t duplicate the same issues or struggles experienced on-premises in the cloud. Some would argue this is part of the process and while true, it can be properly managed through a system of checks and balances that evaluates processes and standards used. For example, having an architectural team that can vet solutions properly and identifies opportunities and challenges associated with a cloud service is crucial. Having a robust on-premise infrastructure that is able to scale to the cloud and expand the features and functions it offers is equally important. These are examples of items that should not be overlooked as they are foundational to evolution.

I am a big proponent of the cloud and always looking for ways to push the technology and its capabilities just a little further to help breakdown boundaries and introduce new ways of accomplishing success. However, building a well-documented and structured approach is of the same importance and many times has a direct impact on your success journey to the cloud. Having a robust well-thought-out plan that looks at the totality of the environment you oversee is crucial for any cloud journey. It enables you to address items that might have been overlooked if evaluated individually. My approach to the cloud is simple! Build a robust on-premise network and security posture, only leverage solutions that allow scalability and are forgiving if mistakes are made and promote structure and proper support in your team and those maintaining the environment. Completing or addressing these three areas of focus will ensure a long term successful outcome in any cloud journey one selects.

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