Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Often, wanting to move to the cloud is driven by the wrong motivations:

  • Leadership hears success stories from industry peers and mandates that their company must move, too.
  • There’s a larger technical project that the IT team knows will best succeed with the support of the cloud.
  • Tech leaders are excited about how the cloud’s latest technical capabilities could improve their systems, processes, and products to make life better for customers, partners, and employees.

None of these is necessarily bad — in fact, the cloud may offer benefits and solve problems in all of these scenarios.

But moving to the cloud is as much a business decision as it is a technical decision, which all of the above scenarios ignore.

No company should move to the cloud without first exploring these five business questions, either internally or with a cloud consultant.

1: What are your biggest business challenges?

Not all business challenges can be addressed by cloud migration, and not all challenges require the same strategy, so it’s important to focus on the big picture.

For example, if your biggest problem is customer retention, it’s important to determine why. Is it an employee training issue? If so, maybe your time and money might be better spent on your workforce than moving infrastructure.

Or maybe the problem is that, after you train employees, they leave because your outdated systems and technology make their jobs needlessly complicated.

Some things that don’t look like technical problems actually are.

Talking through your business challenges with a knowledgeable cloud consultant will help you understand where and how various types of cloud infrastructure might help solve them.

2: How are your customers’ expectations changing?

And how must your products or services change to keep up?

This question is about context.

It forces you to consider not only your product as it exists today, but also how it should exist in the future to remain relevant.

For example, many universities find that their students, faculty, and staff now arrive on campus with five or more devices each. They want to use any of these devices to access the school’s applications from anywhere.

That’s a huge leap from where things stood a few years ago, before the iPhone or iPad, when laptops and desktops were the only way to get online. Expectations will likely keep changing as more “smart” devices — watches, TVs, virtual assistants, door locks, thermostats, lighting, security cameras — become standard.

In any business, awareness of evolving customer expectations is crucial for identifying cloud solutions that can meet their needs.

3: What new opportunities exist in your space? Will you be able to seize them with your current infrastructure?

plan for your cloud future just like you'd buy a house to fit your future family
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Answering this question forces you to think beyond what you need to operate today to what you’ll need to operate — and stay competitive — in years to come.

You wouldn’t buy a one-bedroom house if you’re planning to have kids. So don’t choose a cloud infrastructure you’ll quickly outgrow.

Are you eyeing partnerships? Expanding internationally? Offering your services in various formats? Attracting new talent? Changing your entire business model? Some combination of these?

There’s no right or wrong answer. But your plans for the future will help determine which cloud setup makes the most sense.

4: What do you hope will change once you move to the cloud?

Answering this question helps business leaders define their specific expectations for cloud infrastructure and gives cloud providers an opportunity to address any that are unrealistic.

For example, many people assume that migrating to the cloud means saving money. While that can be true, it’s rarely the case if the cloud migration is planned poorly.

It can be deeply upsetting — not to mention financially problematic — when the cloud costs more than a business budgeted for.

The good news: working with experienced cloud consultants greatly increases the odds that you’ll enjoy the benefits you want from a cloud migration.

5: What kind of relationship do you want with your cloud provider?

Put differently, what are your customer service expectations?

Most of what people talk about around cloud migration are technical capabilities. But your relationship with your service provider will have a big impact on your outcomes. Will that provider work well with your IT team? Are they invested in your larger business outcomes, or are they content to simply get your infrastructure moved?

One way to think about this: do you want to work with a service provider who simply does what you pay them for, or a firm that acts more like a partner, guiding you through business questions like these to identify best-fit outcomes you may not have known about?

Another consideration: do you (and your IT team) feel comfortable coaching your provider, or would you prefer to be led?

Again, there’s no right answer. The key is to honestly assess your preferences and find a cloud services provider whose style matches yours.

Put your business first and the tech second

Moving to the cloud should be a business decision before it’s a technical puzzle. If you haven’t yet answered these questions about your motivations behind wanting to move to the cloud, take the time to do so.

The answers will clarify what you’re hoping to achieve with cloud adoption and help your cloud consultant recommend the best infrastructure for your long-term goals.

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