It’s no secret that cloud is a major force in helping companies to drive innovation today. Not long ago, companies were hesitant when it came to cloud adoption. Today it seems like the preference.

The reasons for this are clear enough. Cloud solutions help you scale up quickly. They give you the flexibility to add new functionality in a relatively simple manner. They’re also fairly affordable – turning an up-front capital expense for on-premise deployments into an operational expense that’s spread out over months or years. This helps to minimize risk and gives you the agility you need to compete more effectively.

Another swing of pendulum

If the attitude toward cloud was let’s wait and see, today the pendulum may have swung in the other direction. Cloud, in other words, has become a buzzword with a certain amount of hype that drives a sometimes uncritical acceptance.

In this context, I think it’s important to step back and think of cloud not as a magic bullet but as an additional deployment option to support business processes. The important question to ask is which deployment option do I choose for any given business scenario?

It’s complicated

Few, if any, companies are all cloud all the time. If you’re like most companies, you have an on-premise environment in which you’ve invested and which continues to deliver a tremendous amount of value. Unless you’re planning a full rip-and-replace (I don’t recommend it) then the issue is which parts of your environment may be candidates for a move to the cloud – and which future functionality do you want to integrate into your environment using the cloud option?

To make such decisions, you need to consider follow-on questions such as:

  • Should I go with managed cloud or public cloud?
  • What’s the cost and ultimate value?
  • How do I get there?
  • When should I do it?
  • What is the end-state vision?

The list goes on, of course – but you get the picture.

Good questions – and the answers you need

OK, so there are lots of questions – but the most important of all is: how do I get answers? I propose the following five steps as part of an overall cloud strategy that helps you move forward in a way that fits your unique circumstances.

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1. Discovery

First, you need to know where you stand from a technology and business perspective. Perform a formal as-is assessment and use this as your launching point for any future cloud projects you consider.

2. Business strategy and road mapping

Identify and prioritize the business scenarios for which you need support and research which scenarios can be supported with cloud solutions. Then map specific cloud solutions to these scenarios, taking note of any gaps. From there, design and develop a target architecture (defining any possible transition states) and a strategic transformation road map that will help align future work with overall objectives.

3. Technical strategy and road mapping

Where the previous step kept the focus on the business, here you get more technical – developing a target integration architecture to define data flows and ensure security. Follow this up with a road map to align technical work with overall strategic objectives.

4. Business case

Next, it’s important to justify it all with a solid business case that calculates total cost of ownership (TCO). What are the costs associated with the subscription model, implementation, migration, and hosting costs? What are the savings and benefits in terms of productivity gains, risk mitigation, and the ability to innovate faster in the future? It’s important to get a sense of the potential total value up front.

5. Detailed program plan

The final step is a detailed program plan that turns each building block in your business and technical road maps into combined projects. For each project, be sure to define all relevant inputs and outputs, activities, required resources, and associated costs.

The end result is a thorough cloud strategy with road maps to guide your decisions making and solidify specific projects moving forward.

Services to get you started – or get you all the way there

At SAP, we understand the value of such a process because we help companies do it. The point is not to think so much in terms of cloud but to think in terms of what you need. Sometimes it’s cloud, sometimes not. This process helps you make decisions that are right for you.

To help along throughout this process, SAP offers a cloud strategy and road map service that takes you from the initial discovery workshop to the detailed program plan. We also offer à la carte services, where we engage with you wherever you think you need the most help. In addition, we have specific toolkits that act as accelerators for different aspects of your transformation journey. For example, we have a maturity model that helps you speed the as-is assessment phase, a business scenario selector to help identify your requirements, a reference architecture to facilitate the redesign of your environment, and a business calculator so that you can better understand the value of any proposed cloud project.

If you want to learn more, send me an e-mail at cloud-services@sap.com

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