Positioning your move to AWS as a business transformation project - Cloud-Driven Enterprise Transformation on AWS

Positioning your move to AWS as a business transformation project

Traditional IT organizations operate with a boundary between business, application, and infrastructure teams. IT executives often ask AWS how to accelerate their AWS migration “with little to no business or application developer involvement” (see Table 1). This is not an effective strategy, because even in the simplest scenario application, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) resources need to prioritize the migration effort and sequence cutover along with planned application releases.

Migrating internally developed business applications to AWS, even in a “like for like” architecture approach with minimal optimization or refactoring, still requires a thoughtful “full stack” design. This entails addressing all the design elements, including:

  • Infrastructure design

  • Application architecture

  • Testing suite

  • Deployment processes

  • Resiliency considerations

  • Operational capabilities

Even with an architecture on AWS similar to the on-premises configuration, it is the application development team who will own the testing and the evolution of the system on AWS. In some cases, such as data center exits with a compelling date driven by an urgent divestiture process or significant financial penalties for missing lease end dates, a broad “forklift” automated migration path for a majority of assets may be appropriate. This requires coordination and prioritization with networking, security, applications, and business stakeholders. Companies that do not engage all aspects of their organization to accelerate through the most complex phase of dual operations (on-premises and on AWS) often stall early in the transition, diminish the business case, and miss the opportunity to capture the value of teams working “all in” and innovating on AWS.

An integrated teaming approach to a business-strategy-driven cloud transformation requires involvement of key business and technical stakeholders committed to AWS migration. Speed to value is achieved by driving incremental optimization to energize the benefits of tighter collaboration that is lacking in traditional silos of legacy IT governance models. The choice is not between moving applications to the cloud “as is” or full refactoring to enable cloud-native capabilities. There is a spectrum of options in-between (described in the next chapter of this document). Companies who move fastest empower teams to evaluate trade-offs, document their decisions, move quickly, and use data to measure performance and adjust.

Table 1 – Traditional vs. modern view of IT transformations

Traditional view Modern view

Think of migration to cloud as an infrastructure project

  • Driven by IT hosting services teams

  • Data center infrastructure lens

  • Limited business involvement

Adopt business application / business value view

  • Use migration to align IT portfolio to business priorities

  • Use migration to accelerate digital transformation and increase productivity of builders

  • Include factors of speed, resilience, cost, and agility in migration strategy

  • Automate and eliminate non-differentiated heavy lifting

  • Focus on business applications in production on AWS

Based on observations of the authors with large enterprise transformation programs, large enterprises often stall at the cloud migration point of 10-20% of their business application portfolios. Based on AWS experience, cloud business transformation typically stalls for three primary reasons:

  • No clear alignment on cloud transformation objectives across full senior team of business leadership, including the CEO and direct reports, as well as management board alignment on priorities to meet business strategic objectives

  • A lack of clear, aggressive, date-specific top-down business-driven goals

  • No long-term plan to support business goals with measurable milestones and clear ownership. Without such a plan it will not be possible to track and drive success.

To accelerate a successful program, increased business alignment and partnership is necessary, manifested in the form of a business transformation strategy. Sometimes the disconnect in leadership alignment is generated by a limited understanding on the part of business leadership of the cloud value proposition. Educating business leaders across the entire organization on their role in successful cloud-driven transformation is essential to the speed and resolution of competing priorities.

Companies with broad business commitment move faster through the “dual operations” hybrid phase of operations, unlocking the full value sooner when departments and portfolio teams are “all in” on AWS.

Expanded business partnership

For best results, do the following:

  • Identify a C-level executive sponsor to help drive your transformation program and set priorities in context of other critical business objectives.

  • Communicate value proposition broadly to business and enlist a set of executive leaders to endorse the program, own their business line’s completion of the migration program, and commit the necessary resources (developers, UAT testers, executive sponsors).

  • Create strong joint ownership of program outcomes.

  • Set clear corporate goals.

  • Tie program to business enablement.

  • Measure progress and outcomes.

  • Incentivize leaders to meet or exceed their timeline and modernization goals.

Executive sponsors can support culture change by communicating and supporting communication and failures along the way. Problems will be encountered; this is natural. With well-planned and well-tested deployments on AWS, most cutovers are non-events. When things do go wrong, failback procedures guide teams to quickly recover, adjust, and try again. An evaluation and correction of errors helps ensure that avoidable mistakes are not repeated. Senior leadership team support for experimentation and controlled failure is essential to gain speed and unlock value.