Migrating to the cloud is a strategic investment. Most organisations that are building a digital workplace based on the cloud choose to go with an Azure-based migration, and with good reason. In our view, Azure is the best-in-class cloud option due to its flexibility, scalability and capabilities such as reporting and integrations; it delivers a wide range of benefits from cost reduction, to business continuity, to supporting your digital workplace strategy. It is also the obvious choice for anyone focused on the Microsoft stack.
If you are going ahead with an Azure cloud migration, you need to adequately plan for it, both surrounding the details of the migration itself and the longer-term impact and ongoing management. Note that these are not just technical considerations but also business ones; moving to the cloud is as much about business transformation as it is about technology change.
In this article, we’re going to cover seven of the key areas you need to think about from a business and future management perspective when you are planning your Azure cloud migration.
1. Work out your scope and strategy
The starting point for any Azure migration must be to properly define your scope and strategy. This needs to focus as much on the business benefits as it does on the technical ones, meaning it requires discussions beyond the IT function or digital workplace team.
When speaking to other key business stakeholders and support functions about the transition, it is good to try and reach alignment and consensus. Not only should your cloud migration strategy and scope align with your overall company strategy, but it should take into account the different needs, plans and roadmaps of key stakeholders. Here, the different priorities and technical plans of other teams can impact the prioritisation of the steps in your migration, its timing and even some of the detail.
A strategy and scoping exercise working with other stakeholders can help to identify areas of value, potential challenges you may face and dependencies to factor in. It can also help you build up the relationships that will help further down the line with the actual implementation.
2. Audit your data and apps
Your strategy and scope might define the higher-level roadmap, but you will need to carry out an audit of the data you already hold and the various apps that are in use to define the detail around your Azure migration. Companies that have built up acquisitions and mergers often have huge collections of legacy data and content that might need to be migrated, and it is not unusual to discover collections that IT functions were previously unaware of while auditing. You’ll also want to map the applications in use to decide what to bring over; this process has value regardless because it may help identify opportunities to simplify your application landscape.
An audit of your data and any related applications is not just about having a list of what is out there: it’s also important to identify a clear owner for each item (not always as straightforward as it might seem), as well as any issues – for example, around security and compliance or dependencies – which might impact if and how content is migrated.
3. Define your security and compliance needs
It’s essential to involve the right people in your Azure migration planning – early conversations with your Information Security team and your Legal, Compliance & Regulatory team are strongly advised.
From a stakeholder management perspective, you may need to allay any fears they have, but they will also help identify any risks and advise on how they can be mitigated. For example, if you work in a regulated industry, there may be some data that must remain on-premises for compliance reasons.
Similarly, the territory of where data resides can be important. Here, Microsoft has country-specific data residency options – another strength of Azure. You may also need to identify replication policies between on-premises and cloud, a process which aids in adequately supporting your business continuity needs.
4. Ensure you have the right skills in place
Azure cloud migrations can be complex, and it’s important to ensure you have the right skills and experience in place for them to go smoothly. Ideally, you want to have someone on the migration team who has worked on an Azure migration before and can spread knowledge to the rest of the team; of course, there are options to bring in external expertise to fill any gaps here. As with most Microsoft offerings, there are a number of additional self-service resources that are available to help you plan your Azure migration.
5. Consider the change management effort
Migrating to the cloud is a business change which can significantly impact employees, particularly if they are moving to using Microsoft 365 for the first time. There can also be concerns from staff about security and risk. Always consider the change management aspects of your migration in terms of securing buy-in, supporting new ways of working, handling any disruption caused by the implementation and implementing any necessary communications in response to negative perceptions about Azure.
6. Commit to managing Azure
Although not always acknowledged, Azure does require some commitment to manage it, and you should always factor this into your resourcing plan for after the migration. Firstly, without active management, you will not necessarily be able to take advantage of all the analytics, services and integrations that Azure delivers and which can kickstart transformation for your business.
Secondly, it’s worth remembering that Azure is still a relatively new platform. Microsoft continues to invest in Azure to make it better and better which is highly positive, but it does mean that features within the system may be upgraded or even removed, and this may require action from time to time. For example, if you are working with Azure integrations, these may need to be upgraded.
As with any cloud service, managing these changes is unavoidable. Overall, going in with an active commitment to and mindset for managing Azure is the best approach.
7. Define the future roadmap too
You’ll already know that you need to meticulously plan for the actual implementation, particularly in order to avoid any interruption of service. It can be good to draw up a detailed roadmap covering the specific steps to be taken after the launch too, in order to ensure you keep up the momentum, follow through with benefits, consider any ongoing change management needs and support a programme of continuous improvement.
Migrating to Azure
Migrating to Azure has enormous value, but you need to view it as both a technical and business change. If you’d like to discuss your Azure migration strategy, then get in touch!