The best way to adopt the cloud: Short sprints vs. big bang

Large companies and government agencies do better with short tactical cloud computing projects, versus the larger, more strategic projects

When it comes to cloud adoption, large enterprises and government agencies focus on quick wins, using quick sprints, and are typically more successful than those companies that try to drive huge change over a longer period of time, aka the big-bang approach.

Consider a telecom company that wants to move all core systems to the cloud in three years. It has a strategic plan that includes inventorying and understanding thousands of workloads and creating a factory to do the migration and a process for migrating the data, and creating new security and governance services. Even over three years, that’s aggressive.

This telecom company did ultimately succeed, but it could only assess whether the strategy was successful three years after it started, once the big-bang effort was done.

Now consider a manufacturer that as part of a larger strategic plan focuses on moving only 100 workloads and data to an IaaS public cloud initially, in a quick sprint. It can do this in just three months and pick the applications that will provide the most value to the company, as well as demonstrate a win.

After the quick sprint to get 100 workloads migrated, the manufacturing company took what it learned and did additional sprints, some in parallel, to get 300 apps moved in each sprint. After three years, it had all the appropriate applications and data in the cloud. (Typically, that’s 70 percent of your workloads.)

Both companies had basically the same objective, and the same number of applications. However, the telecom company took three years to get to value, whereas the manufacturer was able to demonstrate business value immediately, and get incremental value over the course of three years. It also could detect and adjust for any issues that came up, rather than discover them once the adoption was completed.

Moreover, by leveraging small sprints, the manufacturer was able to prove value to the leadership quickly, which provided momentum (and funding) to move on to the next migration sprint. The teleco’s big-bang approach struggled to avoid budget cuts because management couldn’t see if the substantial investment was paying off, and had to make a leap of faith to spend all that money before seeing results.

In my consulting work, I see much more success when companies just start the process of adopting the cloud through small tactical projects that take a few months each, versus larger strategic projects that take a few years. 

The objectives of each may be exactly the same—to migrate most of the enterprise’s workloads—but the short-sprint approach is ten times more likely to demonstrate success and thus value than the big-bang approach. 

The short-sprint approach also aligns with the typical corporate culture. People think in small tactical ways versus large and strategic, so expectations are for small, quick wins. The larger, longer strategic wins simply are not as valued by the executives and investors in the standard corporate culture.

The big-bang approach can and does work—if the company can hold to its commitment that long and doesn’t need ROI along the way. But most companies need and expect proof of ROI in months, not years, so my advice is to take the short-sprint approach in your migration to the cloud.


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