We interviewed 17 CIOs and IT leaders about their public and private cloud deployments, usage trends, skills requirements, lingering obstacles and future plans. Here are some nuggets of advice from these cloud giants.
1. Don't get too caught up in cost savings. "If you make it a money thing, you're making a mistake," says Joe Spagnoletti, CIO at Campbell Soup. "It's an option to deliver capability. You have to get it at the cost commensurate with the capability. You can't do it for cost savings or management efficiency."
2. Don't just 'lift and shift' -- that is, don't simply take your existing infrastructure and move it wholesale to the cloud. "Don't move to the cloud just because it's trendy," says Chris Drumgoole, chief operating officer for cloud services at General Electric. "Sure, it might save you some money -- but you'll miss the opportunity to transform how you do business, and those don't come around that often."
3. Understand that it's an iterative learning process. "Being successful isn't really about the technology. The technology is there and it works pretty well. The hard part is understanding the problem you're trying to solve," says McKesson CIO and CTO Randy Spratt. "One size doesn't fit all. You need to understand what your users are trying to do."
4. Embrace change management. Cloud is a big change for people and organizations, says McKesson's Spratt. Change management becomes an "evangelical" function, he says. "Just building and deploying isn't enough. You need to educate businesses about what they have. It's like an internal sales job."
5. Vet your partners. Campbell's has developed very formal processes, reviewed monthly, for the acquisition, management and recertification of its cloud partners, Spagnoletti says. The program, which involves the internal audit department, examines the risk a process could potentially introduce.
Choose your cloud partners wisely, echoes Paula Tolliver, CIO and corporate vice president, business services, at Dow Chemical. Make sure you're working with cloud service providers that share the same values and requirements that you do, and that they're working with you to mature and evolve to standards. "We're encouraging our service providers to get standardization across industry so that we live up to the ultimate cloud promise of being able to move services and capabilities at will and as needed," Tolliver says.
In addition, Dow chooses to avoid specialty players. "We're steering around niche players," Tolliver says. Dow wants "mature," established vendors with proven prowess in key enterprise areas such as compliance, reliability and security.
6. Have an exit plan. "Make sure you get a prenup in place," says Steve Phillips, CIO at Avnet. The relationship might be great when you sign the contract, but make sure the contract addresses separation in the future, he warns.
7. Avoid customization. It's best to limit the amount that you're tailoring a cloud service for your organization, says Rich Adduci, CIO at Boston Scientific. "The more you build around it, the more best of breed you're doing, the more you're moving away from the cloud's value proposition," Adduci says. The better approach, he says, is to establish a strong relationship with your vendor to help them evolve the platform.
"Before you sign that dotted line, you really need to understand that software and how it will work in your environment," says Avnet's Phillips, who also recommends not making changes to cloud software.
8. Feed the network. "Your network has got to be Class A," says Wayne Shurts, CTO at Sysco. The food distributor is in the middle of a three-year network upgrade project to increase bandwidth, provide more complete redundancy, and improve traffic prioritization capabilities. "The network really becomes even more important and a huge point of failure in your infrastructure than it ever was before," Shurts says.
9.Don't forget management. As an infrastructure provider, Amazon has demonstrated it can handle large scale hosting and has geographical backup resiliency, which allows you to mitigate risk, says Family Dollar CIO Josh Jewett. Plus Amazon will take care of operational details like load balancing and server capacity. "But you're on your own to manage it," he cautions. "If you're looking for someone to keep an eye on it, you're mistaken. You still have the management challenge of the apps and data. You still own that."
10. Take the time to develop "carrier-grade" services. In legacy setups, if you lose your identity-management service a few apps might go down -- it's a pain, but it's fairly isolated, says GE's Drumgoole. But when your entire IT architecture revolves around providing services, losing ID management means everything goes down, in multiple businesses around the world. "You need to take the time" to make those services absolutely bulletproof, or ensure your providers do.
11. Consider delegating management. If a cloud solution is easy to use and configure, Avent will allow a business group to take over management in the environment. Workday, for instance, is a clearly controlled environment, but HR primarily manages it, says Phillips. "We don't need to be in the middle of that, if the tool is intuitive enough and secure enough."
12.Prepare for change. For The Vanguard Group, implementing an HR app in the public cloud required a change in mindset, says CIO John Marcante. There's less customization of the application, which requires workers to do things in a different way. That's been one of the hardest challenges, Marcante says. It's not a technology challenge, but it requires "a different way of thinking."
13.Go for it. "I hear a lot of excuses about why not to move" to the cloud, says Mike Macrie, CIO at Land O'Lakes. "You just have to be brave and try it, and see what works for your company. Not every industry is made for the cloud, but just push the limits and see what makes sense for your company."