Your cloud computing strategy: The use case is the starting point

What are the key elements of a cloud strategy? This question is not easy and can usually only be answered in general because there is not „the“ master plan for a cloud strategy. Which nor exists for a corporate strategy or IT strategy.

The use case is the center point

An IT strategy always has the task of supporting the company’s strategy as best as possible. Because nowadays, can or rather should a possible corporate strategy be derived from the IT strategy. A good reference is the „IT Governance business architecture“ from „Referenzmodelle für IT-Governance“ by Wolfgang Johannsen and Matthias Goeken. The model is very theoretical, but show how all parts of a company should be connected.

Your cloud computing strategy: the use case is the starting point

Graphic from „Referenzmodelle für IT-Governance“ by Wolfgang Johannsen, Matthias Goeken

It is the same with a cloud strategy. The question is how can cloud services support the business strategy. This must necessarily not reflected in hard numbers like „x percent higher sales achieved“. If a company, for example, based on software-as-a-Service (SaaS) enables its employees to work more flexible (from home or a coffee shop), it has done something for the productivity of its employees what in intermediate-term or even in short-range shows in numbers. Another possible approach is to use the cloud for the own innovation of the company, since it is faster to get resources and therefore to look at short notice if the idea could work. Keyword: research and development.

Cloud strategy: top-down or bottom-up

For this you can use the top-down or bottom-up approach, which is often used in computer science, to obtain an understanding of the impact of cloud computing on the strategy of a company.

Top-down cloud strategy

During the top-down approach the possibilities of cloud computing for a company are analyzed and a concrete use case is defined out of it. So an innovation or idea is created that is enabled based on cloud computing only. Then, on this basis, the cloud strategy is created.

Bottom-up cloud strategy

During the bottom-up approach, an existing use case will be implemented with the possibilities of cloud computing. This means it is analyzed how the cloud can help in supporting the needs of the use case as best as possible. Thereof the respective cloud strategy is derived.

Your cloud computing strategy: the use case is the starting point

Cloud strategy: top-down or bottom-up (Rene Buest, renebuest research, 2013)

It is therefore inherently superior what a company wants to achieve and how the cloud can help to reach this goal. On the other hand it is also important to understand the possibilities offered by the cloud to derive a strategy and thus to increase the innovativeness of the company. Only when you understand where to go you should take care of specific cloud solutions. The path to the cloud starts with the right use case. There must already be a concrete concept and an idea, because technologies are interchangeable.

Cloud strategy: the essential points

Apart from the actual use case, it is crucial to find the right manager, who is responsible for implementing the cloud strategy. In addition to information technology this person must also understand the needs of the business side. He should also be able to look outside the box to identify possible potentials of cloud computing for the enterprise via the top-down approach.

Services and processes

Starting from the bottom-up approach the existing processes in the company needs to be derived into services. On this basis it is easier for IT managers to evaluate possible cloud solutions which meet the needs and support the company’s goal as best as possible.

Define KPIs

Is the cloud effort successful? Like other investments and changes, the cloud strategy must made measurable. For this key performance indicator (KPI) are a proven means. One possible measure is the costs. But that should not be the only one, and in no case be the highest priority. Because cloud computing is about much more than just saving costs, it is among other things about improving the agility of a company. That would also be another KPI, the agility. For example, this may mean how much faster can the employees use services from the cloud. Another KPI could make statements about the performance of the scalability.

Chance the IT departement

Cloud computing requires new skills and responsibilities of the employees. In addition to cloud architects and other new roles, cloud service managers are needed who are responsible for services and their availability, and to evaluate new services.

Consider a multi-cloud strategy and failover

Even a public cloud is not without errors. From the beginning that should be necessarily considered in the cloud strategy by developing failover scenarios. These includes inter alia creating a sub-cloud strategy for the use of multiple clouds, which can be used in the case of an outage until the primary offer is back in service.

Find your way

Cloud Computing always starts with a use case, on which basis a cloud strategy arises. As a rule, a company already has a business and an IT strategy that maps specific use cases (button-up). Then, the cloud strategy should unite and support the goals of both and expand it in the best case.

In addition, the green field approach (top-down) can increase the level of innovation of a company by analyzing the capabilities of cloud computing and open up new opportunities for the enterprise. Hence it is able to discover a competitive advantage or find new ways that help to be more productive.


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About the Author

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies. Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as Silicon.de and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of CloudUser.de and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.

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