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Cloud Adoption Framework: 8 Great Tips for Cloud Innovation

Part 4. INNOVATE: Magnus Mårtensson, Azure MVP, Microsoft Regional Director, and Chief Product Officer of Devoteam M Cloud Denmark guides us through the phases of the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework and gives advice on best practices, how to keep innovating, and dos and don’ts for your company’s Cloud Adoption Journey. 

We aspire for innovation and deliver excellence in the Cloud. In this four-part series of articles, we interview Magnus Mårtensson on Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF).  

The Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure is a comprehensive source of guidance and information on how to PLAN, ADOPT, BUILD, MANAGE, GOVERN, and INNOVATE in the Cloud. The framework covers the Cloud Journey from both technical, financial, HR, and innovation perspectives. Because CAF addresses general concerns, tips, and processes, it is just as relevant to use as a guideline for experienced Cloud users as for novices who are just starting out.  

As Magnus says, CAF is a “wealth of information”, but it can also be “overwhelming and difficult to relate to”. In these four articles, we try to make that easier for you: we tackle the central phases and points of CAF and ask Magnus all the questions you want answered if you are trying to excel in the Cloud.  

This week’s headline is INNOVATE – because without an innovative mindset you will never realize the full potential of the Cloud. The success of all Cloud Journeys revolves around a gradual and carefully executed Cloud Adoption that keeps innovation at the forefront from the very beginning – and because of that this fourth and last article in the series will sum up some key points from the other three articles in Magnus’ eight central tips to being innovative in the Cloud throughout the Cloud Adoption Journey.   

INNOVATION is essential when working in the Cloud 

In the first article in this series on the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework, we covered what to look out for when defining a STRATEGY for moving to the Cloud. This includes understanding the strategic, financial, and technological motivations for making the transition, the expected business outcome, and carefully selecting the first adoption project. Magnus also gave advice for the PLAN phase, which consists of getting an overview of your digital estate, making a full Cloud adoption plan and a skills readiness plan for your employees, and aligning with the rest of the organization.  

The second article covered the READY and ADOPT phases that deal with the company’s first real steps into the Cloud and with making good practices for Cloud adoption and innovation. These phases also aim to provide respect for the scope of the digital transformation – including an understanding of the potential upskilling process for employees used to working on-premises and the potential for innovation in the Cloud such as automating and using platform services instead of hosting applications yourself. Lastly, the third article covered how to build securely and sustainably in the Cloud and how to manage and govern Cloud environments and operations.  

This fourth and last article will sum up all the advice and tips that Magnus have given on innovation in the Cloud Adoption Framework with one central point in mind: for Magnus, innovation is not a step on the road to Cloud Adoption. Ideally, every step you take in the Cloud should be with an innovative mindset.  Whether you PLAN, ADOPT, or BUILD, you should think about how to improve, rethink, and better your existing processes or systems.  

Magnus’s tips to innovation in the Cloud 

1. Involve the entire organization from the beginning 

Central for CAF is its emphasis on alignment between the technological, HR, and business sides of the organization. The success of a Cloud Journey depends significantly on the ability of different parts of the organization to work together in the transition from on-premises IT to Cloud or Hybrid Cloud. The IT department must be able to understand and communicate the consequences of the digital transformation on the organization – both short term and long term.  

The cross-organizational ‘translation’ of opportunities, risks, and possibilities also comes into play when talking about costs and budgets. “In the beginning of the Cloud adoption journey it is hard to plan for the costs”, Magnus explains, referring to the steep learning curve Cloud offers when it comes to good Cloud Management, “but that can be a strength once you understand how to take full advantage of it”. As the technical employees get better at working in new and innovative ways in the Cloud, they also get better at predicting costs and cutting unnecessary expenses off. This in turn demands patience and understanding from the finance department and management who must respect that Cloud Adoption is a learning process for even the most prepared organization. 

2. Respect the scope of the digital transformation 

Too often, companies underestimate the scope of a transformation process like Cloud Adoption and do not get enough help, prepare enough, or include the varying departments properly. Magnus states: “Maybe the companies have a few people with Azure experience – but not enough. That is a real problem, because they might be going wrong in various ways without even knowing it! Often, I meet companies who have already started trying to fly to the Cloud on their own – but they really don’t know what they are doing, so they are crashing all over the place: costs are running amok, and nothing is compliant”. He adds that customers can avoid the initial difficulties by preparing better and being humble in front of the task: if the organization has no experience in Cloud getting qualified help is key to succeeding in Cloud.  

3. Get qualified and specialized help – and retrain your employees 

The organization should be humble enough to honestly evaluate their own resources before they initiate their Cloud Adoption Process. Experienced and skilled Cloud staff is hard to come by, whether they are in-house employees or external resources. The key is finding specialized people who can help to set up good monitoring and be responsive when problems arise – and often those are in very high demand. The solution to that problem will often be a mixture of finding great consultants and training your existing staff to do the job in the future. Teaching staff to set up proper and stable tagging and maintenance procedures in the Cloud is essential for the innovation and automation potential of Cloud solutions. Magnus recommends taking advantage of the resources Microsoft already offers, such as Microsoft Learn programs and tools like Azure Monitor, to assist the operations team. 

4. Do not just move your servers to the Cloud – think about how you can innovate your processes, solutions, and costs from the beginning 

As Magnus says: “Innovation has to be part of the entire Cloud Adoption process. I don’t care too much about just moving servers – I want the entire organization to think about how the Cloud can make things easier and more effective, whether in security, application management, or by automating procedures that were previously done manually”. 

5. The Cloud Adoption Framework is not a linear process from A to Z – or from on-premises to Cloud. Instead, it is a gradual and continuous cycle of learning to best fulfill the potential of the Cloud.  

While CAF might seem to present the Cloud Adoption Journey in chronological order (STRATEGIZE – PLAN – ADOPT – BUILD/GOVERN/MANAGE – INNOVATE) the process is a lot more circular than that. Trying to migrate all the company’s infrastructure at once would in most cases be a recipe for disaster. You should gradually do a Cloud Adoption on more and more of your IT landscape, just as you should want to continuously improve, manage, and innovate the applications and environments that are already in the Cloud. This careful and intentional cycle of adoption and innovation also serves to train both new and experienced IT staff to work in the Cloud and ‘think Cloud’.  

6. Be ready for change – and accept that it is not always comfortable or easy in the beginning 

This piece of advice might seem simple – but a big transformation process like Cloud Adoption that touches every IT employee and introduces a new standard for technical prowess can be difficult and frightening for staff and management alike. As Magnus emphasizes, transitioning to a new era of digital prowess where the keywords are Cloud, automation, and flexibility can be daunting if you as an employee feel that your position in the company and your IT skills lose value. Some employees will take up the challenge of ‘learning to fly’ and be able to adapt – others will get frustrated and resist the change. He adds: “By retraining your employees, you are giving them a future within the business, and while they might feel anxious and resist it in the beginning, getting as many people on board as possible can be good value for money in the long run”. 

7. Build for success! Scalable solutions are key to good Cloud Innovation. 

Magnus explains: “Your application was built with a certain number of users in mind. When it crosses that threshold and becomes an internet hit, you suddenly have problems you never thought you could have. In this way, success becomes the worst thing that can happen for your application, because it wasn’t built for that kind of scalability. It was built for the frame of reference you had when you designed it”. From a monitoring and operations standpoint scalability means continuously tweaking and improving and fixing and being attentive to the Cloud environments and services on a day-to-day basis. 

8. Automate, automate, automate!

A lot of procedures such as building applications, deploying applications, and monitoring compliance in Cloud can and (according to Magnus) should be automated too fully take advantage of the innovation potential of Cloud Solutions. Often, organizations are used to a lot of applications just being set up and left running because everybody is afraid of not being able to set them up from scratch again. Magnus provides an example: “If I go to a customer as a consultant and hover with the mouse over the delete button for the testing environment and the IT employees react by freaking out and saying: ‘No, no! Wait – don’t touch it, we set it up exactly the way it needs to be!’ then they probably haven’t automated enough”.  

If your workforce and organization has taken advantage of the automation potential of the Cloud fully, then it is possible to scale and add costs when you need more capacity and remove costs when you’re not using the extra capacity. That requires a lot of skill and experience and, typically, Magnus adds with a half-smile, most organizations don’t bother with the fact that their development environments have costs over the weekends until the Azure bill is growing and the finance department demands an explanation. Trimming costs under distress is not optimal and instead, according to Magnus, companies should begin their Cloud Adoption journeys with an innovative optimization mindset. 

The Cloud Adoption Framework: a good place to begin your journey to the Cloud 

Over the course of these four articles on the Cloud Adoption Framework, or CAF, as it is popularly known, Magnus has taken us through the key points of the framework: STRATEGY, PLAN, READY, ADOPT, GOVERN, MANAGE, and INNOVATE. We have talked about common mistakes, solutions, and best practices – and a couple of things have been made very clear: when you are launching into the Cloud being innovative pays, good preparation pays, and having skilled people with knowledge and experience of the Cloud adoption process at hand pays. Excelling in the Cloud requires forward-thinking, strong communication across the organization, technical expertise, willingness to learn, and courage to change the way we work with and think about IT.  

Curious about CAF?  

Are you and your organization curious about CAF and the innovative world of Cloud but still not completely aligned on where or how to start the journey? Are you already using Cloud or Hybrid Cloud solutions but having trouble reaching their full potential? Or maybe you are already cruising in the Cloud – but need help taking your Cloud Innovation to the next level with better automation or Managed Cloud Services?