Migrating to the cloud Start with a readiness assessment

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

After careful consideration you've decided it's time to migrate a major on-premise software solution to the cloud. But how do you create and execute a plan to make sure your migration stays on time, on budget, and delivers on your expectations Effective planning is critical, and it should start with a thorough assessment of your infrastructure by an experienced vendor who understands your specific objectives.

Usually available as a service engagement from a hosting vendor or, better yet, from the software vendor whose solution is being migrated to the cloud, this cloud readiness assessment is part checklist and part roadmap. It audits the entire environment so you can plan and execute an efficient and effective migration.

Why should you consider such a service It takes the pressure off. Too many organizations attempt to go it alone, which usually means asking overworked IT staff to try to "fit it in." Today, the average IT department is already responsible for multiple systems, often as many as seven or eight. Trying to add a project as large and complex as an enterprise cloud migration to is simply not realistic. Not only is that approach a disservice to those tasked with making it happen, it also sends the wrong message about the size and importance of the project. Future problems are usually inevitable.

A cloud readiness assessment may also help you achieve a faster time to value. Remember, when you go to a SaaS model, ROI has a completely different meaning. For example, you are no longer looking to recover your long-term capital investment, but instead, expecting to gain instant value from your new OpEx spending. A cloud readiness assessment can help you carefully plan the migration so you can achieve a faster time to value.

Finally, a vendor's cloud readiness team can usually deliver skills and specialized expertise required for the specific solution that you or hosting provider might not have in-house. These teams are truly cross-functional, with a mix of expertise in project management, technical implementations, business processes, industry-specific insights, and more. Additionally, these teams usually have dozens, if not hundreds, of migrations under their belts.

While no one can say they've seen it all, these teams are typically astute and can help you identify potential obstacles challenges you may not have been aware of before they become unmanageable.

For example, a cloud readiness team will carefully evaluate your existing environment and document all aspects of your infrastructure that could be affected. This includes your entire architecture, including databases, applications, networks, specialized hardware, third-party interfaces, extensions, customizations, and more. Then, they create a comprehensive report that details these findings as well as their recommended action plan to achieve the most successful migration possible.

Cloud readiness in action

To better understand how a cloud readiness offering could work and its ultimate benefits consider the example of moving an on-premise workforce management solution to the cloud. Workforce management solutions are generally large, enterprise-level implementations that span employee-focused areas such as time and attendance, absence management, HR, payroll, hiring, scheduling, and labor analytics.

The example of workforce management is especially relevant because recent research shows that an increasing number of workforce management buyers are adopting SaaS tools. Research shows that SaaS will be the main driver in growing the global workforce management market by almost $1.5 billion from 2013 to 2018. Additionally, Gartner research indicates, through 2017, the number of organizations using external providers to deliver cloud-related services will rise to 91 percent to mitigate cost and security risks as well as to meet business goals and desired outcomes.

This research demonstrates that a majority of companies will soon be moving their on-premise workforce management systems to the cloud. But will they be successful

They have to be. Workforce management systems manage processes and data related to paying employees, managing their time and balances, storing sensitive HR information, complying with industry regulations, and other critical functions. Errors can be extremely costly, especially if they lead to missing paychecks, employee morale issues, lost productivity, grievances and compliance, or even potential lawsuits. Failure is simply not an option.

A cloud readiness service is the perfect way to minimize these risks and maximize the results. Specifically, a readiness service is ideally suited to address specialized areas of a workforce management deployment, including:

* Data collection terminals. While many employees still refer to these as "timeclocks," the fact is that today's data collection devices are sophisticated proprietary technology consisting of hardware, software, and network/communication capabilities. As part of a migration, a readiness audit would assess the organization's data collection methods. It would also provide recommendations for transitioning them to a secure network model that meets the organization's security and performance objectives while ensuring that service is not interrupted when the switchover occurs.

* Interfaces and integrations. Like other enterprise-level technology, workforce management solutions tend to use many different interfaces and custom integrations to feed applications such as ERP systems, outside payroll systems, or third-party analytics applications. In this example, the readiness assessment evaluates the entire integration strategy, including database settings, to make sure mission-critical data continues to flow to support existing business processes.

* Customizations and configurations. Most organizations have custom reports, products, or database tables. Here, the cloud readiness service will thoroughly review existing customizations and configurations, and will provide recommendations to maintain, or even improve, the value they deliver.

When it comes to something as significant -- and important -- as migrating a major enterprise solution to the cloud, don't go it alone. Investing in a cloud readiness service can help you assess where you stand today, plan for the migration, and execute against the plan. This helps free up valuable IT resources to focus on what's really important implementing strategic initiatives to help the business grow.


By Kristina Lengyel, VP, Global Professional Services, Kronos Inc.

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