1 in 3 Enterprise Cloud Migrations Fail: How Can Yours Succeed?
January 16, 2024

For all of the application and infrastructure modernization incentives spurring enterprises to complete cloud migrations, a daunting number of these initiatives run up against lengthy delays and obstacles—if not outright failure. The oft-cited industry survey from the Cloud Security Alliance is rife with cautionary tales, reporting that just 25% of surveyed organizations completed their cloud migrations on or before their project deadlines. But even a delay is better news than a full one-third of cloud migration projects, which will fail outright.

Enterprise leaders still need to understand that moving full steam ahead with a cloud migration without the right game plan is a recipe for major headaches and budget overruns. Adding to that pressure is the fact that the stakes of cloud migrations are often simply too high for enterprises to fail. Many enter cloud migration projects already depending on the expected modernization, streamlined workloads, and increased productivity to bolster operational efficiency and keep pace with competitors. The setback of a failed or even a delayed cloud migration can quickly affect an organization’s bottom line. It can also upend strategic planning for enterprises that didn’t anticipate the difficulty of completing a successful cloud migration and are blindsided by a failure.

Costs that exceed planned budgets are another common contributor to cloud migration headaches and turmoil. Research from McKinsey & Company finds that 75% of cloud migrations go over budget. More than one-quarter of enterprises experience cost overruns greater than 20%. All totaled, organizations globally spend over $100 billion more on their cloud migrations than their initial cost projections suggested. At the same time, McKinsey finds that 13% of organizations’ cloud migration projects stretch for three quarters or longer beyond their planned timelines.

It’s not always pretty, but these eye-opening findings do paint a clear picture: Enterprises routinely underestimate the time, costs and difficulties associated with completing cloud migration projects. They also suffer profound consequences as a result. Given these caution flags, organizations preparing to launch into cloud migration projects should carefully examine their true risks and adhere to the most current best practices. 

So…what should a cloud migration game plan look like?

A critical (yet often overlooked) component of a headache-free migration is first securing executive sponsorship. You need to get full buy-in from your business and technology users on your new cloud strategy and ensure that everyone agrees on the reasons to migrate. This step will make everything that comes next smoother. Next, identify and hire an experienced and effective cloud architect to build the new cloud architecture. You also need to do your research—a lot of research—to compare cloud vendors and to decide between a single, hybrid, or multi-cloud strategy.

Next, identify all the infrastructure, platforms, and applications you’ll want to migrate to the cloud. This is a great opportunity to retire, re-platform, or right-size your technology stack—trim the fat and set yourself for more efficiency wherever possible. A good migration plan will have clear prioritization and a focus on change management. Be sure to identify business success factors (KPIs) associated with the cloud migration as well, and make sure any migration stays within accepted SLAs from your operations team.

When it comes to performing the actual migration, avoid an everything-all-at-once “big bang” migration. Instead, proceed through the migration incrementally, with a carefully prioritized approach. Generally speaking, you’ll want to migrate over the simplest and least critical applications first. Once the migration is complete, monitor your cloud implementation for the next few months and collect feedback. Implement changes based on that feedback, and convert your new cloud operations to business as usual.

This deliberate, strategic approach is effective because it takes executive, line-of-business, and technology stakeholders on a pre-approved and pre-sponsored journey. Because this approach is incremental, there are now many opportunities to course correct or learn from feedback throughout the migration. This approach is also easy to validate, thanks to the KPIs and SLAs that were agreed to beforehand.

Use strategic planning to avoid common missteps.

Businesses put their cloud migrations at the greatest risk when they proceed without executive sponsorship, when they follow a build-as-you-go approach to cloud migration rather than a thoughtfully planned-out strategy, and when they jump in all at once with a migration that leaves little room to learn or adjust.

As countless organizations have proven, wasted time, costs, and a high potential for failure lie down that road. By instead expanding on the more risk-aware strategy described above, enterprise leaders can complete their cloud migrations more successfully and reap the benefits—on-time and on-budget.

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