As an IT leader, you understand a successful cloud transformation positions IT as a business enabler, rather than a curator of infrastructure. Adopting the cloud is more than simply moving your on-prem instance to a provider’s servers and going on with business as usual. The flexibility, scalability, and security of the cloud allows businesses to deliver value in ways that were not dreamed of outside of science fiction novels in earlier generations. Cloud transformation is about the whole system – people, processes, data, and tools. When cloud transformation is done right, it’s a true game changer. Getting it right requires you to focus on your people, not just technology enabling them. Here are tips to help you do that.

Connect the Dots

Whether you’re focused on adopting the cloud, modernizing your systems, or getting more from your data, helping your business solve problems and overcome challenges are the driving forces. People will need to work differently to achieve your desired results. If you’ve tried to change your own habits – working out, reading more, going to bed earlier – you know that influencing human behavior isn’t easy. To help people navigate these changes and thrive, it’s especially important to connect these dots:

  • How the solution will help employees solve problems and overcome challenges they face in their day to day work.
  • What people will need to do differently and what support will be available to help them do that.

Start with the Home Team, But Don’t End There

The first place to start is with the IT teams. Whether the solution includes provisioning firewalls to migrate an on-prem intranet to SharePoint Online, modernizing millions of lines of COBOL code and migrating subsystems into Microsoft Azure, harnessing cloud-native services and DevOps practices, unleashing data intelligence through cloud-based outage tracking systems that incorporate Power BI, or automating workflows with Power Apps, people from different IT teams will need to work together to get the right solutions in place. This means communication and collaboration across IT teams, as well as within teams, is more important than ever.

Ensuring that all your business’ IT teams understand how they are an important part of the solution and ensuring they have access to the support they need to perform successfully are critical tasks. However, teams outside of IT are also likely to be impacted, whether it’s HR needing to update policies or documentation as a result of the new tools, or the entire company’s workforce using new communication and collaboration tools.

Ensure You Have a Complete Solution

Take a closer look at whose work will be impacted, what the areas of impact are, and the likely degree of impact. This will help you manage risk by ensuring you have a complete solution and that you can wisely deploy resources. If you have accelerated the deployment of cloud-based collaboration tools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and are proceeding with immediate implementation of tooling, you can use this guidance to determine the gaps in a complete solution and what’s needed to close the loop. Here are three questions to help you identify the impact that your solution needs to address:

Step 1 – Whose day to day work is impacted?

  • IT Teams
  • Employees
  • Business Units
  • Customers
  • Other Stakeholders

Step 2 – What are the areas impacted?

  • Roles
  • Processes
  • Tools
  • Actions/Work behaviors
  • Mindsets/views

Step 3 – What is the level of impact on the day to day work?

  • Low – Small change in one or two areas
  • Medium – Medium change in one area or multiple areas impacted
  • High – Significant change in one or more areas or small change but significant consequences if the change is not adopted well

The greater the level of impact, the more important it is to have enough support in place. How much support is enough? To answer that, take a closer look at the likely obstacles, then put support in place to clear the path.

Anticipate Obstacles and Proactively Clear the Path

With the impact clear, it’s time to anticipate obstacles that will be faced as people adopt the new roles, processes, tools, actions/work behaviors or mindsets/views they need for successful results to be achieved.

For example, let’s say your company is migrating to a central repository and communication platform. Employees will benefit from a more seamless work experience across devices and be able to access on-demand resources, get answers to their questions, and resolve issues faster. Employees will need to know how to find the information they need in a timely manner, and they will need to know whether to use e-mail, instant messaging, or post to a discussion channel for their specific business scenarios.

Most obstacles fall into one of four categories:

  • Knowing: Do those impacted know what is changing and why they are an important part of the solution?
  • Caring: Do they care about the problems the new tool, system or processes will help solve?
  • Norming: Do they know what is expected of them? Does their leadership (and other influencers) demonstrate through consistent words and actions that this is important?
  • Performing: Can they do what is expected of them? How will they get feedback? Are incentives aligned with the desired performance? Are there any new challenges that they are likely to face and have these been accounted for?

A complete solution anticipates these challenges and proactively builds in support by considering the experiences people have and the support they need specific to the business scenarios they are engaged in on a regular basis.


Wherever you are on your cloud transformation journey, make sure you are considering the experiences and support that people need to have in order to successfully navigate changes in roles, processes, and tooling to thrive. The sooner people start to thrive, the sooner your company gets its ROI with business problems solved and challenges overcome. Ultimately, a complete cloud transformation solution must be tech-fueled, but people-focused.

When you think about your organization’s cloud strategy, mindset may not be one of the first things you think about, but mindset is crucial. Adopting a cloud mindset has been called the “single most important” predictor of cloud success (Lewis, 2017, p. 44). Why? Because it is key to aligning people, processes, technology, and culture necessary for cloud transformation to take place on an enterprise-scale rather than as a one-off project with limited scope.

What is a Cloud Mindset?

Mindset refers to your set of attitudes or ways of thinking. Carol Dweck (2006), Stanford professor and popular author, defines mindset as “the view you adopt for yourself” (p.6). Although a given mindset isn’t right or wrong, some mindsets are significantly more advantageous than others in a specific context.

Take for example a top-notch engineer who has developed a reputation for personally solving difficult problems. The engineer’s stellar individual contributor mindset has enabled him to make a difference for the business and achieve success. When that engineer is promoted to manager, it may be tempting for him to stay in the same mindset and to personally solve the problems his team now encounters. That mindset won’t allow him or his team to be successful in the long run. He will need to make the switch to a manager mindset, where he is focused on helping the team develop their own capacity to solve problems.

A cloud mindset has two key components:

  1. Willingness to rethink the role of technology and how it can be leveraged across the enterprise for strategic advantage and mission fulfillment.
  2. Willingness to rethink the value proposition across the organization, considering where alignments in people, processes, and culture are needed to deliver value more effectively and efficiently.

Rethinking Technology

Rethinking technology means moving from the view of technology from static resources to dynamic service, like the difference between a noun and verb, or between a concrete example and abstract formula. One example of this trend is de-emphasizing rigid architecture in favor of infrastructure-as-code (Chung & Rankin, 2017). Cloud is an enterprise capability/system delivering compute power where and when needed to help people and the business accomplish work, not an add-on service or outsourced data center (Wyckoff & Pilat, 2017).  Cloud supercharges the speed and agility of the business, allocating and reallocating resources nearly instantaneously. Through the cloud’s scalability, there is a tremendous opportunity to move to continuous improvement/continuous delivery and try new ways of working that deliver better value to end-users – customers and employees.

Rethinking Work

Just as rigid architecture can be rethought as code, a cloud mindset enables work to be reconceptualized as data transformation and stewardship. Examples of this may include:

  • creating a document
  • monitoring a network
  • setting permission levels
  • configuring a tenant
  • collecting credit card information to securely process a transaction
  • sending an email
  • constructing a building from blueprints
  • having a conversation with a coworker

Get the right data to the right place at the right time and with the right interface so it can be used by the worker, humans, and bots. Thinking in this way can help the business identify strengths, opportunities, and blockers that can be addressed, making work more productive, cost-effective, and potentially more meaningful.

Rethinking Value Delivery

Thinking of work as data transformation and stewardship opens new ways of considering how the business delivers and can deliver value. Delivering value is dependent on the ability to move data across the organization, and technology serves to increase flow or throughput.

A cloud mindset views customers and employees as important partners, seeking to understand their experiences and striving to make their experiences better by delivering the right data to the right people at the right time in a user-friendly way. Understanding what employees and customers perceive as valuable can help business leaders make the most informed decisions.

As decisions are made, there will be tradeoffs. For example, a company that moves payroll and talent management to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) will gain organizational agility but will have to trade a certain degree of customization based on the limitations of the SaaS. Because experiences are valued, the business will ensure support is in place to navigate the tradeoffs and changes.

Rethinking Silos

Silos in organizations have gotten a bad reputation. Silos enable a clear definition of workstreams, roles, and responsibilities and promote work being done by the subject matter experts. The key is to ensure the boundary is set up so that needed data can flow into and out of the silo for productive work. A cloud mindset thinks of silo boundaries as interfaces and intentionally designs them so that data that needs to move across the interface can be shared securely. The goal is to make the interface more user friendly so that the silo does not unnecessarily slow down the movement of data needed to deliver business value.

The proliferation of cross-functional teams is one way that businesses are trying to address this, although there are limitations. Cross-functional teams can help share data across functional silos, but often processes are created within a silo. This is where the view of silo boundaries as interfaces can be especially helpful. Mapping the steps, inputs, and outputs in a process or series of processes that span functional units is a good tool to identify where interface improvements are needed to improve data throughput. Service blueprints are another option. Service blueprints visualize different components of a service (e.g., people, resources, and physical/digital artifacts) that are tied to touchpoints on a customer’s or employee’s journey.

Rethinking Culture

Organizational culture is like the operating system of the organization and refers to the collective values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that are active in the organization. Staying with the operating system metaphor, cloud transformation has trouble running in certain environments. Like with mindset, this does not mean that certain organizational cultures are better than others, but it does mean that in the context of cloud transformation, cultures can promote or hinder cloud transformation:

  • Where culture is aligned to a cloud mindset, then cloud transformation accelerates.
  • Where culture is not aligned to a cloud mindset, then there is friction.

Often, the effect is mixed, with some elements of culture aligned and others not (e.g., Fegahli, 2019). It is important to capitalize on the strengths of the current culture while overcoming friction that can stunt cloud transformation if left unaddressed through effective change management. The goal of cloud transformation is to help your organization be its best, leveraging the cloud to do so. The goal is not to turn your organization into a copy of another organization or another organization’s culture. With that said, helping the organization be receptive to and successful in cloud transformation requires addressing culture.

Configuring Your Mindset

Our experience working with federal and commercial clients and the research on successful cloud adoption points to the following settings as optimal for configuring a cloud mindset:

Setting Item
On Switch Start with the expectation to learn, grow, and iterate
Off Switch Wait to figure out all the details before starting
On Switch Views cloud as an enterprise capability/system delivering compute power where and when needed to help people and the business accomplish work
Off Switch Views cloud as an add-on service or outsourced data center
On Switch Understands that work is ultimately data stewardship/transformation
On Switch Focused on getting the right data to the right place at the right time and with the right interface so it can be used by the worker, humans, and bots
Off Switch Believes that new tools and a little training are all people need to make the transition
On Switch Knows customers and employees are important partners, values their experiences, and strives to make their experiences better
Off Switch Thinks that cloud technology should not impact the organization’s culture
On Switch Thinks that helping culture better align with delivering business value better is a key part of cloud transformation

Cloud transformation reaches all areas of the business. This includes upgrading and syncing legacy systems as well as aligning organizational structure, processes, people, culture, and leadership to unleash the benefits of the cloud at an enterprise scale. Although this is not as straightforward as configuring a tenant, it is worth it. Successful cloud transformation starts with adopting a cloud mindset and then helping the other pieces align.

Want to learn more about managing changes associated with cloud transformation? Stay tuned for my next post on the people side of transformation.


  • Chung, J. & Rankin (2017). How to manage organizational change and cultural impact during cloud transformation. SlideShare presentation.
  • Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc.
  • Feghali, R. (2019). The “Microservic-ing” of Culture. CHIPS Magazine.
  • Lewis (2017). Cloud success is about changing your mindset. NZ Business + Management. 31(6), 44-45.
  • Wyckoff A, Pilat D. Key Issues for Digital Transformation in the G20.; 2017.

Sound Familiar?

It’s not a sentiment you would expect from most IT decision-makers. However, it’s something we hear from an increasing number of organizations.

The benefits of a well-thought-out cloud transformation roadmap are not lost on them.

  • They know that, in an ideal world, they ought to start with an in-depth assessment of their application portfolio, in line with the best practice – “migrate your capabilities, not apps or VMs”.
  • They also realize the need to develop a robust cloud governance model upfront.
  • And ultimately, they understand the need to undertake an iterative migration process that takes into account “organizational change management” best practices.

At the same time, these decision-makers face real challenges with their existing IT infrastructure that simply cannot wait months and years for a successful cloud transformation to take shape. They can’t get out of their on-premises data centers soon enough. This notion isn’t limited to organizations with fast-approaching Data Center (DC) lease renewal deadlines or end of support products, either.

So, how do we balance the two competing objectives:

  • Immediate need to move out of the DC
  • Carefully crafted long-term cloud transformation

A Two-Step Approach to Your Cloud Transformation Journey

From our experience with a broad range of current situations, goals, and challenges, we recommend a two-step cloud transformation approach that addresses both your immediate challenges and the organization’s long-term vision for cloud transformation.

  1. Tactical “Lift-n-Shift” to the Cloud – As the name suggests, move the current DC footprint as is (VMs, databases, storage network. etc.) to Azure
  2. Strategic Cloud Transformation – Once operational in the cloud, incrementally and opportunistically move parts of your application portfolio to higher-order Azure PaaS/cloud-native services

Tactical “Lift-n-Shift” to the Cloud

Lift n Shift Approach to Cloud Transformation

On the surface, step #1 above may appear wasteful. After all, we are duplicating your current footprint in Azure. But keep in mind that step #1 is designed for completion in days or weeks, not months or years. As a result, the duplication is minimized. At the same time, step #1 immediately puts you in a position to leverage Azure capabilities, giving you tangible benefits with minimal to no changes to your existing footprint.

Here are a few examples of benefits:

  • Improve the security posture – Once you are in Azure, you tap into security capabilities such as intrusion detection and denial of service attack solely by being in Azure. Notice that I deliberately did not cite Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools like Azure Sentinel. Technically you can take advantage of Azure Sentinel for on-premises workloads.
  • Replace aging hardware – Your hardware may be getting old but isn’t old enough for a Capex-powered refresh. Moving your VMs to Azure decouples you from the underlying hardware. “But won’t that be expensive, since you are now paying by usage per minute?” you ask. Not necessarily and certainly not in the long run. Consider options like Reserved Instance (RI) pricing that can offer an up to 80% discount based on a one- or three-year commitment.

Furthermore, you can combine RI with Azure Hybrid Benefits (AHUB) which provides discounts for licenses already owned. Finally, don’t forget to take into account the savings from decreased needs for power, networks, real estate, and the cost of resources to manage all the on-premises assets. Even if you can’t get out of the DC lease completely, you may be able to negotiate a modular reduction of your DC footprint. Please refer to Gartner research that suggests that over time, the cloud can become cost-effective.

AMP Move out of Data Center

Source –

  • Disaster Recovery (DR) – Few organizations have a DR plan setup that is conducive for ongoing DR tests. Having an effective DR plan is one of the most critical responsibilities of IT. Once again, since geo-replication is innate to Azure, your disks are replicated to an Azure region that is at least 400 miles away, by default. Given this, DR is almost out-of-the-box.
  • Extended lease of life on out of support software – If you are running an Operating System (OS), such as Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008, moving to Azure extends the security updates for up to three years from the “end of support” date.
  • Getting out of the business of “baby-sitting” database servers – Azure managed instances offer you the ability to take your existing on-premises SQL Server databases and move them to Azure with minimal downtime. Once your database is an Azure SQL Managed Instance, you don’t have to worry about patching and backup, thereby significantly reducing the cost of ownership.
  • Take baby steps towards automation and self-service – Self-service is one of the key focus areas for most IT organizations. Once again, since every aspect of Azure is API driven, organizations can take baby steps towards automated provisioning.
  • Get closer to a data lake – I am sure you have heard the quote “AI is the new electricity”. We also know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) needs lots and lots of data to train the Machine Learning (ML) algorithms. By moving to Azure, it is that much easier to capture the “data exhaust” coming out the applications in a service like Azure Data Lake. In turn, Azure Data Lake can help turn this data into intelligence.

Strategic Cloud Transformation

Strategic Cloud Transformation

Once you have completed step #1 by moving your on-premises assets to the cloud, you are now in a position to undertake continuous modernization efforts aligned to your business priorities.

Common approaches include:

  • Revise – Capture application and application tiers “as-is” in containers and run on a managed orchestrator like Azure Kubernetes Service. This approach requires minimal changes to the existing codebase. For more details of this approach, including a demo, read Migrate and Modernize with Kubernetes on Azure Government.
  • Refactor – Modernize by re-architecting to target Platform as a Service (PaaS) and “serverless” technologies. This approach requires more significant recoding to target PaaS services but allows you to take advantage of cloud provider managed services. For more information, check out our “Full PaaS” Approach to Modernizing Legacy Apps.
  • Rebuild – Complete rewrite of the applications using cloud-native technologies like Kubernetes, Envoy, and Istio. Read our blog, What Are Cloud-Native Technologies & How Are They Different from Traditional PaaS Offerings, for more information.
  • Replace – Substitute an existing application, in its entirety, with Software as a Service (SaaS) or an equivalent application developed using a no-code/low-code platform.


The following table summarizes the various approaches for modernization in terms of factors such as code changes, operational costs, and DevOps maturity.

Compare App Modernization Approaches

Azure Migration Program (AMP)

Microsoft squarely aligns with this two-step approach. At the recent Microsoft partner conference #MSInspire, Julia White announced AMP (Azure Migration Program).

AMP brings together the following:

Wrapping Up

A two-step migration offers a programmatic approach to unlock the potential of the cloud quickly. You’ll experience immediate gains from a tactical move to the cloud and long-term benefits from a strategic cloud transformation that follows. Microsoft programs like AMP, combined with over 200+ Azure services, make this approach viable. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can get started with AMP, and which migration approach makes the most sense for your business goals, reach out to AIS today.