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A recovering CIO’s perspective on cloud migrations and our revamped Rapid Migration Program, RaMP

TL;DR: We’re bringing together multiple Google Cloud migration programs under the revamped Rapid Migration Program, or RaMP. Under the leadership of our new VP of Migrations Stephen Orban, RaMP is designed to give customers and partners everything they need to evaluate and execute large-scale migrations to Google Cloud, including how to assess people, process, and technology readiness. Read on for more from Stephen about what he’s learned about cloud migrations over 10 years both as both a CIO and helping thousands of enterprises move at multiple cloud providers.

I participated in my first full data center migration to the cloud 10 years ago while I was the CIO of Dow Jones. We migrated a few hundred servers (among other things) in 6 weeks. It was the first of nearly 50 data centers Dow Jones migrated to the cloud, and the first of thousands of migrations I’ve participated in since (more details on this and many other migrations can be found in my book, Ahead in the Cloud). At the time, there were very few consultants qualified to make cloud business cases, no 6Rs, no such thing as a landing zone, no cloud migration tooling, frameworks, or programs, and only a few other enterprise customers to learn from (we talked to most of them). 

Despite the lack of best practices to draw from, it worked out well for us. Our cloud bill was roughly 30% less than it cost us to run that data center. And, this was one of many moves we made to transform the role IT played to deliver business value faster (we went from a few software releases a year to hundreds per week). 

Looking back, there were two major factors to our success. First, our data center lease was expiring in 6 weeks, which gave us a “compelling event” to move fast. Second, we had already learned a lot from building new applications on the cloud for the year leading up to it.

In other words, we had focus and experience. A clear, immovable deadline that forced us to rally the right people and teams across our teams to get it done. Quickly.

Today, cloud migration best practices are much better understood. Thousands of enterprises have migrated hundreds to thousands of applications, regulated enterprises are building sophisticated landing zones to handle a plethora of control objectives, there are well-known strategies and blueprints for migrating specific workloads, most large IT consultancies have robust cloud migration practices, and the overall IT population is becoming more experienced with the cloud. 

Despite this momentum, I still talk to customers who aren’t migrating as fast as they’d like. The pattern in these conversations is something like: “We’d like to be 75-100% in the cloud in the next 3-5 years, but we’re still only 5-10% of the way there. Please be more prescriptive by telling us what you’ve learned from customers that are further along.” And while there are fewer of them, I still talk to customers who are unsure if they should move at all. 

The numbers tell the same story. Trillions of dollars are spent on IT globally each year, yet a mere few hundred billion has moved to the cloud (10% at best). 

So what’s taking so long? Why are so many enterprises migrating slower than they planned?

I believe it comes down to change management. Large-scale cloud migrations require the people, process, and technology within a large organization to evolve in unison. Many customers lean into this and view their migration as an opportunity to evolve their culture rather than just undertaking another IT project. They’re looking to change their operating model such that they can continuously innovate instead of continuously falling behind (remember Blockbuster?). And migrations require patience, which can be difficult, especially with rapidly changing macroeconomic pressures. Even the most well run large-scale cloud migrations take months (if not years). 

In all the large-scale cloud migrations I’ve participated in over the last decade, I’ve found the following five best practices help manage the change, keep focus/patient, and migrate successfully:

A business case articulating the “why” that executives across business, IT, finance, security, and operations are aligned on; 

A learning plan tailored to each role so individuals can obtain new skills and neutralize the FUD accompanying changes to how they work;

A “Cloud Center of Excellence” (CCoE) team that harvests best practices, sets up and maintains the landing zone, and sets “principles” and blueprints for how teams will scale usage/migration. The CCoE then drives the fourth and fifth best practices;

A well-defined OKR (Objective and Key Results, or a set of goals) that’s broadly communicated and measured, inspected, and regularly reported on;

Strong program governance with regularly scheduled reviews (ideally weekly) of progress against OKRs, triaging risks/issues/challenges, and the harvesting of newly learned best practices.

In the ~7 months I’ve been at Google Cloud, I’ve found dozens of products, programs, and engagement models to help customers through a large-scale migration and implement some of these best practices. We have StratoZone to discover and assess workloads to migrate, a Migrate to Virtual Machine service to lift-and-shift servers, a Database Migration Service, a Storage Transfer Service, a Migrate to Containers service, CAMP helps customers modernize workloads, a Google Cloud Migration Specialization system integrator partners earn to demonstrate their migration competence, and many, many more. 

While many customers are using each of these capabilities and instituting some of these best practices, some have asked us to bring it all together within a unified, holistic approach, and want help with:

Building a business case and driving stakeholder alignment

Assessing and closing gaps on people, process, and technology readiness

Creating “migration waves” where workloads are prioritized (usually easy to hard) and segmented by migration strategy (the 6Rs)

Creating a landing zone with adequate financial, security, and compliance controls

Deciding what tools to use

Defining and executing a training and enablement plan (what roles need to change and how)

Establishing a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE)

Setting OKRs 

Picking the right partner(s)

Relentlessly managing the migration

And that’s just to name a few! So, over the last few months, we’ve assembled a team of Googlers across every area of Google Cloud to do just this. Collectively, this group has *centuries* of cloud migration experience, and is working toward unifying our existing products, programs, and engagement models into one world-class Rapid Migration Program, or RaMP. We’re landing RaMP with our first set of customers this year to land a modern cloud operating model and migration best practices supported by partners such as Accenture, Deloitte, Onixnet, SADA, Slalom, 66 Degrees, Wipro, TCS, HCL, and more. 

As one example, we developed a “RaMP Deck” Google Sheet to use as a “single-source-of-truth” between our customers, partners, and account teams to ensure we’re employing the right best practices, tracking progress against OKRs we’ve set together, and triaging risks, issues, and challenges as they occur. 

I’ll be following this post up with additional posts outlining best practices (the ones mentioned above and more), customer and partner success stories, new tools, templates, and approaches we’re making available. If there is anything else you’d like us to cover drop me a line to [email protected] with ideas. And, last but not least, if you’re ready to explore your migration, you can talk to your Google Cloud account representative, visit our RaMP website, and/or sign up for a free pre-migration IT discovery and assessment today.

Keep building!

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