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Relishing a successful cloud project's secret sauce

Cloud admins can learn just as much from success as they can from failure. Studying what went right in a cloud project ensures the next try goes smoothly.

It's easy for planners to become obsessed with failure. But what if your cloud project is an unexpected hit? While it's important to understand why a cloud project fails, it's just as important to understand what made it successful so you can replicate that in future projects.

Nearly 50% of early cloud adopters did not properly examine cloud project failures, a 2014 CIMI Corp. survey showed. What's more surprising, almost 75% didn't analyze successes. If an organization fails to analyze success, other projects suffer and technical challenges arise.

Cloud consumers often build a fudge factor into schedules and budgets, and ignore other projects with tighter constraints. Review successful cloud projects for unexpected savings or shortcuts in the schedule, and modify similar proposals to ensure they receive fair consideration.

Setting the bar too low

It's never a good idea to cook the cloud project justification books. Some companies over-estimate costs by 20% and forecast lower benefits by almost 40% just to play it safe. Projects that don't dramatically overachieve are often overlooked.

In most cases, it's a matter of removing stigmas associated with presenting marginal projects, as well as realistically dealing with mistakes.

For example, a healthcare company that adopted cloud found that while it had run three successful cloud-based projects, it seemed to be at the end of the project pipeline, with no other cloud projects planned. Project managers built in a safety margin for costs and benefits, and made it impossible to fail or replicate the success. A series of joint CIO and CFO meetings in which business leaders developed ways to get IT teams to be more realistic and accurate in their projections got things back on track. The CFO set financial targets overall, while the CIO took lead on the process.

Examine successful cloud projects to pinpoint expectations that were set too low -- either by design or accident. In most cases, it's a matter of removing stigmas associated with presenting marginal projects, as well as realistically dealing with mistakes.

Handling unexpected cloud issues

Not every cloud project goes according to plan. Most adopters encounter unexpected technical issues that force a change in plans. What are some of the problems?

Two technical issues dominate the list of unexpected problems, and can raise costs. Some companies do not consider the cloud's impact on data storage and lack the necessary cloud-resident database services. Other customers experience trouble when building and maintaining machine and application images. Still, these problems often are addressed without affecting schedules or justification. It's also paramount to understand how cloud deployments affect application lifecycle management and DevOps. IT teams rarely pay close attention to ALM or DevOps, but later find it led to the cloud project's success.

To deal with these problems, ask when and how they were first uncovered, what specific management actions were taken to address them, and how these actions were rolled into the plan. Focus on the process that successfully addressed the issues rather than the issues themselves. In the early stages, it's better to have an effective way to address issues rather than trying to prevent them. And as cloud experience builds, companies can do more complete cloud project planning.

About the author:
Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corp., a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982.

Next Steps

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