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It's practically a given that the future is in the cloud – with some forecasts predicting 83 percent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020. Despite the growing number of born-digital businesses, many firms still have to cope with a tangle of legacy infrastructure or outdated processes. This also presents an opportunity for firms to unify IT strategy with business goals.

There's no lack of inclination to move to the cloud, says Tim Bull, Solutions Director at Rackspace, but CTOs and CIOs are under a lot of pressure – whether that's "coming from the CFO in terms of the net cost of IT, or whether it's a me-too, 'we must get into the cloud', or whether they're just facing an imminent change as a result of a facilities closure or the result of an existing contract."

Although these are "normal pressures to transform," the combination of vendor fog and the boom in cloud solutions means mapping out a cohesive strategy from scratch can be intimidating. Don't be dissuaded, however: there are some basic considerations decision-makers can act on to make this less of a daunting process.

Firstly, a successful cloud strategy involves engaging a lot of interested parties.

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"I think it's really important to focus on the benefits," Bull explains. "I don't mean making a list of all the things you'd like, I'm talking about making those benefits metric and plannable for the business, so 'real stuff'.

"The other side of things is engaging stakeholders outside of IT – it's helping customers engage the broader business leadership to contribute to those benefits and also to contribute to that operational planning."

Reach out to the board or the near-board level to help prioritise benefits. Once these have been identified, plotting out the steps to get to them isn't quite as daunting. But failure to bring in all the key stakeholders could mean a project runs in the wrong direction, with potentially costly consequences.

Architecture, security and compliance all need to be represented, Bull says, but also functions like HR – for staffing levels or training – and site logistics: will data centres be closing down, for example?

"It's a little bit of sponsorship from the top level, the core operational team, plus some very strong links in a permanent governance function to that broader operational management team," Bull says.

When the benefits have been mapped out with achievable metrics and all the core stakeholders have been consulted, next it's worth examining what your ideal operational model will actually look like.

"Do you want to be running that kind of platform- or infrastructure-level IT?" asks Bull. "Is it core to your business, or would you rather someone else was doing it – so you can have those high value assets in your business, working to get the share price up?

"Finally, then, make some really good service choices as to what the service levels you want are, within that operating model from your cloud."

It might not be easy, but the flexibility and agility provided by the cloud are worth the investment – and the above should go some way in helping to narrow the options down.

If you’d like to learn more about how cloud can facilitate your digital transformation journey, click to listen to ‘The Cloud Migration Masterclass’ above. This podcast series is brought to you by CIO in partnership with Rackspace.

Listen to the next podcast in the series - Mastering the art of programme management