Cloud is a top investment area for digital transformation but why is it that only 3% of enterprises have an optimized cloud strategy? In a recent InfoBrief sponsored by Cisco, IDC categorizes the maturity spectrum of cloud adopting organizations from ad-hoc (beginning awareness and immediacy to adopt) to optimized (mature and delivering IT-enabled products and services).

Source: IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Cisco, Cloud Going Mainstream. All Are Trying, Some Are Benefiting; Few Are Maximizing Value. September 2016.

Those organizations with an optimized cloud strategy are the ones getting the most out of cloud – transforming business, expanding into new markets, and responding to changing customer requirements with agility. But how do you get from ad-hoc to optimized? Everyone’s journey is different, but I’d like to share a few imperative “must haves” to factor into a complete cloud strategy. This is by no means exhaustive, but can be used to sanity check your own journey to an optimized cloud strategy.

Focus on Business Outcomes. Most cloud customers I talk to see cloud as an important part of their digital transformation, and they know adoption can drive significant business value. The greater the level of cloud maturity, the better the level of business outcomes including improved revenue growth, more strategic allocation of budgets, lower costs, reduced time to provision services, and increased ability to meet SLAs.

Build on a Solid Foundation. When moving to the cloud, one thing that is often overlooked is the underlying infrastructure that connects users to cloud-based applications. A solid network is foundational to connect everything – no matter the location, device, or cloud. And a cloud-ready network is key to delivering high availability, security, mobility, and a great user experience.

Make it Hybrid. We are finding that hybrid cloud is the new normal in this multicloud world. We know that 73% of organizations are pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy, which includes subscribing to multiple external cloud providers and running workloads using a mix of public/private cloud and dedicated (on-premises) IT capabilities. Organizations with a mature cloud strategy expect to be able to choose from multiple cloud providers based on location, policies, and governance needs. They are also more likely to practice DevOps, use microservices architectures and containers (e.g., Docker) in their cloud architecture, and deploy cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Hybrid is resonating with customers as they balance the benefits of private and public cloud services to meet their unique business requirements.

Make it Secure. New highly-distributed infrastructures and connections are creating more security threats and vulnerabilities. Customers we talk to demand consistent, integrated security across their multicloud environments as a basic requirement. Holistic security that spans from the data center, cloud, and to the edge is important to securely adopting cloud.

Make it Flexible. As I said in the beginning, every journey is different. Many Cisco customers are embracing cloud at different rates and have different needs when it comes to adoption, deployment, growth, and maintenance. Some will want to outsource all their needs, while others may have the technology, budgets, and in-house resources to run their entire cloud infrastructure. Exploring different consumption models gives customers the flexibility to support their short and long-term objectives.

Dialing in the right combination of technology, resources, and solutions to reach an optimized cloud state must start with a complete cloud strategy. Businesses that don’t have one, may find themselves haphazardly trying to keep up with rapidly evolving requirements of the multicloud world.

For those of you joining us at Cisco Live Berlin (February 20-24), be sure to join us at the World of Solutions where we’ll be showcasing the latest Cisco Cloud innovations.

When it comes to cloud, what are your top imperative “must haves “and why? Please share them here.

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Kip Compton

No longer with Cisco