Today\u2019s cloud strategies revolve around two distinct poles: the \u201clift and shift\u201d approach, in which applications and associated data are moved to the cloud without being redesigned; and the \u201ccloud-first\u201d approach, in which applications are developed or redesigned specifically for the cloud.\n\nBy far the fastest approach is to lift and shift the whole environment, says Matthew Hon, CTO for public sector at technology services company Fujitsu Americas, as rewriting applications for the cloud could take more than two years to complete.\n\nBut if businesses want to drive new features such as customer-centricity or take full advantage of what the cloud offers, then going cloud-first \u2014 also referred to as \u201ccloud native\u201d \u2014 is worthwhile, Hon says. \u201cCompanies need to really sit down and look at the applications and infrastructure to evaluate what the overall strategy should be and understand why they want to move to the cloud first.\u201d\n\nOf course, many enterprises land on embracing both methods, says Nicholas Merizzi, a principal at Deloitte Consulting. \u201cSome clients look at the \u2018lift and shift then optimize\u2019 approach as a viable path to get their developers and environments over to the cloud sooner, and then optimize [for the cloud] once they are operating in the cloud.\u201d\n\nFor organizations to deliver competitive advantage through disruptive technologies such as the cloud, \u201cit typically requires approaches that extend beyond traditional lift and shift of legacy systems,\u201d Merizzi says. \u201cThe demand for high agility and time to market is creating a compelling case for critical portions of their portfolios to be transformed to a more cloud-native form-factor.\u201d\n\nRegardless of whether your organization is going fully cloud-native or taking a blended approach, significant strategic shifts are necessary for cloud-first success, including the following.\n\nEmbrace cloud-native principles\n\nWhen looking to move large portions of their application portfolios to a cloud-first model, organizations should ensure their developers embrace well-defined, cloud-native principles, says Brian Campbell, principal at Deloitte, including the use of APIs, microservices, and a modern data architecture. \u201cThese are just some of the principles that need to guide developers in this journey,\u201d he says.\n\nShifting to the cloud also means building highly resilient applications, Campbell says. \u201cAddressing observability in the cloud, adopting and scaling your SRE [site reliability engineering] capabilities, the use of chaos testing, and ensuring proper resiliency testing is completed [are] critical to meet the availability expectations of the end user,\u201d he says.\n\nAnd of course, people issues are a big part of becoming cloud-native. \u201cBuilding, deploying, and maintaining applications in the cloud using cloud-native technologies requires a different skillset than doing the equivalent in a data center,\u201d Campbell says. \u201cThere is a significant talent gap in the industry right now, so upskilling, retraining, and hiring must have a deliberate plan associated with it.\u201d\n\nChange the organizational mindset\n\nIf an organization plans to adopt a cloud-first model, it should adopt cloud-native as an organizational culture to realize the full potential of such a model, says Alfredo Rubina, vice president of finance services industry EMEA at digital consulting and advisory services firm SoftServe.\n\n\u201cCloud-native is much more than just technology,\u201d Rubina says. Companies need to take a fundamental shift in mindset away from traditional waterfall development toward more agile development principles such as the DevOps model, and automation.\n\n\u201cCloud-native must be a strategic approach; it must be driven by top management as it is a response to a wide range of business needs,\u201d Rubina says. \u201cAnd these need to be well defined and rolled out by senior management. It is about changes in the business model, about entering new markets, about the ability to adapt quickly to create innovative products and services and drastically reduce time to market.\u201d\n\nDevelop a cloud center of excellence\n\nBy now, many organizations might have already created a cloud center of excellence (CoE) to highlight what works and avoid what doesn\u2019t. If they haven\u2019t, they should. A cloud CoE is responsible for tasks such as developing a framework for the organization\u2019s cloud operations.\n\nResearch firm Gartner has said a cloud center of excellence \u201cis the best-practice approach to drive cloud-enabled transformation.\u201d A cloud CoE acts in a consultative role for central IT, business-unit IT, and cloud service consumers, the firm says, and supports functions including setting cloud policy, guiding service provider selection, and assisting with cloud architecture and workload placement.\n\nWith a CoE, \u201cyou can look at your IT environment and what people and skill sets you have at your organization,\u201d Hon says. \u201cThen if you can create agile teams that include security, infrastructure support, development, product owners, etc., into the right teams, you have a comprehensive view of what\u2019s needed for managing [IT] in the new world.\u201d\n\nOrganizations can leverage the CoE to help various groups take advantage of features included with cloud services others in the enterprise are already using, such as backup and disaster recovery services.\n\nBuild a realistic roadmap \u2014 and a surefire skills plan\n\nSince the onset of the pandemic it has seemed as if every organization has been rushing into the cloud \u2014 and in many cases that\u2019s exactly what has happened. This is likely a recipe for failure, because it means taking on too much at one time without a long-term plan backed by the right set of skills to pull it off.\n\n\u201cEvaluate what approach you\u2019re taking \u2014 multicloud, hybrid, containerization, etc. \u2014 and make sure you\u2019re taking things in bite-sized pieces,\u201d Hon says. \u201cBy doing this, you can build out the skill sets and get the right teams in place. Pick one platform at a time and ramp up the skills around it.\u201d\n\nSkills need to change to support applications in the cloud, Hon says. \u201cEmployees might not be aware of all the features built into the cloud platform, or they may be more comfortable [with] their existing toolsets, which could cause some hesitancy,\u201d he says.\n\nIt is not possible to simply transform an existing IT team into the new world of the cloud, Rubina adds. \u201cAdditional new skills and ideas are needed from outside,\u201d he says. \u201cThe key to success is to find the right mix of skills.\u201d\n\nDetermine a cost structure that works\n\nThe general consensus in the market, fueled in large part by cloud service providers, is that the cloud can save organizations lots of money. And for sure, there are plenty of savings to be had via reduced capital expenditures, lower maintenance costs, and so on.\n\nBut that doesn\u2019t mean IT organizations should assume they don\u2019t need to think about how much cloud services cost, and what kinds of terms make the most sense to keep costs under control across the enterprises.\n\n\u201cDetermine if you\u2019ll be using a fixed-cost structure flexible for the cloud,\u201d Hon says. \u201cAre you leveraging showback or chargeback to the business? And keep in mind seasonality. You want to have an idea of how often you scale up and shrink down and what that looks like. Building out cost models is key for how you can build a budget.\u201d\n\nWith a traditional data center, companies buy and install hardware with workload peaks in mind, Hon says. With the cloud, \u201cyou no longer have to do that because you can size for the average workload with the understanding that you\u2019ll scale up for your peaks and know when to scale back down. If you size it the same way that you were sizing it in your data center for the peaks constantly, you\u2019re going to end up paying more than what you\u2019re paying for your data center.\u201d\n\nDon\u2019t shortchange security\n\nAny move to the cloud \u2014 whether it be lift and shift or a cloud-first transformation \u2014 must include a plan for ensuring cybersecurity. That\u2019s because many of the threats organizations face today are related to the cloud and access to cloud-based IT resources.\n\nEnterprises need to consider solutions such as cloud security posture management (CSPM), which automates the identification and remediation of risks across cloud offerings, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).\n\nThey can leverage CSPM tools for incident response, risk assessment and management, compliance monitoring, and other cloud security functions.\n\n\u201cThe shift to a cloud-centric approach to security is necessary,\u201d Rubina says. \u201cCompanies need to ensure that all aspects of security are covered, from identification, authorization and authentication of users to encryption of data and networks.\u201d\n\nBefore adopting a cloud-native approach, it is important to identify the risks involved, Rubina says.