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Five ways to prepare for a transition to the cloud

A popular pastime of mine, which due to the quarantine, I am unfortunately unable to practice right now, is “street photography.” This is documenting a moment in time of the ebb and flow of humanity to record what is known in the business as the “decisive moment.”

For this particular hobby, and much like any type of sport, one not only has to master the art and techniques of using a camera, but also you must have the courage to go out there in the “street” and shoot in a discrete, but consensual manner. You also need an interesting location.

Similarly, when making the transition from on premise to the cloud, enough thought and time is needed to consider the organizational mind set required to make this transition. There will be technicalities involved moving from software hosted on premise to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) hosted on the cloud.

Based on real life experience and having interacted with various customers, I would like to share with you five areas of preparation that will smooth the journey. Please note that this list is not exhaustive of all the issues there are to consider. However, these are what I consider to occur most often.

  1. Understand the difference between on premise and SaaS, the benefits and the restrictions

When opting for a SaaS platform, factoring in whether you previously used an on premise version that is similar, or if this is a totally new platform, will depend on the effort required to understand how the software works. Putting the software element aside, your architecture team will need to take time to study and understand the differences and interactions between on premise and SaaS environments. This requires a concerted effort to document your current architecture and how you integrate with other providers. When looking at your current architecture you will need to consider which elements will be carried out by your SaaS provider, which elements will be carried out by your current providers/vendors, and which elements will be totally replaced and may be redundant. Most importantly, consider how these systems will integrate with each other.

The nature of a SaaS platform is one of constant improvement, upgrades and patching where required. This can be a benefit to the customer since it means that the headache of developing, testing and releasing software updates no longer exists; it is now the responsibility of the SaaS provider.

However, you need to consider how these changes will affect the other providers and software integrated within your ecosystem. Understanding how your SaaS provider manages major releases, in both frequency and content, will help you plan for managing legacy systems.  

Consider also how your organization is structured; roles previously dedicated to patching and upgrades should transition to syncing software releases and integrating existing systems.
 

  1. Mapping out a clear and holistic migration plan

Now that you understand an architectural foundation that fuses the SaaS enterprise platform within your ecosystem, the next step is to migrate the necessary data. However, this is not just about data, but also about processes and interactions that need to be revised as a result of introducing a new platform. Though the migrated data may well be similar, how the data is processed in the SaaS platform will need to be considered from the complete view of the end-to-end process across the different user groups throughout your organization, from the data entry employee, to the person maintaining configurations and systems.

In some cases, this is a good opportunity to review data management within your organization, and where required reengineer to ensure data is being captured, processed and stored efficiently, and in compliance with the necessary regulations.

In particular, SaaS consumed on the Oracle Cloud platform is the understanding of Object Storage, bringing numerous benefits of scalability, faster data retrieval, free of the limitations of file and block-based systems and overall more cost effective due to its scalability. Nonetheless, if Object Storage is new to your organization, part of this preparation requires gaining a good understanding of the fundamental differences between Object Storage and other forms of traditional file or block-based storage.
 

  1. Stakeholder management

In the transition from on premise software to SaaS, early engagement with the key stakeholders within the business is imperative and will ultimately make a difference in the level of success this transition will bring. This is for two reasons, first, you will have a level of readiness if you bring these stakeholders along with you from the start in your journey and they will learn at your pace and be prepared for the differences, and second, you will have a higher level of commitment to this change if they are involved with this business transformation from the start.

The first step should be identifying the key stakeholders. Ideally, they should be representing the following interests in your company:

  • Operational and process owners: mapping out the “as is” process against the “to be” process and performing gap analysis between them.
  • Data & information management: The way data is managed, stored, backed up, and retrieved will undoubtedly change, and therefore understanding these changes and any related compliance of data management is required.
  • End user experience owners: Whether directly or indirectly, your end users may experience differences in how they interface with you and experience your products and services. This is required for understanding and benchmarking against customer expectations to make sure that these are met, if not exceeded.
  • Product owners: when moving to a SaaS platform, this brings new opportunities in terms of variants to existing products and services. These can be leveraged to the business’s advantage but required to be understood to see how this fit in with current services and price structures offered. For those involved in KPI reporting on Products they will need to understand what data is available, how to obtain this data and how to work with it within existing KPI reporting or create new reporting structures for it. 
  • Staff training: At all levels in the business and for those, developing interfaces in to the SaaS platform, maintenance team, customer support teams and in some instance’s sales teams, are required to understand in accordance with their specific needs the SaaS platform. Building the various training plans and executing them in time for a launch will require advanced preparations and, in some instances, various iterations of the training programs will be needed.
     
  1. Plan your connectivity routes to the SaaS platform

Cloud providers by their very nature use the public internet as their network of default for connecting with customers. Businesses may be concerned about the security of public internet, or if it is fast enough.

There are various routes for connecting to the Oracle SaaS Utilities Cloud Platform. Ensuring that a connectivity plan works best first requires understanding of how your organization functions. For example, an organization using the Customer Cloud Service offered by Oracle Utilities, and managed remotely, will need to consider how operators will connect to the platform, such as a VPN, or Whitelisting from a security perspective. Customers should consider how this affects their speed of connectivity and latency when they are responding to an end user. It would be advisable to simulate this in user acceptance testing and as part of operational readiness to ensure the most optimised route is used.

Consider network connectivity alternatives to using the public internet. Explore dedicated connectivity options offered by your SaaS provider that provide the option of a direct route from your on premise data center, or network, to their cloud infrastructure.
 

  1. Understand and make use of the tools and support available from your Service Provider/Integrators and User Groups

The journey of digital transformation is an ongoing one and encompasses all parts of the business. Working with an experienced partner, be it a service provider or integrator will make sure you leverage that experience.

Look for independent user groups, such as the Oracle Utilities Users Group (OUUG), that are associated with your SaaS provider. They are run by enthusiastic people who are open to providing support and shared experiences. Becoming an active participant will enable you to tap into a wealth of accumulated knowledge.

In addition to the core services offered by cloud providers, there are a host of tools at your disposal that will make that journey a lot smoother. An example of these are testing and migration tools.

Testing tools can help build and maintain components and flows for automated testing. Migration tools assist and facilitate the migration of customer owned configuration data to be migrated from one environment to another. These tools are built with years of industry knowledge and experience, from which you can greatly benefit.

In conclusion, the time spent in preparing an approach that considers all elements of your organization when making the move to a SaaS platform will be time well spent and will pay dividends with greater adoption and acceptance of the change within your organization.

 

Oracle Utilities, including Opower, partners with the world's hardest working electric, water and natural gas companies to empower, enhance and enable your every single day. From cloud-native products and better grid management tools to support for every single step of your customer's journey, we have the answer. Learn more at oracle.com/utilities. Get specific product information as quick as clicking right here.

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