MVP to MVP: Talking Cloud Adoption (Part 1: Onboarding)

I had a great conversation with Raphael Köllner, a Microsoft MVP in Office Servers and Services, Windows Top Insider, MCT and Microsoft Student Partner Evangelist. Raphael is a trainer and speaker in the field of IT and law, and often the interface between them. His priorities are in the field of cloud computing from a technical and legal point of view.

This is part one of our interview. Read part two here.

Please note: the following interview was conducted and transcribed in German, then translated internally to English. We intend to provide as accurate a representation of the original conversation as possible. 

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[HB:] Why do some companies struggle to understand the cloud?

[RK:] Since the beginning of the cloud, companies have considered outsourcing their own IT to the cloud. It was not just a Microsoft topic, but all the major cloud providers like Amazon and Google. But we had to differentiate because companies had already outsourced their websites, shops and blogs to providers with their own data centers. The term “cloud” had not been associated with it, and had to be defined. Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service; Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services were, and still are, considered very carefully.

[HB:] Are there other concerns?

[RK] A large concern is data protection and security, and not knowing whether you are legally allowed to migrate to the cloud. These issues are not unique to Germany. Many companies had to first gain confidence in the cloud, so they stored data on their own on-premises systems. For different industries there are now guidelines available on how to deal with the data of the respective customer.

Often there are questions about the different licensing models, or technical questions about bandwidth. Small and medium-sized companies therefore prefer to buy on-premises servers or update their existing server to the next level.

[HB:] How do the cloud adopters sync on onboarding?

[RK:] Onboarding starts with email. The first step is often constructing a hybrid environment, and then transferring data from the on-premises servers to the cloud. Further steps may include implementing existing communication services such as Skype for Business, and other workloads may follow. However, such projects can be difficult to initiate.

Planning in advance helps to get around obstacles but the companies are dependent on qualified Microsoft partners—not only to overcome the technical hurdles, but as mentioned, to clarify the licensing. During migration, they must ensure that the normal operation continues without interruption while parallel training plans are worked out so that the company’s employees learn the new programs.

If private cloud services exist, they must be reconciled with the existing cloud services before a migration can be initiated. Often they will adjust manual programs to close the gaps, but of course there is the economic desire to relocate such systems to the cloud. As an example, a custom enterprise CRM system can be difficult to adapt to the cloud-based model.

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[HB:] How can Microsoft partners improve in the implementation phase?

[RK] Some Microsoft partners lack standardization and start at square one with every customer, where they could be working with solution templates. During an Exchange email migration (on-prem) to Office 365 the business processes are often identical, but not standardized from customer to customer. Also, partners often forget to provide training. Microsoft has created some specifications, even though the procedures are not always fully transferable. This means the partners must expand beyond their on-premises expertise with systems and solutions. This becomes more difficult when these partners have to deal with cloud systems from several manufacturers—especially when their advisors are dealing with ongoing projects and simply lack the time or focus.

Read part two here.

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