Ready to Transform IT? Remember the Pareto Principle

If your company is about to dive into a major IT project, take a moment to consider the Pareto principle. Also known as the 80/20 rule, it’s the idea that 80 percent of your results are derived from 20 percent of your inputs.

We’ve found this principle holds true for many of our customers’ challenges with moving to the cloud. IT projects here at Rackspace —from Fortune 100 companies with complex multi-cloud environments to small startups — show that the most disproportionately impactful part of a project is almost always the initial planning phase.

The pitfalls that cause the majority of delays and disruptions can be avoided through an upfront investment in planning. We see this again and again: customers come to us after having struggled with their journey to the cloud, and more often than not, the primary cause was a lack of planning, assessment and/or faulty design work leading up to the migration execution.

As such, starting out with a clear vision and solid plan isn’t just half the battle — it’s almost the entire battle. You have to keep in mind from the beginning that the stakes during the planning phase are very high. This investment in time and expertise lays the roadmap for future success.

The question then becomes, how can you ensure that these critical early efforts lay the groundwork for an ultimately successful project?

Ensure you have the right expertise

First thing’s first: you need access to the right personnel and skillsets — from a technical, project, and migration strategy perspective — to build out your plan and bring it to life. Be honest. Where do you need help? Where do you not?

Remember to think beyond the implementation phase. Not only do you need experienced solutions architects to make the right technology decisions and map out your migration plan; you also need teams that can define, strategize and execute that plan and keep your new environment running securely.

Once you’ve identified your expertise gaps, it’s important to make well-thought-out decisions about how to fill them. Evaluate where it makes the most business sense to hire new talent versus where it makes more sense to rely on a systems integrator or a proven managed services provider like Rackspace.

Also look to work with a partner that wants to do just that, partner, leveraging your in-house experts as much as possible to build a joint strategy and plan together based on your priorities, timeline and budget. At Rackspace, our methodology includes this upfront planning, assessment and design — i.e. that critical 20 percent — to ensure the resulting project is a success.

Define project goals and secure buy-in

Engage stakeholders early and work to build a consensus around how IT can best serve the needs of the business and contribute to the company’s overall strategy. Will you eventually need to support massive growth due to a product launch or acquisition? Does a shift in your industry impact projects and priorities? Will you need to support emerging use cases such as the internet of things, machine learning and big data initiatives?

Evangelize your own vision, but remain open to stakeholder input and respectful of their needs. It’s imperative that you settle on a single, clear direction and that all the key internal players are united behind it.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture

Planning involves much more than just the actual migration plan. It takes into account a range of factors, including overall strategy, budgets, TCO, priorities leading to a defined roadmap, governance and how to factor in security at each stage of the journey.

As you assess the current state of your IT, identify the business and technology issues, leverage best practices, understand the application portfolio and data center sprawl, exits and timing. Determine in advance which workloads and applications should be overhauled, which should be run in your own data center, and which can be outsourced.

Are there certain applications that would or wouldn’t benefit from the cloud? Do you need to invest in their long-term viability, or can you plan to sunset them? Throughout this process, make sure you understand the unique benefits of various cloud services and technologies relative to various types of workloads.

At every stage of the planning process, it’s important to take advantage of low hanging fruit that will have the biggest impact relative from an ROI perspective, as aligned with your priorities. It’s often a good idea to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis for each major decision. This can be a lot of extra work. But again, remember, these early choices are the ones that count the most.

Planning has a critical impact, but it’s still only the first step

Some customers do much of the up-front planning on their own; others seek help from partners and vendors. Either way, if you go into an IT project understanding that the planning phase has an outsized importance, and if you invest in it accordingly, your business will have much better odds of realizing a great return. That’s the Pareto principle in action.

However, there’s still the remaining 80 percent of the project to account for. At Rackspace, we think of the overarching cloud journey and supporting areas of expertise in terms of six key stages:

  • Planning
  • Assessment
  • Design
  • Migration
  • Management
  • Optimization

As with the planning phase, each of these stages has its unique pitfalls and challenges. For an in-depth breakdown of the entire, end-to-end IT transformation process — backed by real-world examples from successful projects at companies like General Motors, Capital One and General Electric — check out our ebook, The CIO’s IT Transformation Survival Guide.

Rachel Cassidy is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Professional Services at Rackspace where she oversees the company’s portfolio of professional services in the Americas, serving as our customers’ trusted advisors across all platforms through their cloud transformation. She also is responsible for the Global Service Catalogue defining Rackspace’s professional services strategy and offerings.

Prior to this role, Rachel served as Vice President of Global Solutions and Services at Rackspace, evolving and building professional services, strategic deal desk and technical sales focused on breadth and depth of knowledge defining solutions for our customer.

Before coming to Rackspace, Rachel spent a decade at Red Hat where she built out the pre-sales and professional services organization as Vice President of Global Professional Services. She later worked to create a robust global partner ecosystem, serving as the Vice President of Global Partner and Technical Enablement.

Rachel has been recognized as CRN’s Women of the Channel Power 100 and as a CRN Channel Chief. She holds a BS from Cornell University and an MSM from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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