A lot of thought goes into the decision to move part or all of a company's resources to the cloud, but one thing often goes ignored: governance.

A governance strategy is never static -- it evolves and grows as your business needs change. Governance is about taking action to help your organization optimize and manage your systems and resources to meet your business goals.

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And yet, when organizations look to save money and resources by moving core components of their IT infrastructure to the cloud, the impacts to existing governance practices are rarely at the forefront of the decision making process.

Know Before You Go

As many companies are beginning to think about shifting resources to the cloud as a way of cutting costs, reducing headcount and doing more with less, they need to also consider the governance implications involved. Companies are focusing less on traditional IT activities and more on activities that will help drive the business forward. And there's nothing wrong with that -- but you need to think through the true costs and impacts of these changes.

The key to taking advantage of the cloud is to understand and align your business requirements with the cloud in mind. Understand that not every workload can be moved into the cloud, and that most others should be transitioned over time, and in a phased approach, to ensure compliance and data sovereignty issues. Most technology mistakes are made when you do not adequately understand your business requirements, and the risks of taking action (and of inaction).

Take a look at the tools and systems your business uses today, and figure out which ones could save you time and money by moving them to the could. Focus first on moving mature solutions to the could (minimizing the risk of moving), then investigate new capabilities not already in house (minimizing the cost of trying new solutions).

Leave the high risk, in-house solutions until last. As you look at vendors, look carefully at what they offer, who they support, and how long they've been in business. Look for partners with the strongest service level agreements (SLAs) and always look for specialization.

Governance Questions 

As you prepare to move key workloads to the cloud, here are some governance questions to ask yourself:

  • What happens to your existing reporting and metrics? Do the same KPIs apply to your new cloud components, or do they need to be reevaluated?
  • Are there any changes to your ability to manage permissions across your on-premises and cloud components? Are the methods different? Do your existing policies remain in effect, or do you need to adjust for two models?
  • Can you maintain visibility into your information architecture and the Managed Metadata in SharePoint across all forms, or granularly within individual sites?
  • Are you able to track storage usage across all sites and site collections?
  • What happens to your auditing and compliance monitoring capability? Can you still see what is being accessed, and by whom?
  • With your new social capabilities, how much visibility do you have into how users are interacting, where content is being shared, and how well collaboration is being achieved?
  • If moving content, sites and users between platforms, how much visibility will you have around storage, content database reports, inactive users, administrative cleanup of orphaned users?
  • Are you able to setup management policies and procedures that span the various systems? Are you able to organize and automate complex preventive and responsive actions?

While moving core components of your IT infrastructure to the cloud may make financial sense, it is important to understand the impact to your governance model, and your ability to actively manage and administer your environments -- whether in a hybrid model, or when moving entirely to the cloud.

As you begin to consider moving aspects of your IT systems to the cloud, make governance a priority. You need to look at your systems holistically (with a business perspective) regardless of where your servers sit.

Document your business requirements -- clarify and document permissions, information architecture, templates, content types, taxonomy -- and ownership of each. Define what policies, procedures and metrics are needed to manage your environment, and then look at what is possible across your cloud and on-premises instances.

Image courtesy of IdeaStepConceptStock (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Christian's thoughts about the cloud, check out How the Cloud is Impacting SharePoint 2013