How Microsoft IT Moved Over 2000 Applications to The Cloud

With the company vision of Microsoft that everything runs in the cloud, Microsoft IT needed to work to make it come true. However, that was no easy task. The team needed to not only migrate over 2100 internal applications from existing on-premises infrastructure, but they needed to create the processes and teams to do so. However, the biggest challenge wasn’t charging infrastructure; it was changing culture. After all, when every application is used by countless people, it’s vital for them to embrace change and understand the benefits of cloud adoption if those benefits are to be realised. 

What Challenge Was Microsoft IT Facing?

Microsoft wanted to benefit from the cost-savings and agile environment of the cloud platform, and, to do so, needed to migrate over 2100 line-of-business (LOB) applications to the cloud. Over 50% of these applications were .NET based applications. The LOB applications included everything from finance to human resources and customer support. With this in mind, the project wasn’t limited to a few departments; it was company-wide. 

Microsoft IT, like any IT department, needed to drive migration and modernisation of applications to the Azure cloud. It aimed to provide support and expertise to individual departments, ensuring everyone was appropriately consulted about the move and what it entailed. The team was challenged with putting together a delivery model, planning resources, and working to achieve cost savings. They would also have to measure and report on the progress of the project to ensure success. 

However, creating a plan for the project was actually the easy part; the real challenge was the cultural change. The team needed to change mindsets at Microsoft across multiple departments. To be successful, they would need to shift the strategic focus from developing technology solutions to measuring business benefits. 

How Microsoft Drove Cloud Adoption

To drive the cultural change needed for cloud adoption, Microsoft IT decided to form the Stratus Team. The team was responsible for: 

  • Evaluating the company’s application portfolio and deciding which applications to move first. 
  • Analysing whether application-critical capabilities were available in the cloud and establishing platform requirements.
  • Providing training and guidance to support all affected business units.
  • Reporting and sharing progress to create a sense of shared responsibility and accountability across business units.

While the purpose of the Stratus Team was to drive the overall cloud adoption effort, it was vital for each department to rely on its own technical expertise during the move. Training was crucial to ensure that each area had the technical skill it would need both for the move and the future in the cloud. 

An Evolutionary Journey to Cloud Adoption

The Stratus Team quickly built a decision framework to help decide which applications to move to the cloud. However, this framework evolved as the team learned more about how to foster the cultural shift the company needed. 

To begin with, classifications were made based on technical complexity and business impact. Applications that were simpler and would have the least impact enabled the team to work on new architecture models and to increase the skills of engineering teams without incurring so much risk. However, the framework needed to evolve to incorporate the business benefits of moving each application. Benefits of course needed to be balanced against technical considerations, however, it’s new strategy worked to encourage departments to adopt the cloud as quickly as possible. Focusing on the benefits allowed each division to understand the purpose of the move and how it would affect them. Moreover, if a team didn’t want to migrate an application, that decision needed to be justified. 

Not every application worked immediately in the cloud environment and some have remained in the datacenter. However, by migrating the applications in the first instance, the team could more easily understand the issues and try to resolve them. 

The decision framework evolved to enable the Stratus team to evaluate whether applications should be moved to IaaS, consolidated or retired. The framework took into account hardware requirements, software versions, network and internal resources and security. Using these considerations, the team could compare the on-premises environment to Microsoft Azure’s IaaS. 

Developing Skills and Supporting Success

An essential part of cloud adoption is increasing the existing knowledge within each department. To encourage knowledge sharing, Microsoft IT build a model to share information about technologies and cloud adoption success stories. By communicating with the wider-organisation, the team succeeded in increasing the collective knowledge of IT teams and highlighting the work and support that is in place for those moving their applications to the cloud. 

To share information, develop skills and support success, Micorosft IT held regularly scheduled meetings. This gave them the opportunity to feature work and teams that were supporting their strategy and highlight the new capabilities that cloud services enabled. As well as regular meetings a cloud-based wiki was compiled as an extensive record of cloud technologies and examples of their use. 

The Culture Your Business Needs for Cloud Adoption

If your business would like to focus on prioritising on-premises asset reduction, migrating to Microsoft Azure’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will go a long way towards achieving that goal. However, such a large scale move to the cloud requires buy-in and support from many departments. To help with the cultural change that is needed, consider:

  • Using the technical expertise of IT departments and provide training and support.
  • Creating a team dedicated to driving cloud adoption.
  • Balancing business benefits and technical considerations to make cloud services decision.
  • Using the cloud as an opportunity to find the right fit for each department and each application.
  • Communicating with the wider organisation and celebrate success.

By creating the right framework, you should be able to help your organisation see the advantages of  the cloud and by modernising your application portfolio you’ll be able to realise those benefits. Having a team, or in smaller organisations a champion, dedicated to driving cloud adoption is often critical to success. 

To summarise, here are the challenges, the solution and the benefits that Microsoft IT experienced:

  • Challenges – Microsoft wanted to live up to its ‘everything runs in the cloud’ vision and benefit from the cost-saving and agile environment of the cloud. To do that, over 2000 line-of-business applications needed to be migrated across numerous departments. While the team easily put a plan together for application migration, the biggest challenge was the cultural change that it required. They needed to help shift the focus from developing technology solutions to realising business benefits. 
  • Solution – Microsoft IT decided to form a dedicated team to focus on driving the cultural change that was needed for cloud adoption. The team would be responsible for evaluating the application portfolio, analysing application-critical capabilities, providing  training and guidance and reporting and sharing progress. 
  • Benefits – by creating a team to focus on cloud adoption, Microsoft IT has enabled each department to build the technical expertise it needed to migrate to the cloud. A decision framework allows each team to compare the on-premises environment to Microsoft Azure’s IaaS solution and knowledge sharing is facilitated through regular meetings and the development of a database of available cloud technologies and their success stories. 
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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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