Moving an organization to the cloud brings with it challenges for both established companies and startups. To compare the experiences, I spoke with Chris Olson, Vice President of Digital Business at SEGA, the games developer, who moved one of their business units to the Huddle collaboration platform and Jonathan Lewis, Head of IT for Harmon.ie, an Israeli-based startup technology firm who moved the entire company to Microsoft Office 365. Why move to the cloud?
For one of SEGA's business units, the move to the cloud was not originally planned. Olson said that his business unit didn't set out to use the cloud initially, although they came to see some advantages of doing so in terms of application functionality and costs. They found Huddle to fit their bill of an easy to use cloud platform for sharing and collaboration.
"There are some groups in the organization that are using [on-premise] SharePoint," says Olson. "I found it to be rather unwieldy for our purposes." They also looked at Yammer, but Olson cooled on the idea around the time Microsoft acquired them.
For Harmon.ie, the move was on a big scale. Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Harmon.ie, believes in "sip your own champagne" according to Lewis so the distributed company, made their move to the cloud. The company was facing the support of a complex server infrastructure that was growing more difficult and manpower intensive by the day.
"We had some issues with centralized infrastructure because most of the team we communicate with are distributed," according to Harmon.ie's Lewis.
Steps to the cloud
Both Harmon.ie and SEGA took similar approaches to moving their users to the cloud. Olson put some test users from his team onto Huddle, and their feedback was positive. He later rolled it out to his whole team. Now, some other business groups inside SEGA are using Huddle as well.
The organic approach to Huddle for SEGA may very well have been successful because the company is already using Amazon EC2 for some of their gaming infrastructure.
Lewis says Harmon.ie took similar steps, including making the case to move to Office 365 with an analysis of the potential cost savings from moving their SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync infrastructure to the cloud. Then Harmon.ie set up a demo account for testing of availability and bandwidth.
Hurdles to the cloud
Surprisingly, Olson told me that his team didn't have many hurdles to the cloud. This goes against common thinking about large corporate IT bureaucracies.
According to Olson, "There was some security due diligence that needed to be performed by our IT group, but once we passed the security muster, it was easy to roll out. It hasn't been adopted by the whole company. It was something I wanted to do for my team."
"We definitely are interested in technology that will help the business and being a gaming company we are no strangers to server architecture," says Olson. "I think we've seen a definite advantage to not rely on iron and look to more on demand services."
Facing different hurdles
Harmon.ie had dramatically different hurdles to the cloud than Olson's group at SEGA, including problems with SharePoint. Lewis says, "There were no good in-house Microsoft tools in order to transfer all of our sites. Most of the free tools would work in transferring the sites. The problem was the metadata for the taxonomy and file libraries and form management."
They had to use two different systems to transfer data. Harmon.ie used ShareGate, whose excellent customer support helped with migrating their custom metadata from on-premise SharePoint to SharePoint Online.
Lessons learned from moving to the cloud
Lewis shares some lessons learned from their move to the cloud. Harmon.ie had more of a hands-on effort with helping non-technical users with usernames, and changing passwords with individual attention. Harmon.ie also found moving the admin functions over was easier than they first thought it would be.
Olson relates a lesson learned, "The biggest lesson for me, and it's kind of a general philosophy, is to not bite off more than you can chew."
"I always find implementing new practices and policies can sometimes be cumbersome if you try to blanket them and hand down an order from on high," relates Olson. "My goal was to roll it out slowly, but set firm dates for people to jump off with both feet."
Company size and the cloud
Prior to Harmon.ie, Lewis had experience moving smaller and mid-size companies to the cloud and says that smaller companies can have an easier migration to cloud-based email because they don't have a large amount of data to transfer.
In contrast, when Olson moved his team to Huddle, besides due diligence from the IT security group, SEGA's size didn't seem to impact his move. This is contrary to many stories I hear about cloud adoption inside larger enterprises.
Next steps to the cloud
Olson and his group at SEGA work closely with Huddle to drive or at least prioritize the product's roadmap. "We've given them some direct feedback about how they can improve the platform to meet our business needs. And hopefully the business needs of other customers," says Olson. We're also talking to them to see how other areas of the business can benefit from it.
Harmon.ie is planning on moving their Voice over IP (VoIP) communications system to the cloud to save on international phone calls among their distributed workforce. Lewis also mentioned Harmon.ie is still working to improve collaboration amongst their distributed workforce.
The cloud moves by Harmon.ie and Olson's team at SEGA show striking similarities in the process and importance of management buy-in. However, IT departments in small to mid-size firms definitely appear to be doing much of the heavy lifting in terms of the migration despite staffing and other resource constraints.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.