At the 2016 Gartner Catalyst Conference on Monday, Gartner research director Mindy Cancila hosted a session titled Developing Cloud-First Strategies and Architectures. Cancila examined the shift in cloud becoming a necessary piece of enterprise infrastructure, and gave best practices on how to build a “cloud-first” strategy in business.

Opening the presentation, Cancila offered a few points that illustrate the strength of the cloud market. For starters, 15-20% of all VMs run in the public cloud today. Additionally, by 2018, half of the applications running in public cloud will be mission-critical. These are strong figures, but they don’t exactly explain how much money is on the table. Take Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, the two leaders in the space. According to Cancila, their combined revenue is about $14 billion.

So, how can your organization get in on the action? Cancila presented six specific steps as a part of a cloud adoption framework that can help you develop cloud-first strategies and architectures.

The first step is to build skills and assess applications. To create your cloud team and assess application readiness, your organization must transform. IT is becoming a broker for cloud services, and the role of cloud architect is a big part of that. Gartner used to ask if an organization could take the risk of moving the cloud, but the question is no longer about “if,” Cancila said. The question now is where you are moving and how are you going to get there.

SEE: Cloud computing policy template (Tech Pro Research)

The next step in the process is to select cloud providers and services. Consider the different layers of the cloud (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) and how they fit into your organization’s goals. Also, assess your app architecture and infrastructure.

There are five stages that can appear during this process, each with different levels of effort involved and perceived benefits.

  1. Rehost – Do you need to modify the underlying architecture, or “lift and shift” the application?
  2. Refactor – Do you need to modify the underlying architecture or the application itself?
  3. Re-architect – Do you need to modify the application or replace the underlying architecture?
  4. Rebuild – Do you need to replace the underlying architecture or rebuild a cloud-native application?
  5. Replace – Do you need to replace the application or underlying architecture?

Packaged applications will work at the rehost, refactor, or replace tiers, while custom-developed apps span the first four tiers. When comparing providers, then, you’ll also need to take into account their capabilities. Gartner puts AWS in first place with the most capabilities, followed by Azure, and then by Google Cloud Platform.

Next comes architect cloud services and mitigating risks. For the near future, most organizations will live in a hybrid world and your strategy should take that into account. You will also need to decide what level of integration you will need: management, applications, cloud/virtualization, or infrastructure.

Once you have determined your architecture, you will need to estimate the bill and establish governance. It’s not secret that the cloud market and its penchant for subscription-based services has upended many financial models. Use the vendor’s cost calculators and perform a proof of concept to determine your payment model.

The cloud will also affect your people, so clear governance is key. Cloud-based policies and procedures need to be in place, and governance policies must be audited and enforced.

The fifth step is to provision and automate cloud services. Self-service and automation are core benefits of the cloud, so you must understand how you will enable and empower your organization to take advantage of these benefits. However, when it comes to processes like automation, make sure that each piece of the chain is working properly before engaging it.

“Automating broken processes only breaks things faster,” Cancila said in her presentation.

Finally, operate your cloud environments at scale. This involves managing cloud deployments, monitoring consumption, and becoming the broker for cloud. Cancila gave four best practices for management:

  1. Create financial management processes
  2. Evolve traditional management procedures
  3. Establish policy-based management
  4. Enable a multi-provider ecosystem

Cancila closed with a reminder that no one tool will manage everything. Approaching the cloud takes time and effort, and should be done through careful planning,