Moving to the cloud: five lessons learned

In 2019, Registers of Scotland (RoS) set out a transformative strategy outlining why registration should be moved to the cloud. In this blog – which is the second in a short series about our cloud journey – our Head of IT Service Paul Christie sets out lessons learned so far.

Moving to the cloud is a significant undertaking for any business and one which has allowed RoS to learn many lessons. Below I have outlined five of these which I hope are useful for those of you considering adopting the cloud in your own organisations.

Bring your stakeholders with you

While fellow digital colleagues might inherently know that cloud is the right path for your business, this won’t necessarily be the case for other internal stakeholders and senior management. You’ll need a compelling strategy to bring stakeholders on the journey with you.

Your strategy should be considered from the outset and it’s a good idea to include risks within it to help ensure you’re doing the right things, in the right way, to fulfil the promised strategic goal.

At RoS, our strategy set out aspirations of moving towards becoming a fully digital registration business and why the organisation should move away from legacy systems to help make this happen.

For example, one of our registers – the Register of Judgments – used to sit on a 25-year-old system that can’t evolve at the speed required for the industry. We therefore set out why the decision should be made to refactor the whole register based on business/customer demand, using state of the art cloud technologies to underpin this work. The result was a fit-for-purpose, secure and resilient register that could evolve continuously.

Follow a structured, step-by-step process

At RoS, we have used a maturity framework for assuring and governing our cloud journey. This has helped to ensure that we don’t go beyond our technical abilities and organisational risk appetite, keeping stakeholders updated along the way. It has also meant that every milestone has been assessed as it has moved through different stages.

  • Stage one (Safe for Pilot Development) – focus on select initiatives and build up your knowledge. Then go back to stakeholders/senior management to take them forward to the next stage. The focus here is on data security, as even to develop we need to make sure our data is secure.
  • Stage two (Safe for General Development) – Cloud becomes available to wider development community but for development/exploration purposes only. The focus as you move into broader adoption is to ensure scalability measures are in place. This primarily focuses on cost, access and account management. This stage further helps with assumption clarification and learning adaptation before moving into the first live production stage.
  • Stage three (Safe for Pilot Product) – This stage represents this first phase where live production services are hosted on the cloud. A small selection of initiatives is supported for this phase only. The core focus here is resilience and development release maturity, ensuring live services are secure, sustainable and resilient.
  • Stage four (Safe for General Production) – Our selected cloud supplier and services are now categorised as an extension of the RoS digital estate. This allows broad adoption and go live of services being developed on the cloud. The core focus here is performance at scale and a sustainable reporting framework which delivers continuous assurance governance.

Don’t work in isolation

Moving to the cloud is a huge undertaking so IT should not be doing this in isolation. Make sure that you continuously ask questions and check your understanding of your clients’ needs (in our case our development, enablement, product and information governance colleagues). Having the right contributions at the right stages is vital.

Get the right skills in place

You need the right skills to ensure moving to the cloud is a success. At RoS, we thought about preparing for the cloud 2-3 years before even starting the move. This meant building up teams with cloud in mind and developing our in-house systems in a way that was future “cloud ready”. This has resulted in an enduring team with the sole purpose to empower our developers and support the operational cloud platform.

Take your time

Moving to the cloud shouldn’t be rushed – particularly if you want to be agile and reduce cost. This has been the case for us when dealing with a digital estate that is decades old.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t about lifting and shifting our digital systems as they are – it’s about taking the time to rebuild our estate in a cloud-friendly way, otherwise you won’t get the business benefits or resilience, security and agility. For RoS, this means rebuilding our digital estate over a five-year period, driven by business risk and value. Even when this is complete, the journey doesn’t stop. Customer expectations will continue to grow, and cloud technology will continue to improve. RoS will keep pace with this continuous journey, building the best digital services for our colleagues and customers.

Next time

In our next blog in the series, Product Managers Cheryl Hunter and Nicole Clark talk about how this has worked in practice for some of our registers.

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