Avoid These 3 Sticking Points on Your Journey to Cloud Applications

On their path towards modernizing their applications for the cloud, many CIOs and IT executives are ‘getting stuck.’ Their teams may have made decisions around what Container-as-a-Service (CaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) path to go down and even modernized their first application or two. But after the initial excitement, progress has stalled; adoption of new cloud application platforms has slowed to a crawl.

Why are customers stalling out and what can they do to get ‘unstuck’? Dell EMC Consulting is seeing three major patterns with our customers.

Failing to Re-Architect for the Cloud

The overall goal of cloud application modernization is to accelerate the delivery of business value through the adoption of new cloud architectures that drive greater innovation through increased agility and velocity around application release cycles. Organizations often struggle with properly identifying, prioritizing and, when needed, re-architecting their applications to take advantage of these new cloud platforms.

To drive effective Application Transformation programs, organizations must first identify and prioritize the right candidates for cloud modernization, understand how to best leverage their chosen cloud application architectures and patterns, and develop applicable modernization pipelines. Too often customers focus on initial ‘lift and shift’ of applications to cloud platforms, but fail to drive the re-architecture and modernization efforts required to truly enable increased velocity and innovation.

At a leading global investment firm Dell EMC Consulting helped assess their market leading Digital Banking platform. The platform was based on an early generation container-based application and accumulated technical debt. Over the course of the engagement, we evaluated architecture and operational decisions as well as development and deployment practices. Our work culminated in a prioritized backlog of improvement opportunities recommending tactical changes and enhancements that will reduce the technical debt accrued with respect to container platform scalability, test automation, and continuous delivery.

Undefined Application Onboarding Process

Many organizations we see have no defined, repeatable process for onboarding applications to the cloud, which greatly reduces the ROI potential for their newly adopted cloud platform. To gain the biggest bang for your buck, you must focus on the following key constructs around application onboarding:

  1. Define your application modernization and replatforming strategy, including your intended cloud architecture and/or platform.
  2. Quickly identify your ‘cloud-capable’ candidate application backlog via close adherence to 12-factor principles.
  3. Adopt a Cloud Native First mentality and remediate any application-specific patterns that will prevent cloud readiness.
  4. Apply DevOps best practices to your development lifecycle and instantiate repeatability and automation via CD pipelines.
  5. Apply modern development practices such as Agile and TDD.

At a global telecommunications company with a dominant position in Australia, we partnered with their application development organization to accelerate the migration of their application portfolio into both their PCF and AWS platforms. Realizing early on that their challenge was not technical in nature, but rather was more specific to the extreme security requirements of their organization and industry, Dell EMC Consulting worked side-by-side with the customer leadership to define and create a highly efficient and repeatable tool-based application review process which helped to accelerate the cloud suitability assessment. Assuming a strategic enabler role, with local support through our India-based COE, Dell EMC Consulting has enabled the customer to push over 400 legacy applications into the cloud over the past 5 months and is currently averaging at least 10 applications migrated per week. The customer’s continued maturity and ownership of the process has enabled them to drastically reduce their reliance on globally-sourced SIs for this work.

Underestimating Organization Change

Without a doubt the biggest challenge to accelerating Cloud Application transformation at scale is organizational and cultural.

Top-down, executive sponsorship and support is critical to any organizational transformation effort. This includes defining and evangelizing a vision, providing resources and support, and recognizing successes along the journey.

But for organizational transformation to be scalable and durable, driving bottom-up change in frontline behaviors and culture is in many ways even more important. If developers and IT ops team members don’t see how transformation can tactically improve their productivity and efficiency on a daily basis, it will fail.

To support our customers on this journey, Dell EMC Consulting has created a POD (team-based) delivery model focused on delivering an ‘insourced’ model and ensuring our customers own their transformation. By employing our POD model, Dell EMC both helps define, build and prove the solution while simultaneously introducing new skills, processes, tools, and measures that complement the transformation within the customer’s own staff.

We start the enterprise-wide organizational transformation with a single team focused on a specific challenge, jointly identified as the focal goal and/or outcome. This joint team is comprised of members of both our customer and consulting team, with Dell EMC consultants bringing focused process and technical skills. Typically, we will start with a single application or two, intending to deliver together the most impactful MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as defined within the confines of the engagement. Once complete, the customer team members go off to seed their own new teams, supported by Dell EMC Consulting Services coaching and mentoring. These team members go on to seed a next set of teams, and so on and so on.

Customers win because they get the needed platform, application, algorithm, or service as well as a team of internal practitioners capable of supporting and extending the solutions. The “DO WITH” approach is a long proven best practice for introducing new behaviors and building scalable, sustainable transformations.

After years of underinvestment, a leading Commercial Insurance Provider needed to develop an approach to rapidly modernize their application portfolio. Teamed with Dell EMC Consulting and our POD-based delivery model and ‘DO WITH’ approach, our initial engagement led to a 50% improvement in test coverage, 90+% improve in release success rate, and a 30% reduction in technical debt. After our client’s initial successes, they are now scaling their new DevOps model across nearly 1,000 applications globally.


The adoption of new Cloud Platforms and Architectures (i.e. Platform-as-a-Service, Container-as-a-Service, etc.) has helped to greatly simplify the management and operations responsibilities of the traditional datacenter and has enabled organizations to once again focus on core innovation through their applications. Cloud Application Modernization has the potential to dramatically accelerate innovation and agility around application delivery cycles and allow your organization to focus on what differentiates it from the competition. Such Modernization is not without its challenges as many organizations are finding and ensuring you too don’t find yourself ‘stuck’ is critical.

Dell EMC Consulting is focused on helping our customers address the critical people and process challenges they face when driving Cloud Application Transformation. Please click here for more information on our services, capabilities and customer case studies, and check back soon for more posts that will dive deeper on this and other Digital Transformation topics.

About the Author: Scott Bils

Scott is a Senior Director in the Dell Technologies Consulting Services organization. In his role leading the Americas Digital Transformation Practice he is responsible for services in the areas of Cloud Native Applications, DevOps / Infrastructure as Code, Big Data Analytics and IOT. Scott blogs and speaks frequently on the topics of application, cloud and digital transformation. Prior to Dell Technologies Scott co-founded a leading boutique consultancy focused on helping large enterprises and service providers navigate the issues associated with cloud and ITaaS transformation. Scott was also the Founding CEO at Conformity, a venture-backed provider of the first enterprise-class management and governance platform for cloud applications. Prior to Conformity Scott held senior executive roles at Scalable Software and Troux Technologies, and also worked at McKinsey and Co. and Accenture. Scott holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.