Cloud computing has delivered enormous value since being embraced as a fundamental element of IT strategy. But it can introduce complexity and risk, and therefore necessitates careful planning and prioritization. IT needs and risk are constantly evolving, so companies need to continuously evaluate, update and mitigate risk for their cloud environments.
Cloud governance is an organization’s framework and guidelines for managing and monitoring all aspects of their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and OPEX infrastructure footprint. Cloud governance encompasses strategy and decision-making as well as monitoring and evaluation. It’s an imperative for every company using cloud solutions, but it can be complicated to prioritize and implement. In the 2023 Flexera State of the Cloud Report, 71% of surveyed organizations cite governance as a top cloud challenge.
Cloud governance frameworks and policies are highly particular to the needs of a specific organization and thus vary from one business to the next. What cloud governance looks like in your company depends on the organization’s size, industry and compliance requirements. Highly regulated industries, for example, will have different risks and requirements than less regulated ones. Broadly speaking, every cloud governance framework covers four pillars: cost management, security, operations and data governance.
While as-a-service cloud providers handle things like servers, networking, provisioning and tooling, it’s each company’s responsibility to define and mitigate business-level risks and establish internal frameworks and best practices for governing their cloud infrastructure.
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The benefits of a good cloud governance discipline
Cloud governance is a sizable discipline that affects many areas of a business—finance, security, operations, IT architects and others. Responsibility for leading it may fall on one person (in smaller companies) or multiple teams (in larger enterprises). But no matter the size of your company, all employees under the cloud governance orbit should take responsibility for following the established policies and best practices to mitigate risk and protect the business.
Cloud governance isn’t something you can simply “set and forget”; on the contrary, it requires vigilance and ongoing updates. However, investing time and attention in it also comes with several benefits:
- Better cost visibility and cost optimization
- High-efficacy security practices
- Repeatable, consistent cloud operations
- Consistent identity and access management
Allocating appropriate time and resources to cloud governance is essentially preventative medicine for your business—and as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
5 cloud governance best practices
Although the details of your cloud governance framework will be highly tailored to the needs of your company, there are some best practices that are universal. Here are 5 of my overarching recommendations:
1. Be flexible when defining your framework.
Every business is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all model for risk management. You need to figure out the unique needs of your business around cloud costs, security, operations and data governance—as well as your goals and priorities. Don’t just follow another company’s approach; instead, do the research, and think through what your business actually needs.
2. Ensure organizational alignment.
Ownership and accountability for cloud governance should be shared across the organization. In most companies, responsibility will be spread across multiple teams, and they all need to understand your framework and buy in on your policies for releases, adding or removing solutions, onboarding new users and so forth. If you define your cloud governance framework but no one follows it, it’s not going to offer the benefits it promises.
3. Take advantage of tools and automation.
Each of the pillars of cloud governance can be unwieldy to monitor and manage, but there are lots of tools out there to simplify and automate monitoring and reporting on your cloud environment. Cloud management tooling and automation can be immensely helpful as you implement governance policies and rules—especially if your organizational footprint has been growing. As the size and scale of a business increases, it makes good sense to scale your investment in technology that helps you manage it.
4. Continually benchmark and strive for improvement.
Your business needs are always changing, so the chances that your governance stays static and effective are going to be pretty slim. As your organization grows, you have to be willing to challenge and adjust the status quo appropriately. It only takes one major cost or security breach to significantly damage your brand reputation or bottom line. So, constantly evaluate your cloud governance framework to make sure it still meets the needs of your company.
5. Trust your people.
By its very nature, cloud governance is about minimizing risk and optimizing use of your cloud footprint. This can result in difficult conversations and considerations from the team that’s responsible for enforcing the rules. But you need to trust that team to have the business’s best interest at heart.
Take the next step in your cloud governance journey
There is no one-size-fits-all guide to cloud governance. Each of the pillars—cost, security, operations and data governance—is complex in and of itself. Whether you’re just getting started or need to revisit your cloud governance framework, stay flexible and trust that you know what’s best for your business. Don’t try to force your cloud governance strategy to fit a shape that’s inappropriate for your organization. Instead, take the time to read, do your research and understand what your company needs. Stay up to speed on incidents in your industry so you’re well informed about what happens when things go wrong—for example, huge cloud bills, security breaches or data management nightmares. And—importantly—hire people you trust to lead your cloud governance efforts. You’re essentially giving the keys to the bank to whoever’s in charge of it, so choose good people who’ll focus on the best interest of the business.
Cloud adoption has grown tremendously, and cloud governance is now essential for every hybrid and multicloud organization. To learn more about how to accelerate your digital transformation across the digital core, ecosystems and edge, check out the Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure.