Shifting from a legacy commerce platform to cloud-based technologies requires a deft balance of skills, technologies and cost considerations. A well-thought-out strategy is fundamental to achieving this balance.

The ecosystem of cloud technologies is so immense that there are almost infinite ways to make the cloud a part of your commerce system. To narrow things down, we’ll focus on two kinds of common enterprise commerce challenges: working with cloud-based components you own or manage, or interacting with third-party cloud components that other companies own.

Here’s a quick look at three critical components of a cloud commerce strategy.

Skills. Moving to the cloud means you have to dovetail the work of system architects, team leaders, database administrators, coders, support personnel and more. To gain the flexibility of cloud commerce, you need methodologies like Agile and tools such as Terraform and Jenkins X to iterate quickly and manage your software release cycle. In addition, people must be trained on the new cloud technology prior to working with it so they are able to accomplish their jobs in the new environment.

All of these skills-based challenges must work together when you shift to cloud-based commerce. A sound strategy and well-developed roadmap give you a foundation to deal with skills challenges.

Platform choice and rollout strategy. Choosing a cloud platform, SaaS tools and APIs to connect cloud services requires a sophisticated architecture that accounts for how all these tools interact.

For starters, you have to choose a migration strategy. Will you do everything at once or move things piece-by-piece to the cloud? If you do an incremental rollout, what’s the impact on your system architecture? You might be able to port an existing system to a cloud-hosted platform with only minor changes to the technology.

Every decision’s costs and benefits depend on merging existing systems and skills with the future state you envision. A strategy and roadmap that account for these factors will streamline operations and reduce financial risks.

TCO, hard/soft savings and ROI. In the cloud, your total cost of ownership (TCO) changes dramatically because you rent hardware on a pay-as-you-go basis and stop paying to build and manage datacenters. Running microservices, for instance, might generate costs measured in fractions of a penny. Holiday traffic spikes, by contrast, can send bandwidth costs skyward.

Moving commerce to the cloud yields a mix of straightforward hard-cost savings (owning vs. renting) and less-obvious soft-cost savings (speed and flexibility). All of these factors influence your ability to generate an attractive return on investment that will satisfy investors and executive leadership. Thus, financial considerations have to be baked into your cloud commerce strategy.

Thinking Beyond Strategy with DMI

At DMI, we strongly recommend building a sophisticated cloud commerce strategy before starting up a project to migrate your commerce applications to the cloud. But strategy is only the beginning. Because our developers have decades of experience in system design and digital commerce best practices, we can consult with clients and help them succeed in every phase of the transition, from strategy to roadmap development to migration to long-term development.

Andrew Powers, senior vice president, solutions delivery, digital commerce