Digital transformation is on the mind of every CIO, and tech decision-makers are looking to migrate to the cloud for a variety of reasons, ranging from perceptions of the mainframe being outdated to reduced costs and increased productivity. Unfortunately, 451 Research found that 60 percent of enterprises had no digital transformation plan in place, pushing for digital transformation before they are ultimately ready.

A recent IDC study found almost half of IT spending will go toward cloud services in 2018, reaching 60 percent of all IT infrastructure and 60-70 percent of all software, services and technology spending by 2020. At this point in the digital age, few organizations are resisting the change as even the most traditional industries, like insurance, are incorporating digital transformation into their core business strategies. Even though the insurance industry has relied heavily on data centers for decades, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Ensono found that 70 percent of insurers are pushing to go digital in 2018.

Just last month, Walmart made the decision to sign a five-year cloud deal with Microsoft, citing digital transformation needs and talent acquisition as the top priority. In this case, with two million employees, ten thousand brick-and-mortar stores, a daily revenue of $1.37 billion and a booming e-commerce business, this decision has the power to increase innovation by better equipping the retail giant to analyze the real-time data created by its sales. With announcements like Walmart’s being made left and right, it’s easy for organizations to feel the pressure to move to the cloud or risk falling behind competition.

However, unlike Walmart, many organizations do not make a conscious effort to migrate app-by-app, with many attempting to move entire workloads to the cloud instantaneously and, in most cases, ultimately failing.

What happens when you migrate too quickly?

Even when cloud migration is done over an extended period of time, organizations can face a significant loss of operations and considerable downtime. Despite having launched digital transformation projects, more than 70 percent of CIOs find it hard to balance performance across their IT estates with innovation. Chances are, the organizations still operating out of data centers aren’t choosing a physical infrastructure because they lack the ability to move to the cloud. Instead, the resources and manpower needed to successfully migrate have to be funneled away from the day-to-day operations, creating a deficit. (For more on CIOs, check out CFO and CIO: How to Smooth out Conflicting Roles.)

Rushing into a digital transformation without the proper planning or organizational structure has the potential to not only stall business operations, but severely handicap them by leaving infrastructure open to cybersecurity gaps due to oversight. Currently a startling 80 percent of enterprises are either completely blind or have gaps in cloud monitoring that can allow bad actors to exploit vulnerabilities.

Ponemon Institute estimates the average data breach cost $3.5 million in 2017, so in addition to the irreparable damage that accompanies a data breach, organizations can be faced with a hefty bill on top of the migration costs if data is jeopardized. These gaps can easily be narrowed if organizations proceed to the cloud with caution.

Where do you start?

Like any good decision-making process, the move to the cloud has to start with a plan long before any action takes place. Moving entire workloads to the cloud in one sweep can be a recipe for disaster, so it’s important to conduct preplanning research in order to gain a better understanding of what the goals of this migration entail.

As part of this process, CIOs can reap an unexpected benefit of gaining a deeper understanding of their organizations, since it’s important to know how the different departments and their IT needs will be affected by this migration. In order to do so, CIOs need interviews with key stakeholders to build an extensive plan. Taking the time to use this information to answer questions like, “Which apps are critical?” and “Which apps are not?” will minimize the impact of this migration on the business as a whole. By learning from stakeholders and developing a greater understanding of the organization, it’s possible to plan outage windows that minimize impact on day-to-day business and make better recommendations on what pieces to move.

It’s also important to consider what operations will look like post-migration. Often, many organizations devote so much time and focus into the actual migration that there isn’t a plan in place moving forward. Cloud migrations never truly end, as the environments need to evolve with the business, so without the proper management, they will crumble. Considering questions like, “What’s your plan for adding capacity as your organization grows?” or “Do you have a contingency plan in case one of your environments suffers an outage?” in addition to determining governance will help set a cloud infrastructure up for success.

How do you ensure smooth sailing?

Cost savings are the driving factor of cloud migration for 70 percent of IT and business leaders, with hopes for increased profitability and productivity being the runner up. But if a migration is unsuccessful, these three areas can be negatively impacted as organizations fumble to maintain operations.

Working with a managed service provider while undergoing a digital transformation can drastically improve the process. While an IT department can be weighed down by operational noise, an MSP can act as a reliable third party to help assess different cloud providers, hybrid IT opportunities and minimize the overall complexity of the process. But by working together to complete the digital transformation journey, it’s entirely possible to move to the cloud in an ordered process without losing performance or risking cybersecurity. (For more on hybrid IT, check out Hybrid IT: What It Is and Why Your Enterprise Needs to Adopt It as a Strategy.)