With more and more businesses operating on the cloud, data security and risk management are more critical than ever. While access to the cloud has the potential to deliver exceptional convenience, it also requires that IT professionals thoroughly consider the rules and protocols that will keep everything running smoothly with minimal risks. In other words, they need to develop a cloud governance plan.
The best cloud governance plans achieve the following basic goals:
- Define policies and standards
- Administer those policies and standards
- Monitor cloud services and make necessary adjustments
A carefully designed and executed cloud governance plan is a must. It’s about control, risk management, and security. It’s about taking the time to put the policies and processes into place that make you a responsible member of the cloud community.
Developing an effective and efficient cloud governance program
Taking the leap from knowing that you need a cloud governance program to actually developing that program can be overwhelming. As with most big tasks, it’s helpful to break the process down into smaller steps. The list below draws from Gartner’s list of recommended steps for developing cloud governance.
- Form a governance team and document goals
- Define strategy and policy positions
- Implement programmatic controls
- Develop policies for business units
- Assess compliance and plan adjustments
- Create a cloud architecture diagram
Time to break it down.
1. Form a governance team and document goals
For maximum effectiveness, this team should be composed of people from across your company including cloud engineers, cloud architects, and security leads. (Note: Some companies opt to bring in an outside cloud consultant. This is the perfect time to introduce them to your internal team.) Company-wide buy-in and input from various teams is critical to ensuring that your cloud governance program achieves lift-off.
As you create your goals and objectives, pay attention to issues like departmental budgets, the current status of your software library, and the security policies that frame your organizational operations. And don’t forget to watch for opportunities to optimize. Now is a great time to assess how each tool is working for your company and if there might be a better solution out there.
To make this initial goal-setting easier, try mapping out your current situation. Create a chart broken down by team. From there, list out each team’s current software use and tag each of these programs with notes about licensing, costs, and notes about security.
Then, use this information to build out a goal chart. List each goal and then add to your flow as you discuss next steps, responsible parties, and your plan for measuring progress.
2. Define strategy and policy positions
Some things can’t be rushed. Just like your grandmother’s homemade sugar cookies, developing your cloud governance strategy and policy positions takes time and patience.
The good news? Putting in the hours and brainpower now will mean fewer headaches down the road.
Think back to your middle-school language arts class and all of those mind mapping exercises with carefully drawn webs connecting ideas and details. Luckily for you, you can tap into these same resources in a real-time, collaborative space. And since it’s all digital, zero No. 2 pencils required.
Hop onto a platform like Lucidchart and work with your team to identify key policies. Break each of these policies down into its attending stakeholders, cloud tools, and security risks. Make sure to include a big bubble for security that branches off into specific compliance requirements, audits, and protocols. Now you’ve got a great overview of what your cloud governance needs to include.
3. Implement programmatic controls
Now that you’ve identified your goals and the policies that frame them, it’s time to put the protocols and processes in place to monitor and control cloud usage. Think about which employees will have access to each cloud asset, how you will verify their identification, how you will manage data encryption processes, and how you will track the financial aspects that bridge compliance and employee accessibility.
Of course, security is central to this whole discussion. Depending on your industry, you’ll need to account for protocols related to SOC 2, HIPAA, and/or PCI-DSS (to name a few). Keep in mind that these compliance standards don’t only apply to assets deployed into the cloud. They often impact the security of the physical work environment, too.
4. Develop policies for business units
Once you’ve got your programmatic controls in place, focus on each individual business unit within your organization. Bring team leads in to meet with your central cloud governance committee. As the experts on what’s happening within their teams and what tools they’re using, these team members are your best source for insight into what’s working and what needs improvement.
Working together, develop internal support channels to engage with employees and external channels to address customer needs. It can be easy to make the mistake of assuming that effective processes are in place for handling support tickets.
To avoid falling into this trap, chart out the workflows for each use case within each department. Map out the support ticket journey from start to finish, from initial request to case closed notification. Visuals like this make it easy to communicate processes to employees. And once those employees are in the thick of it, having a handy chart to guide them ensures that your well-laid governance plans are successful.
5. Assess compliance and plan adjustments
Once you’ve got the regulations in place, you then need a way to monitor compliance. As you monitor, you might discover that certain regulations and protocols need to be revised. So, work to ensure that your governance plans are resilient and agile.
In a 2019 report issued by the OMG Cloud Working Group, they recommend planning an annual assessment of your cloud governance program. Make sure to time this so that it aligns with any scheduled audits, annual reviews, or OKR assessments. Between these major annual reviews, schedule quarterly reports so that adjustments can be made in real time.
To enhance the agility of your program, make sure to solicit feedback from employees. It’s always best to identify any potential issues early on. A stitch in time and all that. In a similar vein, take the time to create and maintain a log of your improvement efforts. This history of governance implementation, maintenance, and amendments will help you make decisions down the road. It all comes back to communication. Regularly provide employees with updated processes and protocols so everyone is up to date and informed.
6. Create a cloud architecture diagram
Finally, create a cloud architecture diagram to map out your plans for building, launching, and managing your cloud solution. This step is all about the details. You’ll want to consider planning for automation, designing for fault-tolerance, building security into your design, and removing single points of error. A good architecture diagram is thorough and well-organized. It bridges the gap between complex business problems and the cloud solution that addresses those problems.
This task can quickly get overwhelming. Cloud architects are often wrangling thousands of components. However, online diagramming programs make it easier to connect all the dots and incorporate the various flows specific to your architecture.
Lucidscale empowers users to automatically visualize their entire cloud infrastructure in just a few clicks. It’s all backed by metadata brought in from your cloud provider so you can visualize your cloud from multiple views. Beyond that, Lucidscale allows you to communicate complex systems with all stakeholders and collaborate with team members. The best cloud architecture diagram is an easily accessible up-to-date diagram, and Lucidscale makes that possible.
A cloud architecture diagram created in Lucidscale also makes it simple to maintain and prove compliance (see step five). Quickly gain visibility into the current architecture so you can pinpoint potential risks and threats. And when it comes time to submit proof of compliance during audits and certifications, an up-to-date diagram is just a click away.
So, there you have it. A quick-start guide to cloud governance. To develop and implement your new governance program without hindering productivity, consider using visual aids like flowcharts and diagrams to keep everyone on the same page. Organizing protocols and their attending policies and linking to responsible parties makes it easy to track stages, engage risk management protocols, respond to breaches, and resolve issues.
And as Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” It worked for the inventor of the telephone, and it will work for your business.
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