A Cloud Migration Primer for Global Financial Institutions
In this article
As part of a broader digital transformation agenda, global financial institutions are future-proofing their organizations by modernizing their applications and infrastructure. This transformation is underscored by a major shift from on-premises to cloud-based infrastructure, solutions and services, through which data modernization and business innovation can continue to evolve.
While cloud priorities and strategies vary from organization to organization, most strategies include migrating a significant portion of applications and workloads to the cloud. The benefits of migration are many, including increased agility and scalability, improved customer and user experiences, optimized visibility and risk management, sustainability, advanced analytics, cost savings, and more.
Financial services institutions have unique perspectives and requirements for application migration, where application and data landscapes are complex and sensitive. The migration process must be handled delicately, with precision and diligence, particularly when moving core financial service applications.
WWT knows these industry challenges inside and out. We have assisted some of the world's largest financial institutions in cloud migration, and we have some key learnings to share.
Global financial organizations and cloud migration
According to LogicMonitor's Cloud 2025 survey, 74 percent of global IT decision-makers believe 95 percent of all workloads will be in the cloud by 2025. However, on the frontlines in 2023, we're seeing that most of our global financial customers have migrated less than 20 percent of their workloads. So, what's the hold-up?
At first, it was relatively easy for financial institutions to migrate non-core applications to the cloud. Apps around collaboration and time/expense management are low-hanging fruit of little operational consequence. Core banking applications, however, pose a significantly different migration challenge.
Financial institutions have extremely complex and varied IT landscapes, with 40+-year-old applications running alongside modernized systems. Complicating matters are hefty regulatory demands tied to these apps regarding transactions, processes and managing customer information. Other challenges include low utilization rates, a lack of short- and long-term cloud strategy, disruption and downtime hesitancies, and budget restrictions. Plus, all of this coincides with other pressing priorities, such as:
- Increased data migration to the cloud.
- The growing use of multicloud environments.
- Increased focus on AI in data migration.
- The rapid growth of unstructured data.
- The heightened importance of data integrity, security and compliance.
Despite these challenges, many financial organizations that tackling cloud migration head-on and find success. But how?
A proven method for cloud migration
While there's no one-size-fits-all migration model, there is a proven pathway global financial institutions can follow to successfully move critical applications and workloads to the cloud. With our approach, vendors, products, timelines and service levels will vary from organization to organization, but the fundamentals remain the same.
WWT has had success accelerating infrastructure modernization and cloud migration initiatives with our unique combination of capabilities and skillsets across application development, DevOps, strategy consulting, cloud infrastructure and security. By focusing on targeted, high-value workloads, our migration approach enables quick wins while enabling both application and infrastructure teams to successfully scale migration efforts.
In the financial services industry, a snapshot of our application modernization and migration successes includes:
- Modernizing a payment processing application for a large regional bank.
- Accelerating the migration of global fintech applications such as bill pay, image management and open banking APIs.
- Replatforming and scaling a data management platform for a global fintech.
Migration primer at a glance
Based on learnings from our extensive modernization and migration experience, including those engagements listed above, here is out perspective on how financial service organizations can find success with their cloud migrations through every phase of the journey:
- Assess and analyze - Understand your infrastructure and rationalize your workloads.
- Strategize and anticipate - Define success early and identify the optimal migration strategy for your organization to balance cost, risk and speed.
- Seek the right provider(s) - Align and invest in a provider (or providers) that differentiates your business.
- Lay the foundation - Ensure your technology and, more importantly, your organization is ready to operate your new cloud.
- Prove the approach and ready the teams - Execute a small pilot as an enabling tool; iterate through blockers, train the team and document the processes.
- Execute at scale - Start with buy-in across the organization (application, infrastructure, security, business), be prepared to scale the teams and over-communicate throughout the execution.
- Maximize cloud operations post-migration - Invest in continual optimization of your growing cloud estate to ensure performance, security, cost-effectiveness and, ultimately, customer experience.
Assess and analyze
Before a migration strategy or roadmap can be developed, an initial discovery phase is needed to fully understand all relevant applications and underlying infrastructure. Conducting a thorough analysis of the current IT infrastructure and applications will help you determine the ideal location for each workload, whether it needs to be on-premises, off-premises or in a hybrid model.
Application rationalization is another instrumental step in setting a migration schedule, identifying the right migration activities and flagging potential risks; it also plays a key role in maintaining the functionality and overall hygiene of your application portfolio.
Strategize and anticipate
Building a cloud migration strategy and roadmap is an essential component of any successful cloud strategy and subsequent migration effort.
First, you need to ask, "What does migration success look like for our organization?" Understanding and defining your goals, objectives, priorities and cost governance will help you determine the right metrics and identify the ideal cloud adoption model.
Next, consider how DevOps and agile methodologies will come into play, particularly if you're pursuing a hybrid multicloud approach (see this case study as an example). Along the way, you'll want to create the right balance of industry-standard tools and those that support future innovations. Further, investing in the right cloud-native capabilities to modernize your application portfolio might make all of the difference for your business, so this deserves close examination, as well.
Most financial organizations look at the traditional "lift-and-shift" migration approach (i.e., moving all applications and workloads to the cloud) as a last resort, one reserved for scenarios with external drivers like data center exits or hardware/software lifecycle events. It should be noted that a well-planned rehost effort can achieve quick wins while accelerating future modernization efforts, so don't dismiss this avenue out of hand.
Finally, identifying how you plan to leverage automation is a key step before selecting the right provider. Automation is critical to ensuring the quality delivery of services as well as improving and optimizing manual processes post-migration.
Seek the right provider(s)
The cloud landscape has many public cloud service providers (CSPs) — also referred to as hyper scalers — to choose from. AWS, Azure and Google Cloud are the three leading hyper scalers capturing market share according to Gartner's Magic Quadrant, but providers like Oracle Cloud or IBM Cloud may better fit some of your organization's specific use cases.
One provider is not inherently better than another. The best choice depends on your specific business, technical and operational goals. While each CSP offers a similar set of core capabilities across infrastructure as a service (IaaS), each offers a standout platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) capabilities.
WWT recommends investing in the CSP-specific capabilities if they're able to help you differentiate your business offerings or deliver unique outcomes, but relying on vendor-neutral, cloud-native solutions from third parties for more common application patterns. When making this distinction from a procurement point of view, you'll want to weigh the following factors:
- Data security features.
- Compliance and regulations.
- Data storage capabilities.
- Cost models, volume discounts and billing options.
- Contracts and SLAs, including vendor lock-in potential and exit planning policies.
- Cloud governance on policies/controls for privacy, security and cost usage.
Balancing these factors with various business and technology requirements, most financial organizations are adopting a hybrid multicloud approach. This approach allows an organization to take advantage of the value of one or more public cloud hyper scalers while modernizing their on-premises private cloud infrastructure. While this cloud operating model is the most flexible (when compared to public and private cloud models), it's often the most complex. We've seen the most successful cloud adopters focus on maturing their cloud footprint with a single CSPs before expanding their footprint to include multiple public cloud hyperscalers.
There's one important consideration to note: CSPs will often make investments to drive workload migration to their platform through funded services delivery from services partners like WWT. You can utilize these investments to augment your migration budgets and accelerate execution.
Finding the right mix of public cloud service providers and partners to meet your business needs can seem daunting. That's why the biggest financial services institutions rely on WWT's cloud consulting services team to determine which CSP would best serve their organization. Once a hyperscaler has been chosen, you'll need to ensure your organization is ready to migrate—both technically and organizationally.
Lay the foundation
A well-architected cloud landing zone is the next step in your migration journey. Designing and deploying a cloud environment that meets your technical requirements while balancing governance and risk is critical for financial organizations.
Many organizations make the mistake of trying to enforce traditional data center networking and security structures on their new cloud footprint. Smart organizations use migration as an opportunity to evaluate cloud-native solutions and offerings from independent software vendors (ISVs) via emerging cloud marketplaces to ensure their landing zone supports their use cases and compliance requirements. We recommend you do the same.
WWT consistently sees organizational disconnect as the biggest blocker to migration success. Financial institutions that invest early in a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) find the most success using clear direction, leadership buy-in, and governance/guardrails that empower the organization. A well-defined CCoE quickly enables a scalable cloud operating model, breaking down traditional technology and business silos to achieve cloud goals and realize business value. This foundational governance work is critical to carrying out the migration with minimal disruption to normal operations while keeping costs low and momentum high.
We help global financial institutions prepare for cloud migration through our Cloud Foundation service offering by:
- Designing and building a scalable landing zone to enable cloud use cases.
- Establishing a robust and resilient hybrid networking architecture to connect cloud platforms to users, enterprise campuses and on-premises data centers.
- Developing a hybrid identity and access management (IAM) architecture to facilitate access to cloud resources and role-based access controls.
- Hardening, securing and monitoring cloud environments with advanced cloud-native security functionality.
- Assessing organizational cloud maturity and implementing a CCoE and comprehensive cloud operating model.
Prove the approach and ready the teams
Once your environment has been assessed and your operating model and landing zone are in place, it's time to execute your migration plan. However, coordinating the synchronized migration of workloads and large volumes of data, especially for large financial institutions, can be an extremely complex endeavor.
Ensuring business continuity is critical, though what's required for success will vary widely by migration approach. For example, a lift-and-shift migration may require a single weekend change window, while a full-scale application modernization effort will likely require a longer change management process.
Beginning with a cloud migration pilot effort can enable your teams to develop, iterate and refine their migration plan. It can also help identify and resolve roadblocks across your technology, processes and people. The most successful pilots are led by technology and application leaders who are passionate about and incentivized to ensure the success of the organization's broader migration efforts.
Through our work accelerating cloud migration pilots, we:
- Iteratively develop and pilot innovative cloud solutions to deliver quick business value.
- Evaluate the functionality and performance of competing cloud architectures and solutions.
- Establish a mindset and process of continuous innovation by building DevOps processes into your development environment.
- Enhance applications with cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data analytics solutions.
Your adoption roadmap, executed in parallel with a pilot program, should include a heavy focus on enablement in areas such as:
- Assessing the readiness and buy-in of application teams tapped for the initial migration waves.
- Upskilling your operations teams on cloud skills and best practices.
- Reviewing your cloud cost optimization and ongoing management strategy.
- Review cloud talent pools and gaps, including onboarding technical and program management talent as required.
Once your cloud pilot is complete and enablement activities have begun, it's time to scale to meet migration targets and, ultimately, realize cloud value.
Execute at scale
Now for the hard part: executing a seamless migration. While the approach and effort required to execute different migration approaches can vary greatly—think lift-and-shift migration vs. a targeted application refactoring effort—the requirements for success are similar.
Successful migrations typically incorporate the following tips:
- Overcommunicate: Ensure all stakeholders are given plenty of notice of migration activities. Develop standards for navigating change management processes. A strong program management effort is the single most important factor in any migration effort. Ideally, these efforts are driven by experts on your Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE).
- Ensure continued sponsorship: Get sponsorship from leadership across the organization to reiterate the urgency and priority of this effort. Your migration effort will strain resources and priorities. A strong Cloud Steering Committee made up of leaders from across the business, application teams and infrastructure teams is a core success factor.
- Scale the team: A migration effort takes developers, DevOps engineers, cloud engineers, security engineers and more. These resources have day jobs that involve keeping the greater business running, so make sure you can effectively staff and scale your migration teams with the right skillsets to ensure a seamless migration. You can also engage a partner to help close any cloud talent gaps you encounter.
- Roll with the punches: Few migrations escape their fair share of bumps and bruises—it just comes with the territory! But you can prepare for most issues—even the worst-case scenarios—by having backup and back-out plans ready. You should encourage your team to learn from failures and feed them back into planning and preparation exercises to iteratively improve your migration methodology.
Maximize cloud operations post-migration
Once your apps and data have been migrated to the cloud, there's no "go" button to press to ensure things keep running smoothly. Our expertise spans the entire cloud lifecycle, from initial strategy development through migration, integration and ongoing optimization.
In fact, we are experts at helping organizations maintain and optimize their cloud environments post-migration. To maximize the value you get from your investment in cloud, we recommend focusing on the following optimization areas post-migration:
- Monitoring the performance and security of cloud environments by staying up-to-date with regular cybersecurity patches, software upgrades and cloud consumption metrics.
- Continuing to train employees on new cloud platforms and applications to ensure they can efficiently leverage these tools to drive business value.
- Regularly review cloud infrastructure for cost savings, efficiency and reliability opportunities. This includes choosing the best pricing plan with CSPs across regions while protecting sensitive data, minimizing downtime incidents and keeping data accessible in multiple locations.
- Enhancing customer experience and satisfaction by fine-tuning accessibility and interactivity capabilities, then optimizing marketing programs with custom reports and dashboards that map and measure customer experiences.
- Apart from real-time monitoring, assessing the security of data at rest to ensure regulatory compliance requirements continue to be met.
- Continuing to raise performance and availability benchmarks according to evolving business objectives.
Facilitating seamless cloud application migration
In building an actionable plan for successful cloud migration, we recognize there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The diversity of each organization's cloud maturity, competitive landscape and business goals means there will be different metrics of success and means to achieve them.
Unlike traditional consulting organizations, boutique firms and public cloud hyperscalers, WWT offers independent expertise across all areas of cloud, from strategy through execution. Our expertise is informed by three decades of building the infrastructure on which clouds run. We've designed, deployed and secured complex multicloud, data center and networking solutions for some of the largest businesses in the world—including for some of the largest global financial institutions.
We have a clear understanding of how to solve the migration challenges specific to financial institutions. From risks and regulations to customer expectations, from how the customer journey can unfold to how things might go wrong—WWT knows what it takes to facilitate a successful cloud transformation.
We bring the leading CSPs, OEMs, ISVs and technology platforms together in our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) — a collaborative ecosystem where clients can learn about and test cutting-edge technologies and integrated architectural solutions. We encourage you to explore cloud migration through our ATC labs, demonstrations, 1:1 consulting sessions, quick-start engagements, proof-of-concept services and many other resources.
Together, WWT and our cloud partners are committed to making your cloud migration journey as seamless as possible.