Back in the old days, if a basketball team was in the lead, they could clinch victory by endlessly passing the ball around until the clock ran out. But fans got bored and stopped buying tickets. Suddenly, the NBA needed to rethink the current state of play and align it to their long-term business goals: increasing profits, retaining fans, and attracting new ones. Their solution? The 24-second shot clock. It revolutionized the game in much the same way that the cloud is now revolutionizing business. And according to Gartner, organizations that don’t take action similar to the NBA’s may risk being left on the sidelines. In fact, in a 2017 report, “Align Your Cloud Infrastructure to Your Business Strategy in Four Steps … or Fail,” Gartner states “unless your cloud infrastructure is properly aligned to the long-term business strategy, it will ultimately waste resources and place your organization at risk.”

Now, you may have concerns that your cloud and business plans aren’t quite ready for game day. You’re not alone. According to a study by Accenture, only 38 percent of C-level executives have integrated their business and cloud strategies, even though 95 percent do have a five-year cloud strategy in place.

It’s smart to tailor your cloud implementation to the long-term business benefits you’re after, as well as your overall IT strategy. In other words, figure out what goals you want your cloud strategy to achieve. First determine your objectives; then shape your cloud strategy to realize them. Do you want to provide better applications for internal and external customers? Faster service delivery? A bigger return on your investments?

Call a huddle and strategize

Begin designing your strategy with all leaders — IT, line-of-business and executives — at the table. With their input, decide where to focus cloud efforts to ensure that your investments deliver the highest business value. Cloud solutions bring advantages to the entire enterprise, not only the IT organization—benefits like cost reduction, business agility, and better data-driven decision-making — so the cloud decision-making process should be an effort of the entire enterprise, not just the IT team.

Also, take the time to define the scope of your cloud approach. Do you want to run development and testing in the cloud to leverage its flexibility and low cost? Would you move critical workloads to the cloud to scale quickly and provide reliable and high-performance service globally? Take a phased approach. Among many variables, you should consider data sensitivity, data governance, and any global or industry compliance requirements you may have.

Don’t go it alone. Recruit word-class talent

Once you’ve done all this, conduct a gap assessment against your existing infrastructure: where you are now and how you will get where you want to go. Now would be an ideal time to scope out a partner — or a special team that can help you raise your game — one who understands the complexities involved with moving to the cloud and offers you sound solutions to get you there on your terms. Take the time to truly understand how you can use existing IT investments and what improvements you need to make to ensure your legacy architecture is cloud-ready. This will help you pinpoint milestones and keep you on track. Understand, however, that as you progress with your implementation, you may need to correct your course to ensure your cloud strategy delivers on your goals.

Organizations that get the cloud right will see transformative gains. They can build a platform for a faster, better enterprise that’s fully equipped to succeed in digital business. Taking the time to bring your organization together and understanding how your current infrastructure needs to evolve will ensure your cloud strategy aligns with the business outcomes you seek.

To learn more about building a winning cloud strategy, visit citrix.com/workspace.