AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

Get a Lean Start with the Cloud Using the Cloud Strategy Canvas

blank cloud canvas

In many cases, enterprises that have undertaken a major move to the cloud first got started by learning and experimenting with the migration of a single application. This smaller step allowed them to gain confidence with the technology, economics, and skill sets that are part of a bigger leap into the cloud. But with hundreds or even thousands of applications running within most enterprises, those leading a push to the cloud often struggle with where exactly to start. Instead of speculating about what would be the best “cloud test,” enterprises that want to begin using the cloud are looking for expert guidance on how to pick the right areas to focus on first.

Introducing the Cloud Strategy Canvas

A lot of these requests for guidance from AWS enterprise customers about where to get started with the cloud have been directed to our Enterprise Strategy team, which is comprised of CIOs, CTOs, and CISOs who have led large-scale migrations to the cloud at their former companies. It did not take long for us to see patterns in how enterprises approach the notion of using the cloud, and it turns out many struggle with the seemingly simple step of moving from intent to action.

Using our experience from these interactions we developed a simple tool called the Cloud Strategy Canvas to help cut through the early debates, doubts, and roadblocks for enterprises wanting to take a clear first step into the cloud. The Cloud Strategy Canvas focuses your enterprise on the key questions and considerations that will help pinpoint the cloud projects that will show early success and become pivotal in advancing your organization’s thinking about how to use the cloud.

Cloud Strategy Canvas

(Click to download canvas)

The Cloud Strategy Canvas leverages the success of the popular crowd-sourced Business Model Canvas and others like it used by companies and teams worldwide to conceive, design, develop, and test new strategies. It is a hands-on visual tool custom designed to address strategic elements of an initial cloud project, preformatted with white spaces for exploring critical cloud migration issues such as identifying key business and technology challenges, setting goals for your cloud adoption strategy, identifying possible applications to move, and deciding what the best first project should be given the unique situation facing your team. The hands-on visual nature of the Cloud Strategy Canvas fosters discovery, discussion, and decision-making.

A completed canvas produces a set of first steps for your organization to begin experimenting with the cloud in the areas of application migration, skill development, and cost savings. These first steps are also developed to inform the eventual business case for a full migration or large-scale adoption of cloud services.

What Makes the Cloud Strategy Canvas Different?

Enterprises think big but often struggle to “execute small.” Instead of traditional strategic planning models and lengthy project requirements documents, the Cloud Strategy Canvas utilizes Lean innovation principles and encourages rapid decision-making designed to create targeted cloud tests and prompt action. While intended to help your team take a first step into the cloud, the discussions it fosters and decisions it requires about business priorities, critical risks, and preconditions for success can also be utilized as founding principles for your cloud strategy.

Who Should Use the Cloud Strategy Canvas?

It was designed for enterprises just getting started with the cloud or those looking to focus their early efforts. When our AWS Enterprise Strategy team facilitates these types of exercises it is with a CIO/VP of Technology and their leadership team, because in our experience successful transformations using the cloud are usually led from the top down, with a strong commitment from senior leadership. However, we have also worked with a number of infrastructure heads, chief architects, and application development leaders to help them build the case for the cloud to sell upward within their organization.

How Do We Use the Cloud Strategy Canvas?

The first and only rule is don’t overcomplicate it. The Cloud Strategy Canvas is meant to be a Lean exercise to think through challenges, gaps, and opportunities where the cloud can take root. You might end up repeating the exercise to confirm or revisit assertions from the initial pass. The goal is to quickly move from intent to action and come away with target applications and other preconditions for success that your team, AWS, and/or a consulting partner can work on and will help advance your thinking about how to use the cloud.

Download the canvas and consider how you might use it in your organization. In my next post I will share a facilitation and user’s guide that will help you run your own Cloud Strategy Canvas exercise that will have your teams taking immediate and clear next steps, and will sharpen your focus about where and how to leverage the cloud in your enterprise.

Philip Potloff

Philip Potloff

Philip joined AWS in 2017 and serves as the head of enterprise strategy. In this role Philip works with enterprise technology executives to share experiences and strategies for how the cloud can help them increase speed and agility while devoting more of their resources to their customers. Prior to joining AWS, Philip was the COO and CIO at