In my last blog post, I examined some of the barriers creating “cloud migration inertia” for many enterprises—challenges concerning SLAs, calculating ROI and the cloud talent gap. Yet there are a growing number of enterprises that have overcome these barriers and embraced the cloud as a core element in their IT strategy—and their business. What sets these cloud trailblazers apart? How have they successfully navigated their movement of key business applications to the cloud?

In this second installment, I’d like to share my observations of the key strategies of successful cloud trailblazers that may help illustrate how others can chart their cloud course.

Strategy #1: One step at a time

Most organizations moving to the cloud are taking an incremental approach, rather than a dramatic “forklift” shift of their applications. They often start with just one app, focusing their efforts to iron out any wrinkles and make sure it is successful before moving on to others.

Once they have several successful cloud implementations under their belt, an interesting thing happens: Other groups across the enterprise begin to notice. Once the word gets out and others see the potential, this may spark an up swell in cloud projects. But getting that first cloud project or two right is critical. So careful planning and alignment with key business priorities are absolutely essential.

Strategy #2 Pick the right apps

The most successful cloud projects are those that focus on apps that truly leverage the cloud’s potential to change and improve how companies do business—apps that do things organizations could never do in their legacy infrastructure. From customer engagement, enterprise collaboration and sales automation to supply chain and inventory management, trailblazers are focusing on apps that leverage the dynamic agility of the cloud to transform a variety of distributed processes.

Ultimately, the key to success for any cloud app is its ability to scale across the enterprise and impact the bottom line. For this reason, smart cloud trailblazers are targeting cloud apps with the potential to add to the revenue stream.

Strategy #3 Change the culture

Moving to the cloud requires a cultural shift. It means breaking down barriers that separate IT and the business. It means adopting new approaches to technology standardization and governance. And it means recruiting and cultivating the next generation of technology talent to fuel your competitive advantage into the future.

Most importantly, it means embracing the cloud as a strategy to protect your assets by enabling progressive new business models, without introducing risk by resorting to shadow IT. Enterprise IT leaders must play a central role in helping drive that cultural transformation, in partnership with their business counterparts.

What will the cloud landscape look like a year from now? The tools, technologies and talent are maturing rapidly. The rise of open source solutions like OpenStack and KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) and the availability of software-defined availability and dynamic cloud orchestration solutions are setting the stage for tomorrow’s mission-critical cloud strategies. All that’s needed is the right leadership to take those first incremental steps toward the cloud. Those who overcome inertia today will be at a distinct advantage tomorrow.