4 characteristics of a product-led cloud migration

Published Jul 7, 2021

Companies move their products to the cloud so they can scale faster, fuel innovation, and avoid getting pushed out by a startup that’s disrupting their industry. In reality, though, this transition is an extensive process that happens in phases over multiple years–talk about going slow to go fast.

For product and engineering teams at the center of these transformations, success isn’t just about moving users over to the cloud product and calling it done. If users aren’t adopting the new app or are confused about how to use it in the first place, there’s not much stopping them from reverting back to the previous version (or abandoning your product altogether). 

So, teams need to make the shift to the cloud as smooth and intuitive as possible for their users. The secret? Leverage the product itself to create an engaging user experience, measure user behavior along the way, and continuously improve that experience over time. 

If you’re in the middle of (or planning) a move to the cloud, here are four ways to put your product experience at the center of your efforts:

1. Going beyond vanity metrics

A cloud product comes with its own set of KPIs that your team will need to track, analyze, and optimize. Most notably, product adoption is now one of the best ways to measure success–are your on-prem users successfully adopting your cloud product? What about your brand new users? Churn (or inversely, retention) is another key metric, since customers can easily leave your product if they aren’t happy with their experience in the cloud.

In order to track these and other metrics, you’ll need a way to understand how customers are actually using your software. This foundation of data will be paramount to your migration strategy as you move customers over in phases and lean on product usage data to inform your efforts. For example, if you see that users you moved over to the cloud app aren’t accessing a certain feature at all, you may need to rethink whether that feature is actually necessary. On the flip side, maybe it’s just a matter of increasing awareness of said feature in the cloud version.

2. An emphasis on the product experience

In addition to the structural changes to the product itself, moving to the cloud (or shifting from services to software as a service) alters how your company operates. Given that many companies migrate to the cloud so they can be more agile and iterative, your product team will be developing new features faster and releasing them more often. This requires additional support from teams across the organization, from marketing and sales to customer support and success. The experience you offer in your cloud product is going to make or break users’ willingness to keep using it, so it’s important to ensure every team is aligned around the product and equipped to use it as a mechanism for customer acquisition, support, retention, expansion, and beyond.

3. Onboarding that’s in-context and ongoing

As you move existing users over to the cloud (and ideally, acquire net-new cloud users), you’ll need to make sure they are set up for success right from the start. This is even more crucial when you think about what’s changed from the on-premise or legacy version of your product–features will move, page orientations will shift, colors will change, and there will likely be new areas of the app entirely.

The best way to approach onboarding for your cloud product is to deliver initial onboarding and ongoing training in-app, meeting users where they already are. This way, you can provide relevant information and resources in the exact moments users will need it most. Here are a few ways to utilize contextual help in your cloud app:

    • Use in-app guides to walk users through any features that have changed locations, are now called something different, or have been combined with other functionality
    • Leverage data from initial phases of migration to understand which features are most valuable to certain types of users (e.g. admins vs. regular users) and build separate in-app onboarding flows accordingly
    • Foster self-sufficiency by creating a resource center inside your cloud application where users can access educational content when they get stuck

4. A structured way to collect feedback

Product data is central to any product-led cloud migration, but it’s equally important to balance quantitative data with qualitative feedback. Besides, if you’re moving to the cloud to be more agile and continuously improve your products, you need to leverage the customer voice to inform these decisions. To ensure you hear from all of your customers and get the full picture of the user experience, you’ll need a way to manage feedback that makes it easy on your customers and your internal teams.

Start by choosing a tool that allows you to manage feedback and feature requests all in one place so you can view feedback data as a whole, instead of as one-off requests. Next, be sure you have a way to communicate back with users about the feedback they’ve submitted (even if you don’t plan on building out their request). This feedback will be extremely valuable as you work to improve your cloud app over time, and users will appreciate knowing that their voices have been heard. Creating a Product Feedback Policy can help set expectations with customers and internal stakeholders about where feedback should be submitted, how the product team uses it, and when they can expect communication back. 

Want to learn more about taking a product-led approach to cloud migration? Download our new e-book here.