Cloud adoption plan for the retail industry

Success in any digital transformation effort requires a sound plan to guide the various interconnected programs toward common strategic goals. When the cloud is used as the foundation for digital transformation, this can be expressed through a cloud adoption plan. This article outlines aids in building a cloud adoption plan with the distinct considerations seen across retail organizations, based on common strategic objectives and a respect for your current digital retail maturity.


If this is your first time developing a cloud adoption plan, familiarize yourself with the Cloud Adoption Framework Plan methodology. That methodology helps you develop an overall cloud adoption plan. The planning approaches found in those materials can be used to guide the programs and teams involved in your cloud-based digital transformation. The methodology also provides templates to help create your backlog and plans for building skills across your teams, all based on what you're trying to do in the cloud.

The remainder of this article focuses on considerations that will help develop a refined cloud adoption plan specific to the retail industry.

Plan for digital transformation outcomes

As both the retail industry and cloud computing mature, your organization can accelerate toward becoming a cohesive data-driven retail business. Data and AI capabilities are most effective when data is available from throughout the retail value chain. This approach includes all workloads, applications, and connected shopper experiences. Questions about consumer product affinity, advertising effectiveness, and forecast require access to data throughout the shopping process. The entire retail infrastructure benefits from having a well-understood view of this journey.

Retail domains can interact in the shopping process without creating a department-specific view of that process. Retailers can create a cohesive data model. Microsoft believes in an open data model for internal and external solution providers. Such a model ensures data is visible to only those parties that require it. The model manages read/write privileges and allows for rapid deployment of solutions. The retail industry is ready to capitalize on this approach in the cloud maturity model.

Align program planning horizons with cloud maturity

Cloud adoption is a catalyst for digital transformation across the retail industry. Planning for digital transformation of a business requires more than basic project planning. Project management needs to organize several programs, which create waves or horizons of change.

Retailers can map these horizons to the maturity levels of the retail cloud maturity model. This model provides a program plan that aligns efforts across the business and IT. Using this model also allows your business to prepare for planned changes in manageable stages in the following image. For more information, see Cloud maturity model for retail.

Diagram of the stages of digital retail cloud maturity

Connected retail: Migrate and modernize technology solutions to enable advanced innovations and reduce operational overhead.

Analytics-driven retail: Align to a common data model, unlocking advanced analytics while improving data governance.

Intelligent retail: Deliver intelligent retail experiences that integrate AI and machine learning into custom applications and Microsoft retail cloud offerings.

Integrate actionable program plans

To deliver the business promises of each cloud maturity horizon requires integration of holistic program plans. Successful program execution requires actionable plans that extend your strategy, project plans, environmental controls, adoption projects, and your overall operating model.

Use the following technology platform scenarios to extend the cloud adoption scenario for retail. These scenarios add the detailed plans for programs required to reach the target horizon.


The resources here are multipage guides that outline complex technology scenarios. These scenarios can be integrated into your cloud adoption plans to guide programs. Complete your cloud adoption strategy, cloud adoption plan, and define your target horizons before exploring the following scenarios.

  • Connected retail: You can add various migration scenarios to your migration process to help reach a connected retail maturity. Retailers often integrate the hybrid and multicloud scenario to include hosting options in the migration program. For more information, see the One Migrate approach to migrating the IT portfolio and the introduction to hybrid and multicloud.
  • Analytics-driven retail: Use the cloud to standardize, integrate, and manage data in ways never possible in siloed or even connected retail environments. The Data Management scenario establishes the processes and environment needed to create an enterprise-wide approach to data management which unlocks centralized analytics.
  • Intelligent retail: Unlock the power of analytics and connected applications to deliver intelligent experiences to your customers, employees, and business partners using cloud-first approaches like AI, Machine Learning, or Knowledge mining.

Each of the scenarios above focus on technology solutions which are not directly related to retail. As you use those areas to develop program plans for your business, consider how each of those approaches could address challenges at your current level of digital retail maturity.

Connected Retail Analytics-Driven Retail Intelligent retail
Scenarios Migration &/or Hybrid Data Management AI, Machine Learning, or Knowledge mining
Personalization Are your shopping experiences in the cloud or connected through unified operations? Are your shopping experiences integrated or based on a common data model? Are those systems governed through consistent management practices? Are you using AI/ML capabilities to predict and shape shopping experiences?
Omnichannel Are your customer, inventory, marketing, and sales systems in the cloud or connected through unified operations? Do you have a single view of customer, inventory, and transactions? Does the data across your channels influence how you manage customer outreach and improve support of your customers?
Supply chain Are all of the various segments of your supply chain in the cloud or connected through unified operations? Does data move smoothly across each layer of the supply chain? Can you use supply chain to improve speed & cost of delivering products to your customers &/or showroom floors?
Building management Are your buildings connected to cloud or hybrid systems? Can you see the telemetry from buildings across your ecosystem? Are you using IoT and Machine Learning to improve in store experiences, automate operations, and improve efficiency?

These questions will help map the generic guidance for each phase of maturity to common questions and challenges shared across retailers around the world.

Build on planning basics

Whatever your target horizon, basic cloud adoption planning helps prepare each program for success. Include the following tasks in your planning efforts:

Next steps

The next step is to review your environment or Azure landing zone. The following articles take you to guidance found at specific points in the cloud adoption journey. This guidance helps you succeed in your cloud adoption scenario.