Accelerating cloud: maximizing cloud’s full potential

Accelerating cloud: maximizing cloud’s full potential
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

In recent years, businesses have awoken to the many benefits of cloud adoption, a trend that has only been accelerated by lockdown and the challenges presented by supporting a remote workforce. The pandemic has provided new proof of cloud’s value; businesses that adapted best to remote working are those that had already migrated most of their workloads to the cloud, as they benefited from the agility, flexibility and opportunity for innovation it brings.

But just because cloud migration is clearly an attractive prospect, doesn't mean it’s easy to implement. In fact, it's critical that anyone facing stumbling blocks on the cloud-first journey understand they are not alone. The road to digital transformation benefits is complex, involving multiple dimensions including rethinking strategy, technology, skills development, business processes, as well as organizational design.

Wishing to explore these topics further, Accenture recently gleaned insights from companies to pinpoint how far they are advancing in terms of the business value achieved from cloud initiatives, the views of which are conveyed in the ‘Cloud Outcomes’ research. The results are a wake-up call. Accenture’s last survey in late 2018 found that just 35% of companies had fully achieved their expected outcomes from cloud. Nearly two years later, full achievement of outcomes has not significantly increased, basically holding steady at 37%. Even high adopters struggle, with more than half (52%) reporting they have failed to achieve the expected value from their cloud initiatives. The percentage who say they are very satisfied with the cloud outcomes achieved to date showed little change: 45% in 2020 (vs. 44% in 2018).

If integrated effectively, cloud computing can be the difference between falling behind or thriving in our new remote-driven world, and we’re observing that companies which possess the crucial survival skills that cloud enhances, including real-time analytics and agility, are weathering the storm far better. So, what are the essential elements businesses need to consider for cloud success?

Maximize the value of hyperscalers

The full benefits of cloud adoption will not be realized unless the majority of workloads are migrated to the cloud and this means aligning the entire enterprise, whether the workloads are simple or complex. A helping hand comes in the form of applying the innovations and investments from the big cloud providers to really maximize value. Getting the most out of a hyperscaler is about committing to a partnership. Most enterprises will choose to work with at least one of the public cloud hyperscalers, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Alibaba or Google Cloud. They’ll look to leverage these providers’ global scale, deep expertise, and numerous cloud hosting services.

Enterprises are investing in a relationship that will last years into the future, so it’s essential to select the right partner that will accelerate scaling efforts. What’s more, hyperscalers will often be willing to put their own money on the table to kickstart that relationship which can be a critical boost to digital transformation, especially where financing is an issue. But it’s important not to fixate on cost alone. The enterprise also needs to carefully consider the support it will get from the hyperscaler around innovation, digital transformation and engineering.

Beyond migration and Zero Trust

The benefits of cloud can’t be achieved simply by moving to the cloud.. To reap the rewards, organizations have to modernize across the business, building the applications and services that specifically support a cloud environment. If the cloud is your star player, you need to build around it to capitalize on its potential.

Put simply, transformation in the cloud does not stop once applications and data are migrated there. It continues through investment in the necessary skill sets, re-architecting systems and processes, and integrating data with analytics and digital capabilities. It requires changing the operating model to enable teams to own applications end-to-end with DevOps and refactoring them for cloud. Ensuring the most resilient cybersecurity is also key. One major reason for hesitancy around cloud adoption relates to security concerns associated with the process, with 46% of business and IT leaders naming security and compliance risk as one of their top three barriers to cloud adoption. With the impact of COVID-19 accelerating adoption, malicious threat actors are taking advantage of the changing landscape and vulnerable remote workers, meaning that developing efficient security has never been more important and should be a top priority ahead of cloud migration.

This starts with a Zero Trust model, which assumes that individuals in and outside of the company network cannot be trusted until the network knows exactly who they are and what specific access can be granted. Built-in technologies that enable secure application access without relying on traditional VPN solutions should be implemented. And, as employees use various devices to access the same data and applications, providing protections such as Zero Trust Network and Bitlocker, as well as management solutions, including Microsoft InTune and VMware Horizon, will help enable a secure ‘bring your own device’ strategy.

Those which transform successfully will have the base to unlocking the true value of the cloud, whether it’s operating as a truly scalable business, launching new services and modernizing applications at the pace required by their customers, or working in a truly agile and collaborative way.

Optimize, innovate and grow

These crucial processes should all be considered ongoing and continuous. Operating an IT estate is fundamentally different in the cloud, as it requires the continuous management of consumption, capacity, performance and cost. This requires a very different skill set to before, as well as new operation functions, and this is where many cloud journeys falter. As such, businesses should build an architecture to support cloud adoption as well as remaining mindful of the ongoing processes beyond the initial implementation.

Through all this, it is crucial to remember that cloud integration is a means, rather than the end goal. It is the first step, not the last, in the innovation of a business. The cloud provides a basis for experimentation at speed. It’s about iterating ideas faster, testing out prototypes on demand and getting real-time results that inform critical business decision-making.

The value of cloud infrastructures has been doubly proven during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the corporate boundary has moved beyond the four walls of the office to employees’ own homes. This pivotal moment brings with it an opportunity for organizations to realize the transformative qualities of the cloud. These capabilities far exceed the reduced operational IT costs that are so often the primary reason for cloud adoption – they enable a business to truly adapt to the challenges of today and be the disruptors of tomorrow.

  • Emma Roscow is the Intelligent Cloud Infrastructure lead for Accenture UK&I.
Emma Roscow

Emma Roscow is the Intelligent Cloud Infrastructure lead for Accenture UK&I.