The uptake of cloud and digitised services over the past year has been reminiscent of how many major disruptions proceed. It was already happening gradually, but then it changed all at once.
Cloud isn’t new. But, as the speakers in a recent Nimbus Ninety webinar noted, our willingness to use it, the demand to change our personal and organisational habits, and our need to work remotely has fundamentally shifted.
This year has shown a commonality of purpose in business, in customers, and in IT. Even if it has been driven out of necessity, just a year ago that may not have been possible. But the adoption of cloud has accelerated existing journeys and challenged those organisations who were not transforming to catch up.
But cloud is not a silver bullet to our problems. It can boost the pace of change, digitisation of services, and the experiences we can provide. But relying on cloud alone is a recipe for failure.
So, as we move into 2021, what do organisations need to consider about the future of their cloud infrastructure?
Marrying the old and the new
One of the central challenges of cloud transformation over the past year has been that all clouds are not created equal.
Connecting from the cloud to legacy infrastructure is challenging. It falls on the organisation to bridge the gap between modern cloud implementations and manage the technical debt of ten-, or even fifteen-, year-old legacy systems. That’s not easy.
As one of our attendees noted, “A key reason is that we’re a nation of hoarders.”
It’s true. Organisations across the country hold on to a lot of data, according to the webinar attendees, even though much of it isn’t needed. But the events of 2020 have forced many businesses to be more ruthless.
The cloud has empowered teams to spin things up very quickly, to experiment, and to move legacy infrastructure into newer, more agile platforms. But cloud’s ability to turn things on quickly can lead to cloud sprawl. We have to learn how to turn things off too.
There remains a strong temptation to lift and shift legacy systems wholesale into the cloud, especially when legacy systems bring with them significant cost, unique skill requirements, and manual processes. But simply moving legacy systems to the cloud doesn’t solve inherent problems.
“If you’re not clear on why you’re moving to the cloud, you won’t solve the root of the problem,” noted one attendee.
Cloud success is a people problem
It sounds self-evident, but it’s a truism that’s often forgotten: Cloud doesn’t make decisions, people do.
Technology often isn’t the problem. Systems and enterprises evolve over time, and what may have started out as simple over time can become complex. That’s a people problem.
So, if cloud success isn’t about your technology, then it becomes about your organisational habits. Consider that it’s not only data that can be siloed – skills can be hoarded too.
Getting your people strategy right is just as important as getting your cloud strategy right. Then the challenge is to ensure those two pieces can work in harmony to embed the right behaviours across your organisation.
But that can take time. Virtual transformation has forced us to really focus on behaviours and keep iterating. We have to give people the time to do it properly and stick to it for the long haul.
Most organisations view a cloud journey as a year-long process. But think about how long it takes to build, or transform, a business or an organisational strategy itself. These are all five-year initiatives and they should be judged as such.
Moving toward a simpler future
If 2020 was the year when cloud saw an acute acceleration, then 2021 has to be the year we make the most of those changes.
That means simplifying the complex and beginning to bring together disparate parts of the ecosystem.
That’s only going to become harder as organisations grapple with how to combine their clouds with their physical office environment. That ultimately may entail a two-tier system for those who are working remotely as opposed to those in the office.
But either way, our clouds have to support our teams without costs spiralling out of control. While 2020 drove a culture of collaboration within our organisations, in the future we have to expand that culture to collaborate between organisations.
As one of our fellow panellists noted, “we need to move from egosystems to ecosystems.”
As organisations begin to optimise and simplify clouds, the opportunity also arises to integrate and interoperate across platforms for shared benefit. By building a common cloud platform and making use of shared components, businesses can bring together partners and suppliers to make processes simpler and to benefit from shared data.
Ultimately, cloud in 2021 will be about ownership. That means owning your brand digitally and collaborating appropriately with partners and customers to boost customer experience and efficiency, while maintaining security and regulatory compliance.
To hear more from Ian and the other panellists on the Shift to Cloud ‘Only’, listen to the whole webinar recording here.