Cloud is being widely adopted – but where’s the strategy?
Cloud computing may well have gained widespread acceptance in UK businesses but there is still a disturbing lack of strategy around what they want to use the technology to achieve
Despite common adoption of cloud services among large and medium sized businesses, recent research conducted by managed service provider (MSP) Adapt found many are struggling to realise their original objectives and really benefit from strategic use of cloud.
For instance, while a majority of businesses (57%) had looked to cloud as a means to reduce their IT costs, a significant proportion (42%) were now finding it a challenge to meet that objective.
By contrast, those who had taken a longer term, more enhancement-oriented approach to cloud services (improving business flexibility for example) found it much less challenging.
One reason for the lack of coherence around cloud strategy could be down to businesses using multiple cloud providers for different tactical purposes across a number of departments.
>See also: Cloud strategies for digital transformation
Adapt’s research found 55% of businesses were using more than one cloud provider and a sixth (16%) were using three or more.
In a large number of cases, this fragmented provider selection happens under the radar. Functions such as marketing, business development and sales are bypassing the IT department to procure cloud services specific to their needs.
The broad availability of customised and niche cloud services has had a powerful effect on procurement behaviour.
It’s also fuelling the use of unapproved cloud services by employees within UK businesses. According to Adapt’s research, 59% of businesses were aware their staff were using unapproved cloud-based services for storing data, applications and services.
What can be done?
To successfully deliver key objectives through cloud, such as cost reduction, performance improvement, business risk reduction and security enhancement, businesses need to impose a defined strategy around its deployment and adoption.
To date, businesses have been slow to realise the situation and respond, allowing departments and employees to shut the IT department out of the cloud service procurement process, giving rise to widespread but incoherent adoption.
The ubiquity of cloud and the way it is marketed may also often mean that individual departments do not recognise they are effectively buying an IT solution, viewing it instead as a domain specific service that they are qualified to specify.
IT decision makers need to recognise that the broad availability of cloud and other tech-enabled services, that are attractive to individual departments, are only going to exacerbate the likelihood of a fragmented, haphazard and niche adoption of cloud services.
IT cannot afford to stand on the sidelines. The only question is whether it wants to strategically lead the change or be left to pick up reactive support. Either way, well-managed IT governance will be key to ensure that business functions gain the most from their cloud investments.
Organisations are starting to understand that managing a multi-provider strategy has disadvantages and recognising the benefits of a tighter, coordinated approach. But they are finding it a challenge to define and implement a cloud strategy that closes the gap between potential, planning and reality.
One way to bridge that divide is to develop (or source) greater expertise in defining and implementing a cloud strategy. Diligent selection of partners and service providers is an important component in ensuring the successful implementation of a cloud project or strategy. Cost reduction, for example, cannot be delivered overnight, and can only truly be achieved over time through careful management.
MSPs can help businesses to identify the right balance and blend of solutions that meet their objectives and pull them together into a custom strategy completely aligned with workload and application requirements from any department. They can also help to streamline business objectives and outcomes.
So what should businesses focus on if they want to implement a consistent and coherent cloud strategy?
Service providers need to think about how their cloud platforms can integrate with public, private and on-premise environments. The objective is to make the most of the strengths and merits of each to host different workloads most effectively.
Cloud is not a ticket to success on its own. To make the most of a cloud implementation, it needs to form part of a strategy that fits in with and supports the overall business.
IT decision makers need to work closely with their service provider to discuss the outcomes they want to achieve and work towards realising them.
IT needs to ask itself: ‘Should we support or lead digital business innovation?’ An appropriate departmental re-structure or IT governance model needs to be implemented and enforced in an effort to eradicate shadow IT, or at least address those aspects that compromise security and the cost effectiveness of the provision of workloads across the business.
Sourced from Kevin Linsell, director of strategy and architecture, Adapt