How can businesses gain the most value from their cloud investments?

Worldwide cloud investments reached new levels towards the end of 2020, increasing by 32% to $39.9 billion. It comes as little surprise, with cloud technology enabling organisations to operate remotely during Covid-19.

As we reach a year on from the onset of the crisis — it’s clear that cloud has become more than a story on remote working. Cloud is now essential to how we live, with cloud services promoting more agile business models, faster speed to market — even greener operations. However businesses feel the rewards have been gradual, only 37% of businesses around the world report they are achieving the full value of their investments in cloud.

While businesses want to accelerate their progress — cloud remains a driver of competitive advantage. And the data backs this up. According to Accenture’s algorithmic analysis of the FTSE 350’s tech priorities, companies that have prioritised the cloud are delivering significantly better financial results than their peers who have not.

At a time when CIOs and business leaders are looking towards economic recovery, now is the moment for companies to reassess a ‘lift and shift’ approach to the cloud if they want to achieve more than minimal disruption. The cloud is no longer a new home for the data centre, it can bring an entirely new way of operating and innovating. This transition to cloud at scale, and in the core of businesses, will require clients to transform their processes and functions within their organisation through an integrated cloud strategy and transformation journey.

How can businesses reap more value from their cloud investments, and use these infrastructures to spur competitive advantage? Here are three cloud-first imperatives for business leaders to consider:

1. The board must get cloud savvy

Terms such as ‘digital’ and ‘digitisation’ are used often in business. But the truth is that these buzzwords just don’t cut it anymore. Technology gains the power to define business performance, and investors, employees, and customers have permanently raised their demands for digital services. Accenture’s analysis of FTSE 350’s annual reports reveals that the poorest performers on the index, have less clarification on technologies that will enable their transformation.

Therefore, as businesses look to gain maximum value from the cloud, it’s essential that understanding of it spans beyond the CIO and CTO. Board members, and the CEO, will need to be more intimately involved in the cloud journey.

Cloud investment has gained momentum, with Covid-19 catalysing migrations that were planned for years to come. The immediate advantage is clear with more remote working and collaboration between decentralised workforces. But as lockdowns lift and businesses determine new ways of working, they may be rethinking their deployment of the cloud, and how to stack strategically on top of it, in order to be more competitive.

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2. The cloud is a living system

If there’s one thing the last year has taught us, business priorities can change in an instant, as can the technologies that enable them. Therefore, once business leaders have their cloud strategy and infrastructure in place, their project is only just beginning.

The cloud is a living system — its flexible, modular nature means it can integrate with new technologies and capabilities at pace, ensuring businesses can quickly adapt to changing needs. This requires continuously reviewing business challenges and requirements and adapting the cloud architecture — and provider — to ensure they’re met.

Businesses can adapt some agile practices, too, to ensure they can best leverage the speedy deployment and delivery that the cloud can bring. DevOps methodologies and cloud native applications can be the best place to start — areas that the FTSE 350’s leaders are laser focused on.

3. Have a strategic vision

As business and technology strategies become increasingly entwined, business leaders are getting more strategic when it comes to their technology vision. It starts with a simple question — what does your business want to do?

Innovation can come from the smallest and simplest of places. And the chances are, the cloud can take your business there, whether it’s to be more productive or agile, more sustainable, or secure. The important thing is for this vision to be clear, well communicated, and considered in all tech investments, hires and processes.

For example, if a business wants to make better use of data across its operations, technologies such as IoT, AI and robotics will be critical to gathering, deciphering, and actioning that data across the cloud. Businesses will also be hiring and developing the talent to operate these tools. And we know this isn’t easy. UK businesses are hungry for cloud computing skills and the talent pool is not as big as they would like. They will also be thinking about the platforms available that enable the entire organisation — not just the tech team — to partake in this culture of data-driven operations.

On the other hand, perhaps a business wants their cloud investment to bring them cost savings — a key driver for many migrations. To do successfully, CIOs will need to think strategically about how they are leveraging the cloud’s pay as you go ‘as a service’ model, whether they are using technologies, such as cloud virtualisation, to be more efficient or unlock revenue opportunities. Think and lead with a cloud-first operating model.

Whatever that strategic vision might be, business leaders can ensure that everything revolves around it, everyone in the business knows about it, and measure everything against it.

The cloud journey has certainly been reinvigorated by a new vision and approach — it’s now the platform to unlock new ways of doing business.

Written by Nick Taylor, Cloud First Lead, Accenture

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