The history of business is littered with examples of technology being seen as the mythical silver bullet that will eradicate challenges. As we move towards a post-pandemic economy, business leaders will be tempted, once again, to see technology as the way to return to profitability and there is already a high level of hype surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Machine Learning (ML) to name but three. Technology has a history of reshaping business operations, from the mainframe to the introduction of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and cloud is remodelling organisational structures. We believe that the cloud has been changing business models for some time, but that a new and more dramatic phase of change is about to take place as a result of the post-pandemic economy. The challenge, and the opportunity, is to ensure that this new phase of cloud migration delivers business-wide benefits.
Cloud shows the way to new business models
Business leaders that try to use the adoption of cloud to force through business change are approaching their challenge from the wrong direction. The pandemic has demonstrated to many organisations that they need to modernise the business processes, build new digital channels and increase the use of cloud computing. But, in the rush to digitise the business, organisations must not miss the opportunity to reassess how it operates and match the right technology to new ways of working and serving customers.
Migrating the organisational technology estate to the cloud is about more than changing technology platforms. Cloud migration is in fact the move to a completely different way of operating the business, it will change how the business is managed, the business processes, the pace, types of products, development cycles of products and services. Therefore cloud migration really is a migration, just as people for millennia have migrated to new homes in order to succeed, so too is the move to cloud a migration – a move to a better environment in order to succeed.
IT departments can adopt cloud technologies for a host of reasons that will not significantly change the way an organisation operates. These reasons can be reduced software and hardware operating costs, reduction in infrastructure expense or to deal with legacy technologies. However, for an organisation to optimise its operations and benefit from the abilities of cloud computing, then cloud computing migration has to be considered as part of a business-wide transformation of processes and customer channels. Organisations that have a disconnect between business lines and technology can find that cloud computing adoption is unsuccessful, or potentially risky to the organisation. If Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms proliferate across the business, leading to an un-engineered data estate, an organisation will find it has no single view of the truth, and therefore cannot make insightful decisions.
It is vital that the business is highly involved in navigating the migration to cloud computing. Cloud migration has to begin with the business challenge and how the flexibility of the cloud could play a role in alleviating that challenge. Any technology choice should be tied to a business outcome otherwise it has no value to the organisation. Without a keen focus on business outcomes often leads to failed digital transformations.
The right migration
Migrating to the cloud and the new ways of operating the business will impact each and every part of the business, and this has to be factored into the transformation planning the organisation carries out.
A cloud operating model facilitates increased collaboration and entirely new ways of co-creating and storing information. The collaboration will extend beyond direct teams too, not only is your business migrating to a new operating model, but as with migration, communities will blend as multi-function teams come together to collaborate and deliver new business outcomes. In particular, the technology team will become more closely embedded with projects and business lines outside of pure technology.
This will result in an organisation that operates at cloud pace – a far faster way of operating and creating products and services than traditional methods. Organisations looking to migrate to a cloud operating model must prepare themselves, their people and their culture for this significant change in pace. In most cases, the senior leadership are triggering the migration because the increase in pace is required in order to compete with new digital market contenders. But it cannot be stressed enough, it is vital to prepare the entire organisation for this migration. Asset managers Blackrock, for example, are reported to have developed an investor research application in 100 days using the cloud, and a team of 20, brought together from technology, investment products and security. There will be those in an organisation that fear such pace and change.
Cloud migration is business migration, developing new business processes, modern ways of working and a pace and culture that is completely different to existing business operational models.