The cloud story is delivering as promised for many organizations. However, for some, the journey is yet to begin. For the pioneers, especially larger enterprises, the initial reason to move was all-round efficiency and cost savings, with the switch from large capital investments to an operational expenditure model. The second great push to the cloud focused on agility and scale, with the seemingly limitless resources on offer providing the catalyst for digital transformation of information-intensive processes.
However, there are still many organizations for whom the cloud is still deemed not relevant. This is most notable in the mid-market where cloud adoption has often been by accident rather than design, with ‘guerrilla’ cloud deployments that emerge from development projects or within the guise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployments that creep into departments without a formal approach.
Three Obstacles to Overcome
The challenge for the cloud latecomers has been centred on three issues. The first is the industry-wide skills shortage in the more advanced elements of IT. Cloud has been no exception and the constant evolution of software technology has made attracting, training and retaining talented people a serious issue for every sector.
Secondly, the existing investment organisations have made in on-premise systems often have long shelf lives and mid-market companies are keen to sweat their assets for a long as possible.
However, the third obstacle is the one that is potentially easiest to overcome but requires the most courage: leadership. All the innovative shifts that drive businesses forward start with a vision, but with the potential to fail. The journey to the cloud is no different and even with all the examples of transformative new cloud-enabled business models from Netflix to Uber, taking the first step needs true leadership.
This drive can come from both the top and the bottom of an organization. Whether it’s a forward-thinking CTO or hard-working IT admin, it takes an understanding of the business and a glimpse at how technologies such as cloud can help ignite transformation. Whether it’s a way of performing an existing task more efficiently, or a radical new service that unlocks untapped potential; they both start with a desire to push boundaries.
Where to Start?
Over the last 20 years, I have worked with many companies from the largest of the Fortune 1000 to smaller, regional businesses that have carved out fantastic niches. When I speak to executives about the cloud, they often ask me – ‘where do I start?’
In the last decade, the speed of change that has been powered by technology is the fastest we have ever witnessed. The leap from client server, through virtualisation and now to cloud has been underpinned by two common themes, compute and data. The increase in compute for a given cost has been a relatively linear progression but the use and value of data has been far more astounding.
Data is the single most important pillar of any transformative process and this is only amplified by the cloud. This is not to say that all data should live in a cloud; it is not always the best option. However, the ability to flow data to and from cloud-based systems, share data securely, move data into specialist platforms for analysis and the creation of insights is the single biggest step that an organization needs to consider.
So how do I answer the question – ‘where should we start?’ The most impactful response is to start with people and data. It can be as simple as assembling a small team of technical and business executives to look at ways to solve a tangible problem. This could be more effective business continuity or a more complex task such as extracting customer insights from operational data for new sales or marketing campaigns. Even projects that look at reducing data centre footprint or streamlining new server deployments; anything where you can work towards a goal.
Data Flow and People Are Critical
When it comes to data, it is worth taking a couple of things into account. Try and ensure that whatever storage architecture you use can work with every cloud platform. If the digital era has taught us one lesson it is that change is inevitable so ensuring that your data can flow between the current cloud platforms, SaaS and even on-premise is a critical requirement.
And don’t forget people. That includes giving your own teams the support and training they need but also working with people that have helped others make the same transformative journey to the cloud. NetApp and other cloud pioneers have invested heavily in creating these types of cloud-agnostic and flexible platforms, along with consulting and training that can help you take the first steps.
Lastly, it’s your journey, your business and ultimately, how you decide to get there will be in your hands. But once you start it, I can guarantee, it will be an amazing ride.