Ascend to the cloud: consuming digital services on demand

Ascend to the cloud: consuming digital services on demand
Ascend to the cloud: consuming digital services on demand

Galvanised by the need to digitise, more and more businesses are moving operations to the cloud – but a careful strategy is required if full value is to be achieved

Cloud-based services allowed many businesses to continue to function productively at the peak of the pandemic, thanks to the flexibility they offer. Digital acceleration and working from home policies are likely to result in further systems and applications being relocated there in the near future, prompting even more migration.

According to Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report, 90 per cent of enterprises expect cloud usage to exceed prior plans owing to Covid-19, while CloudCheckr’s Cloud Infrastructure Report estimated that two-thirds of companies are likely to be fully in the cloud within five years.

Moving to the cloud provides access not only to numerous servitised software solutions, such as Microsoft’s productivity suites, but also the opportunity to use infrastructure and even network on demand. The cloud, increasingly, is the foundation of wholesale digital transformation that allows businesses to react quicker to market trends while avoiding serious capital expenditure.

“Using the cloud is the only way for businesses to compete and revive their business models,” says James Fox, Director of Technology Consulting with global consultancy Protiviti.

“It provides the essential plumbing for any digital enterprise now. You can deploy resources quickly, then switch them off when no longer needed; you can use it and consume it at will.” 

Many large, traditional enterprises are dragging their feet, even though they know they have to make the move. “If you look at the high street banks and insurers, they’re having to dramatically renew their business models, as well as their whole approach to digital, because of the generational shift,” says Fox. “If they don't renew both their IT and their internal processes and organisational culture, they're going to get left behind by the new challengers.”

Imperative as cloud migration is, it is far from straightforward, especially, indeed, for those long-established organisations. It is not simply a matter of moving data off-premises or tapping into an application. “It’s a dramatic shift that requires change to people, process, governance, operating structure and even financial management,” says Fox. 

“Migrating to the cloud is often done to control costs, yet can end up costing organisations more if it’s mismanaged.”

Cloud transformation can be a significant undertaking for a large organisation, and requires extensive support from an experienced partner. Protiviti engages with clients, taking them through a three-phase process, known as Imagine, Initiate and Transition. The first step examines the client’s case for moving to the cloud and establishes the logic for it. To overcome fears, the Protiviti team will often provide a proof of concept to demonstrate that it’s possible to move a service seamlessly – what it calls a “lighthouse application” that reassures the client it can run smoothly in the cloud. If at this point, the client commits, then Protiviti introduces partners from its global ecosystem – including Microsoft, AWS and Google – to assist with the transition. 

The Initiate phase puts together a complete business case and realigns the client’s operating model to gain full advantage from the cloud transformation by reorganising traditional database, application, network and infrastructure teams into vertically integrated ones. Transition then provides a blueprint for the transformation to begin, so services can be switched in the right order and piloted without loss of service.

One of the key concerns that hold back enterprises from committing is the fear that cloud transformation might increase their attack surface, and make them more vulnerable to hacks and ransomware demands. Fox dismisses the idea. “The level of investment made by cloud service providers in the security of their platforms far exceeds what individual organisations are able to achieve,” he says. “Typically, where you get security issues, it is because customers are configuring services incorrectly. From a cloud platform perspective, it is more secure and more scalable than anything a customer can deploy onprem.”

Once services have been migrated to the cloud, the job is far from done. In fact, it’s where the problems tend to begin, because the teams required to run services usually have yet to develop the skill set to optimise and maintain them. “Many cloud migrations go off the rails because there’s been no training,” says Fox, “We always point out to customers that they need to invest in the people side, but very few do – and they struggle to find talent, as well, so they ask us to deploy tiger teams. 

The technical side is a straightforward process; the cultural shift takes a lot longer.” 

Microsoft’s hyperscale cloud infrastructure, software and services create a platform that enables Protiviti to build bespoke customer solutions. Alex Montgomery, Director, Azure Product Marketing at Microsoft, cites their close relationship as the key to successful projects. "We are able to deliver shared value to Protiviti’s customers that enables them to accelerate their own business transformations and deliver greater strategic value from their investments," he says. "Importantly, the partnership isn’t just focused on technical audiences – we work with stakeholders from all areas of organisations to ensure they fully understand and unlock the value of the Microsoft cloud."

There's no doubt that the cloud is the catalyst for digital transformation. The role of consultancies is to bring their expertise and experience to implement migration smoothly, and ensure the client receives full value.