"Cloud-First": Catalyst for Business Transformation or Bust?

Meerah Rajavel, CIO, Qlik
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Meerah Rajavel, CIO, Qlik

Meerah Rajavel, CIO, Qlik

A Decade Ago Cloud was All the Hype

While CIOs saw the potential to for it transform many aspects of IT, they saw the Cloud’s shortcomings in critical areas such as security, compliance, and monitoring as preventing them from entrusting their mission-critical assets to Cloud providers. That’s why virtualization occupied center stage as a must-have with Cloud for most of IT decisions. Not to mention there was uphill battle for many IT organizations to articulate a business case with a hefty investment and an architecture change.   

Fast forward a few years, and we saw vendors such as Salesforce, ServiceNow, and more embrace the concept of virtualization–and taking it to the next level with multi-tenancy. Combining technology innovation with a subscription-business model shifted the economics significantly for businesses. This acceleration and adoption in the business application space surpassed infrastructure from a Cloud perspective, driving many enterprises to make an explicit effort to implement a “Cloud-First Policy.” This movement was led by the business sponsors with IT as co-pilots.

Here we are today, where cloud has crossed the chasm and the benefits have become difficult to ignore. But the lingering question remains, “Is Cloud-First still a viable strategy for business transformation?” The answer is it depends.  

The Cloud-First Reality

As cloud adoption continues to grow and its benefits become more widely understood, more IT organizations are realizing the need to develop and implement their own cloud-first strategy. Some may not call it a “cloud-first”strategy any longer, but cloud is still at the forefront of their transformation. Many organizations are taking the same cloud journey, moving business applications, followed by infrastructure, and then shifting into data and analytics.  

  Stability, efficiency and speed are the most critical and common success measures for many IT organizations 

Stability, efficiency and speed are the most critical and common success measures for many IT organizations.. With cloud, organizations have been able to influence progress in all three areas. Typically, IT goes through an excruciating infrastructure planning process with business units to ensure the demands are met on time. However, when there is an unplanned demand, lead time is one of the significant challenges–and Amazon Web Services (AWS) is up for the challenge.

For many organizations, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) can be much more impactful in the following ways:

• The industrial strength and scale helps the uptime and availability metrics for infrastructures. IT is also able to take advantage of the basic security levels offered by AWS. This contributes considerably to the stability goal. The key learning is building a layer of security and operations monitoring on top of AWS, while understanding what the cloud vendor is offering and leveraging it in your overall business strategy.
• The product assortment from AWS offers business flexibility and agility. This assortment allows IT to experiment with various infrastructure needs without significant investments, while forcing the business to standardize for cost optimization. 
• The elastic nature of the cloud allows further evolution in DevOps influencing the time to capability and time to market.

Choosing Your Cloud Strategy

Like any IT project or process, cloud adoption must have clear requirements, goals, and business guidelines, so that the focus is not on technology change for its own sake. It is important to recognize that the shift to the cloud is a part of a more fundamental shift in IT toward more resource sharing, collaboration, open standards, consumerized technology expectations and automation of IT processes.

IT leaders should consider the following tips as they choose and implement their Cloud strategy:

• Know your risk tolerance: Educating yourself and your people on the opportunities and risks associated with this technology is of the utmost importance.
• Who owns what?: When it comes to security it’s important to understand the responsibility between the cloud vendor and your organization. At the end of the day data governance and security is ownership of the corporation not the cloud vendor, so make the right decision for your business.
• Are you ready for fast pace of change?: Most of the cloud vendors force you to keep up with the upgrades which is typically every quarter. Understand whether your business can handle that pace of change and you have staff to support the changes that are being introduced.
• Become a data-driven Leader: Most Cloud solutions offer significant data points so it’s important to employ appropriate analytics to derive insights and run IT like a business.
• Do your homework on OpEx versus CapEx: Spend the time with your Chief Accounting Officer to understand OpEx and CapEx approach for your company and the industry. Look at the total cost of ownership for 3-5 years before making the decision.
• People, Process, and Technology: Cloud can be your technology for transformation, but it can’t happen without People and Process, so retool People and re-factor Process.

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