Many enterprise efforts to adopt and scale to cloud have stalled, writes Sekete Maphopha, Tech Solution Planning Senior Manager – Cloud & Infrastructure Solutions & Services for Accenture, Africa, and some organisations got stuck in an experimental mindset without a sense of where their cloud journey was headed, while others struggled to make a clear business case for scaling up their use of cloud. Most enterprises have, on average, only about 20-40 percent of their workloads in the cloud, most of which are the easier, less complex ones. Our recent study shows that nearly two-thirds haven’t achieved the results expected of their cloud initiatives to date.

On top of these concerns, COVID-19 has created an unprecedented wake-up call. Organisations everywhere have had a very powerful and direct reminder of the importance of systems resilience, agility, adaptability and scalability. As companies look to outmanoeuvre the uncertainty heightened by the pandemic, the enterprise focus has shifted to sustaining operations under severe disruption, flexing to address highly volatile customer demand and managing vastly increased needs for remote network access.

For many companies, the pandemic not only introduced new disruptions to their enterprise systems, it also exposed pre-existing weaknesses in those systems. According to our research conducted prior to the pandemic, only a small minority of companies—the top 10 percent—had mastered systems resilience.

It’s imperative that the companies that went into the crisis with significant gaps embrace the promise of cloud now. If they do, they can mitigate business risk, emerge stronger and be prepared to thrive amidst uncertainty in the future.

Recent disruptions have only reinforced the prevailing notion that cloud isn’t some future aspiration—it’s an urgent mandate at the heart of the business. But a rushed migration without a clear strategy can end up costing the business more, leaving existing legacy applications racking up consumption— and costs—at an alarming rate. An intelligent cloud journey needs to balance speed and value. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, each should start with defining the value, mapping out the journey and determining how cloud will enable the overall business strategy and ambition.

There are five essential elements to capturing the full value of cloud:

Migrate and scale up
Get your workloads to cloud rapidly, securely, and with confidence by selecting the right infrastructure for your needs. For a range of different reasons- technology, security, complexity, legacy, data sovereignty, human psychology – many workloads remain in on-premises data centres. Unless you migrate the majority of your workloads to the cloud, you will not be able to realise the full business value, including making your business more efficient, resilient, and customer focused.

Get the most from the hyperscalers
Put the innovation and investments being made by the big cloud providers to work for your business. Most enterprises will choose to work with at least one of the public cloud hyperscalers, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Alibaba or Google Cloud. They’ll look to leverage these providers’ global scale, deep expertise, and numerous cloud services. Getting the most out of a hyperscaler is about committing to a partnership.

Enterprises are investing in a relationship that will last years into the future. What’s more, hyperscalers will often be willing to put their own money on the table to kickstart that relationship. This can be a critical boost to a digital transformation, especially where financing is an issue. But it’s important not to fixate on cost alone. The enterprise also needs to carefully consider the support it will get from the hyperscaler around innovation, digital transformation and engineering.

Modernise and accelerate
Ramp up your organisational speed and agility using cloud-native architectures, applications and data. Just getting to cloud doesn’t make you a cloud-native enterprise. To do that, you need to modernise, building applications and services specifically for a cloud environment.

Your business needs an IT capability with speed and agility, that can support accelerated cycles of product release. You need faster, more efficient and cost effective applications refactored (recoded) for the cloud. You need to be able to swap different components in and out with zero disruption, by abstracting the underlying infrastructure and platform.

You need to think holistically about the flow of data across your systems. And you need to adopt new technologies as customer need dictates. Becoming cloud native is like learning a new language for enterprise IT. If you want to speak cloud, you need to immerse yourself in it. Doing this for greenfield development is relatively straightforward.

Run and optimise
Adopt new ways of operating that push your cloud estate to ever higher levels of business performance and sustainability. Operating your IT estate is fundamentally different in the cloud. The traditional model of managing capacity by purchasing and running physical hardware doesn’t work. Instead, you must continuously manage consumption, capacity, performance, and crucially – cost. It requires a very different skillset as well as new operational functions.

This is where many cloud journeys falter. If you’re not constantly monitoring and optimising capacity, especially with legacy applications, as well as leveraging the right or latest services from the cloud providers to maximise the performance or value ratio and sustainability, you quickly find costs and waste escalating. You’ve got to be proactive. You need people who don’t just react to spikes in consumption, but understand and anticipate why they’re happening and how they impact IT’s carbon footprint. Further, they need to know what business processes are involved, how critical they are and how they all fit together.

Innovate and grow
Use cloud as a digital transformation lever, creating a foundation for rapid experimentation, innovation and new business models. Cloud is a catalyst for future innovation and growth. It enables experimentation at speed. It lets you spin up new environments instantly, try out several ideas at once, and see what’s working quickly and securely. It’s about iterating faster, testing out prototypes on demand and getting real-time information on which to base your business decisions.

Cloud is also a catalyst for business reinvention with the strategic use of data, advanced analytics and AI. It’s about leveraging data at scale and unlocking its value with applied intelligence. It’s about improving data quality and its more efficient use which in turn conserves energy. It’s about the combinatory potential of advanced technologies like machine learning and the vast numbers of future edge devices connected to the Internet of Things. It’s about scalable compute power to support increasingly sophisticated AI models.

With the speed provided by the cloud, and by working with cloud hyperscalers and other service providers and system integrators, enterprises can shift their focus away from the “keep the lights on” operations that currently take up so much of their teams’ attention. People and funds can be freed up to focus on how systems can adapt to what the business and its customers will need next.

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