Rob Duffy, Head of Migration Services at Cloudreach, discusses why speeding up cloud migration initiatives is one of the best ways for businesses to respond to crises.
In times of crisis, a common natural reaction is to lay low and wait out the storm. But when extraordinary events upend entire industries, the opportunity and ability to adapt and harness available technology will be the key differentiator for many businesses looking to grow, or in some cases, merely survive.
We saw this adaptation play out in several industries at the start of COVID-19: media companies pivoted to digital platforms when theatres were forced to close; the fitness industry saw an extreme acceleration of online services using connected devices at the expense of bricks-and-mortar gyms, and retail stores expanded online ordering in response to a surge in demand.
In the context of cloud, businesses that can migrate quickly, scale as needed, and launch new services to address emerging market demands, will gain a considerable advantage.
When faced with a sudden crisis, most business leaders act in accordance with three main priorities:
1. Ensure that employees are safe
2. Help customers, the user population, and the community overcome setbacks
3. Identify the business impact and form a plan to stabilize for the short-term so they can create a strategy for the medium and long-term
Carrying out this plan is no easy task — leading business in crisis mode can be very different than during business as usual.
Highly disruptive events can drastically transform business models, by turning their normal competitive advantages into disadvantages almost overnight. Take grocery stores for example, before the pandemic hit, physical shops relied on footfall and allowed customers to touch their inventory, giving them a competitive advantage over online grocery shopping businesses.
However, as entire countries were forced into lockdown, and social distancing measures were implemented, restrictions of customer movement drove a sharp uptick in online grocery shopping. Almost overnight, the physical shopping business model was rendered redundant.
Crises of all kinds — natural disasters, infectious diseases, even wars — demand that leaders reconsider their business and determine how they can respond and adapt quickly to new styles of work and new competition. This may require realigning costs with revenue and, in some cases, completely pivoting their business model to stay relevant to the market.
These events construct a perfect case study on the benefits of adopting a public cloud, with its utility pricing, elastic capacity, and unlimited scale.
Until now, most cloud migrations have been part of wider, digital transformation strategies. These often take place when a business wants to tap into a new market or shift from B2B to B2C. In these initiatives, cloud migration has focused predominantly on front-end, customer-centric applications, enabling scale and agility to add new features.
But crisis response forces organizations to take a tactical, rather than strategic, approach to cloud migration initiatives. As businesses race to overcome immediate problems and challenges, accessing the cloud can provide much-needed benefits and flexibility, whether that’s migrating a single app or an entire estate.
At one end of the spectrum, certain digital platforms (e.g. online learning) have experienced skyrocketing user numbers during COVID-19. Those that were cloud-based, and could scale elastically, thrived. Tactically moving certain apps to the cloud before the beginning of a crisis can help businesses pivot or double-down on services that previously required less capacity.
At the other end of the spectrum, many industries (e.g. travel and hospitality) saw a sharp drop in customers. They scaled down their systems and operating costs accordingly, demonstrating how a tactical move to the cloud can help businesses optimize and address crucial imbalances between cost and revenue.
Don’t forget the back end
Major crises also expose the vulnerabilities associated with physically managing the back end systems of an IT estate. For example, access to an office or centralized location may be difficult or impossible.
There may also be snags in the hardware supply chain that disrupts maintenance and scale-up work. Most importantly, of course, businesses risk jeopardizing the health and safety of data center workers. But by setting up back-end systems in the cloud and entrusting data center maintenance to a cloud provider, many of those issues are no longer a concern.
Build toward flexibility
Unforeseen crises can force IT, leaders, to make challenging decisions under chaotic circumstances. There is often little time for discovery and immediate actions are taken with an act-sense-respond approach.
Building toward flexibility should be the overarching goal for many businesses. The future may be uncertain, but as we move towards the next normal, there’s one thing businesses can count on: survival depends on innovation. The cloud is the perfect platform upon which to build that foundation.