The cloud is at a tricky juncture. “Conducting business on legacy systems holds companies back and requires expensive maintenance, while cloud solutions offer increased efficiency, cost savings, and collaboration,” says Sanjay Vyas, CTO at Planful. Adds Faraz Ahmed (CTO at Nakisa),” The push for cloud adoption will have varying effects depending on the industry, and this push will result in industry-specific innovations.”
Dialogue between Sanjay Vyas (CTO at Planful) and Faraz Ahmed (CTO at Nakisa):
The biggest roadblocks for enterprises moving towards cloud adoption
While organizations’ average cloud spending is up 59% from 2018, says Sanjay Vyas, the barriers organizations face during adoption pale in comparison to the daily roadblocks of not embracing cloud solutions–and the benefits. What holds organizations back when looking to increase cloud adoption is the perceived challenge of adapting and managing new cloud technologies. Efficiently migrating and managing cloud resources across multiple environments can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Being comfortable with the status quo also threatens an organization’s ability to push on cloud innovation. Leaders often believe their current systems, manual processes, and excel spreadsheets are “good enough.” The staff knows how to use them, and embracing a new system isn’t prioritized. This mindset has to shift.
“The process can be simple and streamlined if organizations find the right partners and seek out cloud applications that heavily prioritize usability,” he points out.
He is very clear that organizations that have made the switch to cloud technology are more agile, confident, and smarter in their decision making. A Datamation survey found faster deployment and agility as the biggest benefit of cloud computing for businesses. “Those in the cloud are often more successful than companies that have yet to make the leap, so it’s not a question of if you need to shift, it’s a question of how far behind are you willing to stay!”
Striking the right balance between speed, security, and innovation
Choosing the right vendor is the key to balancing speed and security, and you can achieve both without sacrificing the other, Sanjay feels. Additionally, addressing security and ensuring business continuity processes that most cloud vendors have in place are often stronger than any company’s internal IT team. “Have discussions with your team and vendors about any unique security requirements and how to address them. As you evaluate and audit cloud vendors, seek out a deep level of understanding regarding their commitments and practices. Do they comply with standards and regulations or go beyond them? Gaining a full picture of the controls and measures in place with any cloud solution will allow teams to identify potential gaps from the onset.
Once these questions are addressed, companies are positioned to push even more rapidly on adoption. “Digital transformation and migration to the cloud no longer have to be a gigantic, hugely expensive exercise that takes months or years to complete,” Sanjay says, “At Planful, we’ve seen companies move from legacy processes and seamlessly (and securely) integrate cloud financial planning in under 30 days. Companies can realize incredible productivity gains and operate with much greater agility with a rapid time to value by deploying a solution that integrates with existing technology, and that sits above legacy systems.”
As for innovation, Faraz Ahmed says, “The push for cloud adoption will have varying effects depending on the industry, and this will result in industry-specific innovations. Airlines, hotels, and restaurants, for example, have been forced to completely reinvent themselves. Cloud innovations in this space will reflect this and may include complete business digitalization, touchless technologies, powered cloud software, and fully automated self-service systems to adapt to the need for less contact.
The travel, healthcare, and automotive industries will have to persevere through COVID-19, he feels. “These industries may not focus on cloud adoption as much as sheer survival for the time being. Once the demand gets back to normal, there may not be any innovation seen in this area until they have the capability to continue to digitize. The same goes for industries that are least impacted by COVID-19, such as banking, agriculture, and goods transportation industries. These companies are not likely to change their current status quo.”
Online retail, food delivery, and streaming media companies have benefited from increased demand and are ripe to push on innovation. Retail may introduce more personalized online shopping experiences powered by cloud solutions to increase sales and engage with customers. The streaming industry will likely continue to adapt to a high rate of streaming and novel ways of marketing content, especially as interests change quickly.
Prioritizing the business operations that should be cloud-first
Sanjay Vyas says, “Every organization will have unique priorities based on their current maturity levels of cloud adoption. Evaluate company processes to find critical functions currently bogged down by manual processes and incomplete data that are suffering from a lack of cross-departmental collaboration. These should be first on the list to migrate to a cloud solution. No matter the maturity level, financial planning is a strategic function that all organizations ought to prioritize in the current landscape.”
He points out that even before the black swan event that is the pandemic; there have been huge shifts in market conditions that meant financial plans were increasingly becoming outdated as soon as they were finalized. The pandemic has pressed the fast-forward button, and organizations needed to quickly seek out new scenarios to inform financial planning and decision-making.
“Many companies were ill-equipped to manage their FP&A processes with their current tools and quickly realized that if they’d embraced cloud modernization, they would be in a much better place. This changing landscape has made clear the need for organizations to accelerate back-office transformation. Modernizing the back office enables leaders to tap into a wealth of data, enriching the business over time and revealing value levers to help steer the company through prosperous and challenging periods alike.
Make the cloud delivers more at less, for basic survival issues at smaller Orgs
Companies looking to extract the most value out of their cloud projects should make sure that they have key factors other than technology in their project success criteria, opines Faraz Ahmed. “Technology alone cannot solve business problems. At the end of the day, your employees will be the ones using that new cloud process or system. Spend time in their enablement and training of any new cloud solutions. By ensuring that staff is enabled, ready, and trained, companies will see immense value quickly.”
A common business forum for cloud adoption may not be very feasible, Faraz Ahmed feels when he says, “Many technology vendors rely on “perfect timing” for their innovations to capture the market. So, it will be very hard to bring them to a common forum where innovations are discussed and voted beforehand. Doing so will leak valuable strategic secrets, and no one will be willing to do so. However, on the receiving end, the companies implementing cloud solutions can benefit from initiatives like Cloud Native Foundation. This is where a level of agreement is reached so that companies can voice their opinion, and vendors can have a unified methodology for implementation. Open Source software is the backbone of the cloud today. This is the ideal place to voice our opinion. In a democracy, it is the responsibility of the voter to vote; similarly, if we wish to make cloud democratic, at least on the receiving end, we will have to participate in initiatives like CNF and Open Source.”
Future of “cloud” – both in terms of innovation and business need
Sanjay Vyas says, “The future of the cloud will be connected, collaborative organizations leveraging 100% cloud technologies. This modern digital future is not far off. Many companies and startups are already operating fully in the cloud, and we’ll see the number of companies doing this increase. Organizations and leaders will benefit from faster collaboration with the increased process and data connectivity throughout every corner of the organization. In terms of cloud innovation, we’ll continue to see AI/ML leveraged in impactful ways. The true potential of AI has not fully been realized yet. This technology can surface insights such as, ‘What’s normal for my industry? What direction are my peers in my industry headed? How do I make sure I’m on the bleeding edge of trends and best practices?’ Using AI/ML functionality to identify gaps, solve problems, and improve usability will be a staple for all cloud solutions of the future.
Adds Faraz Ahmed,” Cloud will become the new status quo on both innovation and the business end. The first reason could be that the cloud allows for immense computational power at a very low cost because resources are shared. This cannot be beaten by on-premise implementations. Hence the cost of business automation, productivity, and innovation will be very low in terms of computing power; therefore, the cloud will be a logical choice. Additionally, the cloud removed the need for infrastructure management by IT. Some customers will feel the vendor lock-in, but it will not be as bad as retiring big servers on-premise and finding/budgeting replacements. This will allow businesses to try multiple vendors with relatively less investment. Therefore, the cloud will dominate in the software selection space, and customers can use/choose the innovation they prefer.”
Cloud will also enable businesses to focus on more strategic efforts, and once businesses realize that there is a level of ease and no disruption on the cloud, it will be impossible to go back to large upgrade projects and cumbersome adoption processes.
“However, cloud vendors must instill confidence by making sure that their software is secure and customer data is protected, the software is scalable to meet demands and that upgrades are seamless, and business continuity remains intact between patches and versions,” Faraz signs off.
CTO at Planful, is an accomplished technologist with a successful track record for building engineering teams that deliver scalable systems and platforms. He is the co-author of a book, “The Cloud Security Rules: Technology is your friend. And enemy.”