The six keys to competing and succeeding in a cloud-first environment

Cloud computing has come a long way over the last several years. It has gone from an emerging technology used in tech startups, to a catalyst for driving enterprise business transformations. According to IDC’s CloudView 2017 report, 70 percent of CIOs say they embrace a “cloud-first IT strategy.” This shows that cloud has moved way beyond the early-adopted phase, where born in the cloud startups were the only ones putting data and applications in the public cloud. Today, global enterprises have embraced the cloud as a means to achieve agility and innovation, and are rapidly driving cloud adoption to new heights.

Still, looking at it another way, just how far has cloud come? Have cloud users configured their organisations to truly get the most out of the technology? The same IDC report suggests the answer is no. According to CloudView 2017, only 16 percent of worldwide organisations have in place the skills and processes they need to manage the evolving cloud environment efficiently.

Here at CloudHealth Technologies, we work with customers who are grappling with these same challenges every day. Many customers expanded into the cloud quickly, and they’re struggling not only to get visibility into the systems and teams using it, but to develop a holistic strategy to fully harness the power.

The good news is, the enterprise has been making strong progress in transitioning from early adoption to mature usage of the cloud. They’re beginning to develop the organisational skills they need to gain productivity and efficiency in the cloud. And they’re developing new roles that take advantage of the new skillsets required to compete in cloud-first environments.

Here are a few ways we're seeing innovative organisations getting it done:

Adopting a disruptive attitude

The cloud can be a threatening technology within the enterprise. For all the promised benefits of innovation and agility, it requires a fundamental shift in the skills, people, processes and technologies within an organisation. All enterprises will inevitably encounter some level of resistance to adopting the cloud, and thus it's critical to approach it as a disruptive innovation.

The first step is to make the commitment. Companies need to have change agents, and employees need to buy into the change. Tech companies embrace this counter-revolution mentality when it comes to cloud. Enterprises need to as well.

Aligning their business

Once companies have committed to a cloud-first approach, they need to ensure that everyone is aligned on how the move to cloud will help the organisation accomplish its goals. The chief goal must be driving business transformation that enhances value to customers, increase top-line revenue, and improves competitiveness of your business. At the end of the day, cloud is the vehicle that’s fueling their transformation. It's critical to develop and communicate a clear vision, and to get buy in from your key stakeholders.

Hiring and locating great cloud talent

To succeed in the cloud, companies need to create a culture that will attract the people with cloud skills that are going to make a difference. The culture needs to be open, collaborative, and fast moving. People who have great skills in the cloud want to work with other people who are great at cloud. As Steve Jobs used to say: “A players” want to work with “A players.” It's critical to cultivate this culture in a small team before rolling it out more broadly. Often an organisational tipping point must be achieved to drive cultural change.

Creating a ‘learning organisation’

It’s not enough to create a solid organisational plan for the cloud; the organisation has to learn and keep learning. The Japanese call it a “Kaizen” mentality – a system that continuously improves. When it comes to cloud, you need to always be analysing, measuring, and figuring out how to change things to make them better. Everything should be subject to continuous improvement.

Creating new leadership roles

One of the most important moves a modern cloud-first organisation can make is to create a function for cloud governance. A typical enterprise may have hundreds of teams using the cloud, each of which has great ownership over the applications and infrastructure they manage. It is critical to empower these teams with the ability to harness the innovation and agility enabled by the cloud, but it is also equally important to ensure your teams are adopting best practices, driving standards, gaining efficiencies, and complying with critical policies and frameworks. Increasingly we are seeing enterprises create governance teams that help drive the impedance mismatch between agility and control, increasing the cloud IQ across the organisation, and enabling business success.

Building technical knowledge

At the end of the day, while building out the team is critical, companies still need deep technical knowledge in areas where cloud matters. It’s essential to have people with a deep understanding of cloud architectures, programming, cloud services, DevOps, and key technologies (e.g. containers, microservices) that are required in the cloud. But the list of new areas of knowledge to learn is constantly growing and changing, and it is imperative to build a learning organisation that can continue to grow and learn together. In addition to enabling greater cloud success, it is also a critical tool for retaining organisational talent.

While the technology may be more than 10 years old, we're still very early in harnessing the true power of the cloud. We have come so far, but still have so many opportunities to grow and learn. The cloud has great potential to fundamentally transform our businesses, but achieving success requires that we adopt new roles, processes and technologies to support this change. Your cloud transformation won’t happen overnight. But if you dedicate yourself to the task and learn from others’ successes and mistakes, you be able to compete in a cloud-first environment – and win.